Taped on his closet door at his home in League City is a rejection letter from the University of Houston with a handwritten red note scrawled across the bottom that reads: “Work harder!!!” Now each time senior Mass Communications major Ryan Reynolds looks at that note, he does so as a Dan Rather intern.
Over the summer, Reynolds was presented with the opportunity to go to New York City and work with esteemed SHSU alumnus Dan Rather. Reynolds says he takes his life and his work one step at a time, but when he was selected for the internship, he decided to go ahead and make the leap.
“It’s the highest honor the Mass Comm department at Sam Houston State can give out,” Reynolds said. “Of course, me being the go-getter that I am, I wanted to take a stab at it. I wanted to put my hand in the pot and see if I could be the one lucky student to come out with an internship. Luckily, I was that person.”
By June 4, Reynolds’s plane touched down in New York City; two days later, he officially started his work in the News and Guts office in Rockefeller Center. During his first official day on the job, he met Mr. Rather himself.
“I was talking to one of the AXS TV’s executive producers, Wayne Nelson,” Reynolds said. “I heard a door open and shut behind me, and Angela [former Dan Rather intern and current News and Guts employee] from her desk was just like, ‘Good morning, Mr. Rather.’ I was sitting there looking at Wayne kind of bug-eyed. I remember telling myself, ‘Oh man, Dan Rather’s behind me.’ I stand up, and I look at him and he says, ‘You must be Ryan,’ and I look at him in his eyes and I’m like, ‘That’s me. Ryan Reynolds, nice to meet you Mr. Rather.’”
After that, the pair of former Houstonian editors shook hands and got acquainted. Through the course of his summer internship, Reynolds found himself writing, fact-checking scripts and transcribing entire AXS TV productions word-for-word.
“I would say the biggest thing I learned from the internship is the art of preparation,” Reynolds said. “I got to see the pre-production of an interview-style show in action, and I got to help the crew prepare for shoots.”
The road to New York was not always a smooth ride, though. Reynolds revealed the stresses of his senior year of high school and how he was rejected by three different universities because of a low ACT score. When he found SHSU and received his acceptance letter, there was still a stipulation.
“I got accepted into SHSU as a PREP student, meaning I had to take a class on campus to further prepare for college,” Reynolds said. “Keep in mind I’m an A/B student. All of this was because of one test score. That’s how I ended up at Sam Houston State. I’m blessed that they gave me a chance and I’m just trying to make the most of it. It still motivates me to this day that I’m labeled as a PREP student.”
Before his first semester at SHSU ever started, Reynolds attended an event called “media madness,” where he met the then Editor-in-Chief and Sports Editor of the Houstonian. After linking up with the sports editor, Reynolds was assigned the Cross Country beat for the sports section. During this time, the Houstonian published twice a week.
“Printing two times a week, you need a lot of content,” Reynolds said. “I was grinding. I was writing two to four stories a week while also washing dishes at Moe’s and taking like 15 credit hours. I think applying that work load early on really helped me adjust to how things would become later on with the duties that I held.”
When Reynolds started at The Houstonian, the publication was in the midst of a rough patch. Upon inheriting The Houstonian, he realized he still had another mountain to climb.
“When I first started at The Houstonian in Fall 2014, I saw the kind of state the paper was at, and it wasn’t a good one,” Reynolds said. “There were certain departments that would just flat out refuse to speak to The Houstonian. The publication itself had a bad rep.”
Over time, Reynolds worked his way up the chain of command from beat writer, to layout editor, to sports editor then to editor-in-chief. Nevertheless, the state of the newspaper served as a starting place for him to take it to new heights.
“I think the one thing that I would say I changed a lot at the Houstonian was bringing back integrity,” Reynolds said. “I brought the integrity of journalism back to the Houstonian.”
Before the pair parted, Rather and Reynolds sat down for a final one-on-one talk. During the talk, Rather provided some words of encouragement.
“He brought me into his office, he sat me down, looked me in the eyes, and said ‘What I’ve seen of you these past eight or nine weeks, the sky is the limit for you. I’m not just sitting here and feeding you this because I’m a straight shooter. The sky’s the limit for you, but the one thing you need to work on is your literary knowledge. You need to close that gap in order to move forward.’”
Moving forward, for Reynolds, seems inevitable. He has moved on from his position at The Houstonian and is an employee at Bearkat Sports Network working with a new project called BSN Xtra where he hosts a weekly podcast called Chasing the Cup. He plans to graduate at the end of the Fall 2018 semester and attend graduate school for Sport Management.
“I take life and work one step at a time, one day at a time,” Reynolds said. “I don’t really have just one vision. Yeah, it would be cool to work at ESPN. It would be cool to work at Fox Sports or Barstool or something along those lines, but it doesn’t scare me. I’ve been doing it my whole life. To be honest, wherever life brings me, that’s where I’m meant to be.”