October 13, 2019
BOSTON — When Chiara Norbitz found herself unemployed, she started sending emails to her connections, including someone she knew at CBS. She was quickly called for a job interview.
“To my surprise, the person I knew at CBS emailed me back saying that they had just started the interview process for a new documentary series called ‘Whistleblower’ and she wanted to interview me,” Norbitz said.
That is how Norbitz started her career at CBS, freelancing as a field producer for the documentary series “Whistleblower.” According to CBS.com, “Whistleblower” takes a look into the stories of heroic individuals who put their careers at risk in order to expose illegal and dangerous wrongdoings within big corporations. Norbitz said one of the episodes she enjoyed working on the most was “The Case Against Chartwells” (Season 1, Episode 6), where a restaurant owner tries to keep rotten food from being served to children in schools.
In the case of “Whistleblower,” they rely on news tips from sources who are willing to talk about corruption in their workforce. In other words, they need to find whistleblowers. Once Norbitz receives a tip from a whistleblower, she does a lot of reading and research to see if the story is worth publishing.
Norbitz, a New York native, moved up quickly in her career. She had one goal in mind, she knew she wanted to do long-form journalism. Just three years after graduating with a master’s degree in journalism from New York University, she landed her dream job as a field producer at CBS. Her career in the field started as a researcher & weekend assignment editor for NY1 News, but it was not really what she wanted to do. However, she says it gave her the experience she needed to boost her career in the right direction.
“Thanks to my time at NY1 News, now I’m able to foresee what I’ll need when I’m out working in the field,” Norbitz said. “I learned to do a little bit of everything, from writing and editing to producing. In this field, everything goes together.”
She then moved to the A + E Networks where she worked as an associate producer creating two-hour specials for the History channel. While working there, she produced episodes about Pearl Harbor and UFO conspiracies, among others. Although she loved what she was doing, she was a freelancer and the contract ended, but that did not mark the end of her career in production.
Luckily, her next gig was at CBS, where she worked for the “Whistleblower” series. For “The Case Against Chartwells,” her whistleblower was Jeff Mills, a food entrepreneur who ran a three-star restaurant in New York City. He then took a job as director of food services for Washington, D.C.’s public schools. He found out the food being served to school children was not healthy, poorly prepared and unsanitary. Norbitz had to figure out what the story was going to be, without harming the whistleblower, and the other sources. To achieve that, she searched for more people who would be willing to talk. She looked for people who had already openly spoken for other news outlets so they probably would be willing to talk in the documentary. But she did not use random people. She looked for a strong voice for the issue. For this episode, she wanted it to be diverse.
“It’s like a casting of characters like you would do for a movie,” Norbitz said. “You want to have diversity and people from different backgrounds and experiences.”
When it came to shooting the episode, Norbitz said it is all about logistics. She needed to make sure she stayed within the budget she was assigned. She also needed to use the time wisely and foresee what she would need later, while she was in the field shooting. She had to find locations to shoot, think if the place was going to be too dark or too bright for the filming, and get the necessary permits.
“I needed to make sure the quotes we got were useful,” Norbitz said. “If the quotes are too short then we can’t use them while editing, and we would have to re-do the interview and we lose time and money.”
Norbitz, with the rest of the CBS team, were able to accomplish their task, and “The Case Against Chartwells” successfully aired on August 17, 2018. The show was a great hit, and they continued for season two. The last episode of season two of “Whistleblower” recently aired on June 28, 2019. It was the last season of the show, and Norbitz found herself without a freelancing gig again, but only for a short time. As a result of the success of her work on “Whistleblower,” they called her again to be part of another TV series. However, she still does not know what the project is going to be about. She hopes to move from freelancing to a full-time position within CBS or another major network.
“If you do the freelance route, you have to make good connections and do a great job,” Norbitz said. “You never know what the future holds.”