From MCLA to the Emmy Awards, Alumnus Celebrates News & Documentary Achievement for NBC Career

“And the Emmy Award goes to … Ryan Kiernan ’03!” The English/Communication major with a broadcast media concentration used his MCLA degree as the springboard to a 19-year career at NBC in Washington, D.C. This fall, his hard work behind the scenes paid off when Kiernan and his team won the 2021-2022 News & Documentary Emmy Award for Outstanding Technical Achievement. Ryan with Emmy

Kiernan and his 20-person crew won an Emmy Award for an episode of the “Today” show in which Jenna Bush Hager skydived live on camera with a member of the U.S. Army’s Golden Knights parachute squad.

“My job was in the satellite truck, where two of us were taking the feeds from six different shots to make sure the crews, the audio guy, the transmission guy, and everyone else had all the feeds they needed in New York and on the ground.”

The dive was a tribute to Bush Hager’s late grandfather, former president George Bush Sr., on what would have been his 97th birthday. The live broadcast featured Jenna Bush Hager in the plane, pre-jump, as well as in the air as she spoke to the show’s co-hosts, Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb. “We practiced it,” Kiernan said, “but when you’re live, there can be so many points of failure; the camera, the mic in her ear, the satellite feed.”

Originally from New Jersey, both Kiernan and his brother (Dan Kiernan ’98) attended MCLA to play ice hockey.

“I wanted to play at a high level,” he said, “but I also enjoyed being at a small school.”

In 2019, Kiernan was inducted into the MCLA Athletic Hall of Fame. “At work, I like to be behind the scenes, but you typically don’t get recognition for doing a great TV transmission, so I enjoyed the recognition of the Hall of Fame induction.”

Ryan group shot

Kiernan said attending a smaller college allowed him to thrive. “Knowing that I wasn’t just a number was better for my education; I could get the help I needed. Professors Joe Ebeware and Peter Gentile made me feel comfortable moving forward in my chosen line of work. Having good mentors made learning exciting and enjoyable; they were the catalysts.”

At NBC, Kiernan said he started in the equipment room, which grew into a job in crew support and ordering equipment. He then began working in the microwave and satellite trucks. Along the way, he became responsible for building the transmission pool, which is the area outside the White House set up for journalists. “We basically built a portable newsroom, where we’d supply internet so journalists could conduct research,” he said.

“I then got into audio work in the field,” he said. “I now have a hand in everything except camera; I do maintenance work, in-house work, and work at the Capitol, the Pentagon, and the White House. I’m a jack-of-all-trades and it keeps me really busy because technology changes so fast.”

Emmy win aside, Kiernan said applying at NBC was the best decision he ever made. “It doesn’t feel like working; it’s fun.”