The Foundation for a Meaningful Life
Kindergarten - Grade 9 in Southborough, MA
Fay Magazine: Summer 2020

Telling the Stories that Matter - Mike Sullivan '03

by Daintry Duffy Zaterka '88
As an Emmy-nominated on-air reporter for FOX59 and CBS4 in Indianapolis, Mike Sullivan relishes the challenge of telling a compelling story - and making sure that viewers get the information they need.

Mike Sullivan’s ability to think on his feet was already well-developed as a student at Fay when he was tapped to emcee the Upper School talent show. Sporting a tuxedo and playing to the crowd with a mixture of quick-witted repartee and comedic bits, Mike was a natural.

“People came up to my parents and said how much they enjoyed my performance,” recalls Mike. “It made me think that maybe this was something that I could pursue professionally.”

Ten years later, with a degree in broadcast journalism from Boston University, Mike’s quick thinking would jump start his professional career. On April 15, 2013, he was standing two blocks away from the Boston Marathon’s finish line when he heard explosions. At the time, Mike was working behind the scenes as a freelance sports producer for WCVB, ABC’s affiliate in Boston. He ran to find the closest landline, and within minutes he was doing his first on-air live report. He was hooked.

Mike left Boston and spent two years covering news and sports in Minnesota, followed by another two years as a news and sports reporter in Dayton, Ohio. For the past two years, Mike has been a reporter for FOX59 and CBS4 in Indianapolis, the number one news station in its time slot and market. While he works as a general assignment news reporter, Mike still enjoys dabbling in sports. Recent highlights have included flying on the Indianapolis Colts party plane to the Superdome in New Orleans and covering the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Tournament in Louisville. However, Mike’s real specialty is the one-man-band assignment where he single-handedly reports, writes, shoots, and edits the story. It’s a skill set that earned him two out of three of his Emmy award nominations this spring, and during the COVID-19 pandemic it has proven to be an essential talent.

Mike’s job has changed dramatically in the past few months. On the rare days when he goes out into the field to report a story, he goes alone wearing an N95 mask and gloves. During interviews, the microphone is held far away, and he never conducts multiple interviews with the same mic. For the most part, he reports and packages his stories from home. He conducts interviews via Zoom or Skype on his phone, which he films surrounded by thematic backdrops. His packaged stories combine reporting, source interviews, and archived footage. “I don’t think I’ve been on camera since the pandemic started,” says Mike.

However, balancing the tone of the news has also been a challenge. “You have to give people the facts, and the facts are that many people have lost their lives,” says Mike. “But you also have to offer some hope in your newscast or people are going to feel like this is never-ending.” Mike’s team makes a point of including at least one positive or uplifting news story in every broadcast. Recently, he did a story on a local DJ who, with no gigs to play, was spinning tracks out of his garage and creating a neighborhood block party every Friday afternoon. “It was this great story about a guy who decided to do something positive for his community,” says Mike, “and there are so many good things people are doing right now that we can highlight.”

Mike takes pride in his creative storytelling skills. One of his Emmy-nominated solo stories, “The Amazing Jeremiah,” tells the story of a three-year-old boy learning to use his arms and legs again after a mystery illness forced a partial quad amputation. Another amputee gave Jeremiah a small stuffed animal superhero whose limbs had also been amputated with a note saying, “Superheroes can still be superheroes no matter what.” That inspired Mike to tell Jeremiah’s story using comic book elements like the swish of a cape and images set in a comic book panel.

A Boston sports fan at heart, one of Mike’s dreams is to report from the field at Fenway Park. However, he also values the creativity, flexibility, and variety that he currently has in his storytelling, and he knows that might be lost in a larger, more conservative market. “For me, a place that fits is a place that lets me be me.”

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