Benjamin Wagner speaks about his experience in the media industry

Benjamin Wagner, SU alumnus and MTV's senior vice president, spoke to students and faculty about his film, Mr. Rogers and Me, and the steps he took to achieve success in his career.

Benjamin Wagner, an SU alumnus, visited campus last week to share on his career in media and for a screening on his new film project, Mr. Rogers & Me, a biopic on the life of television star Fred Rogers.

"I'm a just a dude…a dude who's older than you," Benjamin Wagner, current said to the audience of student and faculty and staff in Crouse Hinds after the viewing of his film Mr. Rogers and Me. Wagner is currently the senior vice president for MTV News.

Wagner was inspired to make the movie after he first met Mr. Rogers 10 years ago in Nantucket, Massachusetts. Wagner's mother rented a cottage next door to Rogers' summer home, making him Mr. Rogers' actual neighbor.

Wagner and Rogers soon became close friends. Wagner saw Rogers as a wise role model to learn from. The movie circulates around one quote Rogers shared with Wagner: "Deep and simple is far more essential than shallow and complex."

"I loved that Rogers was so real and empathetic, there was no schtick," Wagner said.

Wagner said he meets a lot of celebrities in his line of work, and some are often different behind the scenes than when they are on the camera, but said Rogers was sincerely authentic.

"I am from the Mr. Rogers generation, I grew up in the Mr. Rogers neighborhood, and it makes me feel good inside to see that he was the same person off screen as he was on screen," Sawyer Rosenstein, a broadcast digital journalism sophomore said.

Lauren Nicholas, an English textual studies major, saw the Mr. Rogers film and said she decided to attend because she wasn't the biggest fan of PBS' Mr. Roger's Neighborhood. After watching the film, Nicholas said she felt inspired and it was nice to see that Rogers truly cared about children.

Kim Brown, assistant director, alumni programs at Syracuse University Career Services, organized Wagner's visit to SU.

"The best part of hearing Wagner speak is how real he is, he is one of the most down to earth speakers we've had," Brown said. "He's high up in MTV News, but talks to us like we're on the same level."

Wagner graduated from SU with a bachelor’s degree in newspaper journalism, and then moved on to work as a reporter in Pennsylvania. Wagner began by reporting on local high school sports games and events for the City Suburban newspaper outside of Philadelphia. After some time at the City Surburban, Wagner transitioned to New York where he strived to break into the media industry.

Wagner mentioned how hard it was to network in New York City in a time before LinkedIn and Twitter.

"I had to send letters back and forth," Wagner said.

There was a time where he applied for a job and persistently contacted the supervisor. "I called this dude at the Village Voice everyday for three weeks and left him voicemails," Wagner said. "Yeah, don't ever do that."

When Wagner got a call back, he was informed that the supervisor she called was out of the country the entire time and came back to over 18 voicemail messages.

Wagner said he wants students to know he is just a regular guy who made a lot of small steps that culminated into a successful career.


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