Alumni Profile Series: Tom Costello

Tom Costello, journalist and NBC News correspondent, earned his Bachelor's in Broadcast Journalism from the University of Colorado in 1987, before going on to pursue a Master's in International Commerce from Boston University, Brussels. Despite taking a gap year to pursue a career as a guitarist and musician between high school and college, Costello’s primary roles now include: reporting on the Today Show, NBC Nightly News and MSNBC. Costello specializes in topics relating to aviation and transportation but has experience working with a breadth of stories.

One story Costello is particularly proud of involves a documentary he completed whilst working at Channel 9 News in Denver, following a surgical team from Denver who performed the first open-heart surgeries in Kazakhstan and assisting in adoption processes while on assignment. While interning in Washington D.C., I was given the opportunity to interview Tom Costello and learn more about his academic experiences at CU, his time as an RA at Willard Hall and the important roles he has taken on since graduation. 

The transcript of the interview has been provided below and has been edited for user readability. 

Her Campus CU Boulder: Did you always see yourself getting involved in journalism, or did you dream of a different career growing up?

Tom Costello: I was always a news junkie as a kid. Even in high school, I was always fascinated by the news - wanted to watch the evening news, read the paper - read it religiously. I was always interested in this career path. So, I began studying journalism at CU.  And, you know, my goal at the time was to work for 9News in Denver, and ultimately I was very lucky because, while I was an intern at Channel 9 at CU, Channel 9 hired me to be a writer. And then after I graduated from CU in ‘87, I moved to El Paso, Texas, for my first on-air job. I was there for a year and a half, and then I was lucky - I bounced right back to Denver as a reporter for 9News.

HCCU: Can you speak a little about your experience as a student at the University of Colorado whilst pursuing your undergraduate education?

TC: I was very active at the campus radio station - at the time, KAIR. I was the News Director there, and also was an RA at Willard Hall for a year. Then, as an intern at Channel 9 as a writer - that took up a lot of my time in college. I just was very intent on a career in journalism, and I absolutely loved my classes, you know, I had some fantastic professors in the School of Journalism, and then specifically, I had a great Anthropology professor I still think of - great Political Science professors. So, I really had a great four years at CU, and I look back on it with such good memories and think of how much I miss Colorado because it’s also my home state.

HCCU: Can you recall any professors or mentors that really influenced you, and your career and education? 

TC: Yeah, Professor Steve Jones is still at the School of Journalism. He was there when I was there and he was a great mentor to me. Professor Dennis Van Gerven, he was an Anthropology professor and he just really opened my eyes. I really liked him a lot. And Professor Rozek as a Political Science professor - he has since passed away - but he was an old school, cold warrior. He had literally fought the Nazis, and he had fought the Russians as well, in Poland, so he really brought to the classroom his experiences. He was somebody who didn’t just teach the theoretical about Political Science, he had lived it.

HCCU: Okay, now a little more into your life now. How would you describe your current role and career at NBC?

TC: So - just so you know a little more about the career trajectory - I was at Channel 9, ‘89 until ‘95. I got married, my wife is Belgian, so we got married in Brussels, and we decided that we really wanted to live in Europe and I really wanted to go to grad school. So, in 1995 I left 9News, we moved to Brussels, and I got my Master's in International Commerce there in Brussels.  And while I was in Brussels, I was wanting to work for CNN and CNBC. The night before my last final in grad school in Brussels, CNBC called me and asked me if we wanted to move to London to work for them. So, I was very lucky and the week after, we had our first child. We were in London for almost three years, and I was covering the NASDAQ Stock Market and essentially the financial markets. Then, we moved to New York to do that, to cover the NASDAQ. After having been at CNBC six and a half years, NBC News New York asked me to work for them. So we were in New York for a year and then transferred to Washington in 2005, so we’re been in the DC Bureau for 14 years. At the core of my responsibilities, I cover aviation, I cover NASA, and then as well, do a lot of business and economic reporting for the network. So just trying to stay on top of all those topics for both the Today Show and the NBC Nightly News, as well as responding to breaking news, it just kind of keeps you jumping day to day.

HCCU: What advice, if any, would you have for aspiring journalists?

TC: The good thing - in my opinion, the best thing - about my job is that every day is different. Every day it’s a different topic. And if you’re somebody who enjoys always trying to be a student and always trying to learn, it’s a great career, and everyday you’re doing something new. But my biggest advice would be read, read, read. Become a student in every way you can. Read the paper, don’t give up on newspapers, please. Become as well rounded as you can - in history, in business, in economics. You want to be the jack of all trades; you want to be a student of the world. And if you are, it will help you in your job day-to-day. You can draw from all of that to understand what you’re covering and to make it more relatable. So, I’m a big believer in just trying to be as well rounded as you can, as well educated as you can, and try as hard as you can to remain objective and to keep an open mind. Don’t come into a story with your conclusions already drawn, because that will limit your ability to see the full picture.

A special thank you to Tom and his willingness to do this interview, despite his crazy schedule, as well as for providing all photos utilized in this article.