St. Helena native Michelle Fanucci

St. Helena native Michelle Fanucci won an Emmy for her work on a CBS documentary called “39 Days.” The prime time documentary covered the student activist movement that followed the school shooting in Parkland, Fla.

What’s it like to win an Emmy?

Just ask St. Helena native Michelle Fanucci.

Fanucci, a 2002 St. Helena High School graduate, won an Emmy on Tuesday, Sept. 24 when the Television Academy announced the winners of the 2019 News & Documentary Emmy Awards.

The Emmy for Outstanding News Special was awarded to “CBS This Morning” and “48 Hours” for its collaboration on the CBS News special “39 Days.” The prime-time documentary covered the student activist movement that followed the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

“It was amazing,” said Fanucci, a field producer for the project. “It’s surreal. It’s kind of out of body. We were so excited,” yet also humbled, she said.

Fanucci and other CBS News journalists embedded with survivors of the Parkland school shooting, took viewers inside the creation of a movement as students turn grief into action in the documentary.

In the days after a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shot and killed 17 people, CBS News began following a group of students who banded together to fight back. They set out to let the world know immediate change is needed to save lives, a news release stated.

The documentary captures students’ raw emotions as they grieve and work around the clock in an effort to change the gun laws of this country.

“39 Days” includes strong voices from the Second Amendment conversation, the release stated. The documentary presents a timeline of the tumultuous events from the first day of the shooting to the “March for Our Lives” rally, which took place in Washington, D.C. and cities around the country — and the world.

Fanucci is a journalist now but that career wasn’t on her radar while in college or immediately afterwards.

At UC Santa Cruz, she studied law and politics. Fanucci then worked as an intern at the White House under George W. Bush. That’s when Fanucci said she noticed the working journalists and thought “What an amazing job to be able to witness history and expose important information.”

From there, Fanucci got a job as an intern in New York at the “Today Show” on NBC. “For a small-town girl from St. Helena it was a dream come true,” she said.

About five years ago, she accepted a position to work as a field producer with CBS in Los Angeles. She has since married and just had a baby. Fanucci’s husband – Nathan Schwab — also works in the industry, as a freelance cinematographer. They sometimes work on projects together.

Fanucci said she joined the CBS team on stage in New York to accept the Emmy. Their executive producer, Judy Tygard, spoke for the group. The Emmy statuette is now in the CBS offices in New York.

“It’s a little heavy,” said Fanucci. “But it fits nicely in our hands.”

To see their documentary being recognized “is a great honor but it also makes me reflect on everyone that is affected by this story,” Fanucci said.

“It’s not about us,” she continued. “It’s for the victims and the families and friends and those courageous students who are still fighting to this day to see that this never happens again. There’s a bigger meaning to all of this.”

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Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.