Advice for new journalists

May 4, 2016 01:30

By Melissa Luck, RTDNA Contributor

For college students preparing to embark on their first step of their professional broadcasting career, there's no shortage of advice from those already working in the industry.
 
“Don't do it.”
 
That's the running joke, right? We all heard it when we chose our future careers. But, if you get past the cynicism and ask journalists, past and present, what they would tell the next generation of broadcast professionals, you find some insightful and helpful words of wisdom.
 
I looked no further than my own Facebook and Twitter pages, where friends and colleagues from across the country passed on their advice:
 
“Don't let it define who you are. You are more than your job. Stay dynamic.” -Nick Brommer, former newscast director
 
“Know this job isn't always fun, usually doesn't pay a lot and good work can go unnoticed. Sometimes it's also the greatest job in the world and you can't believe people pay you to do this. Works towards the best, prepare yourself mentally for the worst and realize some days, it's just a job.” -Joe Vithayathil, Feature Reporter, KPTV, Portland
 
“Don't be a jerk, especially in your first market. This business is super small, so a bad reputation will sink your career before it begins.” -Dan Strothman, Photojournalist, KOMO-TV, Seattle
 
“If somebody wants to teach you something, be willing to learn! The more you know how to do, the more valuable you are. Then, when you are inevitably laid off, you have the flexibility to go anywhere and do anything.” -Anna Izenman, Newscast Producer, NWCN, Seattle
 
“Learn everything you can. If an anchor curses at you, be thankful about the lesson they were trying to teach. Be kind and considerate. Spell check!” -Trisha Coder, Producer/News Director
 
“When I took jobs in a new city, I spent days and days in the library getting background of the big stories from the past 5 years. There are so many ways to get information, there is no excuse not to know.” -Dennis Patchin, Sports Director, KXLY/ESPN Radio, Spokane
 
“You'll see the best and worst of humanity up close and personal. You'll see heartwarming and heartbreaking stuff. You'll get way outside your comfort zone. There will be days you are proud of your profession and days you are embarrassed by your profession. You'll have to learn to think quickly and think deeply. You'll get amazing mentors who have seen it all. You'll work long days and under challenging conditions. You'll get to see how democracy and business really works -- sometimes that will inspire you and sometimes that will disgust you. You'll do your job because you are a professional and you serve your editors, your viewers and your readers. And if you make it out and emerge on the other side, you'll feel like you can handle anything any other job can throw at you.” -Tim Cigelske, Writer/Instructor/Director of Social Media at Marquette University
 
“You'll work with people you love and people you can't stand. That translates to the people you encounter in your community.” -Aaron Luna, TV Reporter/Anchor, KXLY Spokane
 
“Don't tell anyone to do a job you won't do or don't know how to do yourself. Use 'who' and 'that' correctly. Don't let anyone cut your hair 'the way your news director wanted it.'” -Lee Stoll, Anchor/Reporter, KOMO-TV, Seattle
 
“If you're willing to put in the effort, few occupations allow you the chance to actually make a difference in the community in which you live like being a journalist.” -Kevin Uretskyk, Anchor/News Director
 
“Network, network, network. You can't have too many contacts. You can learn from them, and they may help you get a job.” -Joe McCann, Producer
 
“Fight for better pay in your first job. If you don't, you're setting yourself up to be underpaid your entire career.” -Alex Rozier, Reporter, KING5, Seattle
 
“Do good work and work hard. Hard work will get you where you want to go. Always remember people on the way up, because you may have to help them on the way down. Know everyone's name and what they do. Treat them with the same respect you'd wish they would treat you. You're only as good as your last show.” -Eric Elgin, Assist. News Director, Time Warner Cable News, Austin/San Antonio
 
A few more bits of advice: In interviews, treat the homeless man with the same respect you'd offer the governor; you can't tell someone's story if you're looking down on them. Be skeptical. If you lose the passion for journalism, find another job. And finally, find someone to mentor – it will keep you sharp and remind you why you do this.

Melissa Luck is Executive Producer at KXLY-TV in Spokane, WA