Hey, future journalists: 50 pieces of advice for making your college years count

August 27, 2019 11:00

I've always said I wouldn't be where I am today without the University of Florida.

My four years at UF  –  the four best years of my life  – laid the groundwork for everything else I've done in the news industry.

I was lucky. UF's journalism school offered me and my classmates many opportunities for hands-on experience that simulated the work I would later encounter in the 'real world.'

But I'd like to think I was also smart. My mentality was: If UF offered the opportunity for experience  –  any experience  –  I would seize it. Television. Radio. Newspaper. I sampled everything.

That would be my advice to future journalists about to start the year at J-Schools around the country: Seize every opportunity for hands-on work that you can find.

But I knew others would have different, yet just as valuable, suggestions. So I recently asked on my Twitter account, @WriteLikeUTalk, this question:

The response that followed was overwhelming, insightful and fascinating. Here are 50 of the replies, ranging from a couple words to full paragraphs of guidance:

Rod Hissong
Reporter, Spectrum News, Ohio

Make friends with newspeople, ask to job shadow.
Do more stuff outside of the classroom than in.
Find work to begin working on your craft. Even the smallest of jobs that pay very little can reward you once you get the degree.

Lee Stevens

Study many other things in college. You need to have a working knowledge of how government works, court systems, businesses, etc.  Don't focus just on journalism.

Tony Taglavore
Owner, Sweet Lou Media

Internships, Internships, Internships!

Daniela Leon
Anchor/Reporter, FOX21, Colorado Springs

Be friends with your professors. They have experience and connections. I got my first job because of them.

Mario Anderson
Anchor/Reporter, Spectrum News, Kentucky

Don't be passive...don't wait to be asked if you'd like to help...don't just be okay with sitting and watching on the sidelines.

Look for opportunities where you can help crews in the newsroom or out in the field. Be willing to learn and ask questions. Ask for feedback!

Casey Kenny
News Radio Anchor, Ontario

Listen, jump at every opportunity and never stop trying to get better!

Adam Clemons
Assignment Manager, WMC, Memphis

Ask producers if you can write for their shows! Its rare that interns actually ask to do it. When I was an intern, I bugged the producers to let me produce a story.  I walked away from an internship in a top 10 market with a reel of stories I produced.

Judy Farah
Radio News Director, KFBK, California

A veteran newsman of the Cronkite era gave this good advice to my daughter: Be well-rounded in a variety of topics. Politics, sports, music, etc. You will be interviewing people from all walks of life.

Andrew McDevitt
Sports Anchor, WZVN, Fort Myers

I anchored a sportscast, hosted a talk show on TV & radio and held an internship! TV reps are more important than Gen Eds!

Also find a professor who accomplished similar things you hope to in your career! I still talk to that professor all the time!

Mike Canizales
Sports Reporter, 12 News, Beaumont


Michael Raimondi
Anchor/Reporter, WBBH, Fort Myers

I wrote for our school newspaper, online magazine, and news station.
Stay humble and listen. Tell yourself you always have something to prove!

Caitlyn Penter
Reporter, WLOS, Asheville

Start. Networking. Now.

Amber Worthy
Reporter, FOX Carolina

At @ValdostaState, I rented a camera every chance I got. I went to events and practiced shooting, interviewing and recording stand ups. When a big story broke in town (#KendrickJohnson), I set up alongside those reporters from different networks and became a sponge. #NOexcuses

Galen Ettlin WCAX
Anchor, WCAX, Burlington

Always ask questions when you're not confident about something. It shows drive to improve, not weakness.

Nahreman Issa
Anchor/Reporter, CTV Television, Canada

Never say no to any position they offer to train you on, even if it’s not what you aspire to do. I’m an anchor & reporter but I’ve done producing, news writing, assignment desk, writing for the website, VJ, you name it. Always helpful to be good at more than one thing.

Brad Tachco
Executive Producer, WROC, Rochester

Write, write, and write more.

Jasmine Styles
Anchor/Reporter, WFTS, Tampa

Go the untraditional route. Everyone’s vying for newsroom and cable internships. I interned at my university, doing feel-good pieces about people on campus. I got to edit, write and even front my pieces that aired on the PBS channel. I had more stuff on my reel.

Michelle Maluske
Reporter, CTV Television, Canada

No matter what the subject matter -- breaking news or cat fashion shows -- take it on and make it yours. The top story is only 1 of many in a newscast.. but all are important

Kristen Holloway
Reporter, WSB, Atlanta

Go to NABJ/IRE/NAHJ/AAJA. Quality over quantity. Some people have 10 internships before graduation. I had one at CBS News network. My ND in my first market said that internship outweighed the other candidate since I also anchored & turned pkgs for a live newscast at my university

BJ Lutz
Digital Journalist, Denver

Keep a focus on digital and stay on top of emerging digital trends. Develop a hunger to experiment. And when you have a story, consider how you would tell it on multiple platforms.

Carly Dermott

Don’t be afraid to take your skills to another industry. The talent, fearlessness and unique disposition that media-driven people possess are incredibly valuable qualities. Embrace that your path will be interesting.

Jeremy McKain
Real Estate Agent

Don't limit yourself to broadcast news . So many interesting jobs out there . Many end up working for big companies in other careers.

Sean Barie
Sports Anchor, WBBH, Fort Myers

Sports folks, do as much news as you can. And news folks, go shoot Friday night football!

Jummy Olabanji
Anchor/Reporter, WRC, Washington D.C.

Not everything needs to be posted to social media.

Jason Powles
Anchor, WKTV, Utica

Pay attention to details. Not seeing enough of that.

Alex Rozier
Reporter, WFAA, Dallas

Get a solid understanding of how to build sources. If you are able to do that effectively -- and break news -- you will always have a place in this industry.

Brad Broders
Reporter, Local 24 News, Memphis

Assuming your school has a weekly TV broadcast, treat that like 'your job' (without flunking your classes). Immerse yourself in it, learn all elements. If you want to be a reporter: better to have 40 college reel story options than six. Cover local board meetings, interact with PIOs..

Apply for internships EARLY. I won a slot at NBC Chicago in large part because I inquired the October before that summer.

Melissa Luck
News Director, KXLY, Spokane

For the love of God, please WATCH THE NEWS if you plan to work the industry. Consume the product you want to work on. Also, find internships that allow you the most hands-on experience, even if it's not the biggest market.

Mike Ross
Executive Producer, WBBH, Fort Myers

Take as many internships as you can. Do as much as you can. Treat every day like a job interview. Everyone you come in contact with is a source.

Ashley Graham
Investigative Reporter, WLNS, Lansing

Watch the news. Look for the stories people aren’t already telling. Give yourself room to grow. Be confident, not cocky. And practice, practice, practice!

Sarah Zak
News Director, WFTX, Fort Myers

Volunteer to work the morning shift at your internship. You learn so much from the fast pace of mornings. Also, they really, really need your help so you're more likely to get to pitch in on important assignments.

Jeff Elliott
Director, WFMY, Greensboro

1. Find a way to be involved with your local PBS station.
2. Become involved with you student-run newscast or even campus sports.
3. Take advantage of freelance opportunities!

Christopher Jones-Cruise
Journalist, Voice of America

Mine would be to not major in broadcast journalism; one should take a year's worth of classes at most. You should focus your studies on American political history.

Emma Henderson WTOL
Reporter, WTOL, Toledo

Find a good mentor everywhere you work/intern. Creating a good support system within the business is invaluable!

Larry Towe
Special Projects Photographer, WTVT, Tampa

Take business classes, you will need to understand negotiation and your value.
Cultivate your curiosity.
Take as many 'other' classes outside journalism as you can.
Create a Youtube channel
Make content .... practice practice practice.

Phil Reed
Reporter, KCRG, Cedar Rapids

Always come prepared. If you're a photog and want to report, keep a suit at the station.

Nicole Koppenhaver
Former News Producer

Be multi-faceted! Take the opportunity to learn about other jobs in the newsroom, and put that knowledge into practice! It definitely helps in the long run.

Abbey Meier
Producer, WZVN, Fort Myers

Work with your Journalism school or university! I got hands-on experience with reporting, working sources, producing and production. It gave me a reel, resume and awesome references!

Kristin Moore
Special Projects Producer, WTVT, Tampa

Be a self-starter at those internships. Ask how you can help, what you can learn. Take it further than just being on camera. Get involved with producers and the web dept to learn too. I got my first job out of my internship.

Sharon Tutrone
Broadcast Journalism Lecturer, Coastal Carolina University

I tell my journalism students to look for those internships. It’s how I got my start. I also teach my “Writing for Broadcast” class in a way that will highlight their ability, not their experience, to get their foot in the door.

Jeff Lemberg
Executive Director, Boys For The Better

Develop the full range of your reporting and storytelling skills—for TV, audio, web & print. I had a male student once who was adamant that he didn't need to worry much about writing because he was good-looking and that's the most important thing to get an on-camera TV job.

Rachel Keller
Anchor/Reporter, 12 News, Beaumont

Get involved with your student run television station. Get experience in multiple internships. Find a good mentor.

Angela Brauer
Anchor/Reporter, CBS4, Indianapolis

Learn every job within the newsroom and how to do it! It helps your resume and you really respect every role a lot more knowing how tough each of those jobs are!

Kristi Cheek
WNCN, Raleigh

Internships internships internships and don’t just sit there waiting for someone to notice you, get involved and asked to be put to work

Danielle Carter
Producer, WBNS, Columbus

Push yourself outside your comfort zone when covering stories. Sure, it's fun covering stories you're already interested in/know something about. But doing stories on a foreign subject can give you life-long knowledge.

Ryan Adair
News Content Manager, WZVN, Fort Myers

Internships, Internships, Internships --
The classroom experience is key -- but seeing and being in the midst of a real, working newsroom is priceless. I didn't figure out I wanted to be a producer until I stepped foot in the WMAQ newsrooom/control room.

During that internship -- if I could just sit at a desk for hours, not even doing anything, but just watching how everything ticked and how it worked... that was the best. I was a total sponge. That was probably THE most valuable experience I had during college.

Adam Silber
Executive Producer, ABC10, Sacramento

Crave information! Even information you don't agree with. Know a little about A LOT. Get an internship and when you do, ask a zillion questions.


Job shadow, find a mentor & keep them informed on your progress, rewrite teases/anchor intros/packages from newscasts. Talk to mentors on how to pitch & what makes a story newsworthy. Plus, know you can have a purposeful, solid career w/o working in a top 10 market

Curtis Carden
Digital Content Producer, ABC Tri-Cities, Johnson City

I would say just believe in yourself. You can learn the techniques, make the connections and all that, but you have to have the confidence to know when you’re right, own up when you’re wrong and always take pride in your work. Always be proactive, not reactive.

Josh Lamberty
College Student, Iowa State University

Still a student, but one of the best opportunities I've had is attending the @nppanewsvideo workshop last March. I learned more there in one week than in most of three years of undergrad. Find ways to invest in yourself outside your school!

Jeff Butera is the evening anchor at WZVN-TV in Fort Myers, and the author of "Write Like You Talk: A Guide To Broadcast News Writing." The book is available for purchase at www.WriteLikeYouTalk.com.




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