This time of year, hundreds of new college graduates will attempt to enter the television news industry. If they’re anything like I was back then:
They’re confused about how to get that first job.
They’re worried about how to succeed in the newsroom when they do.
So, on the Twitter account (@WriteLikeUTalk) attached to my book “Write Like You Talk: A Guide To Broadcast News” (available at WriteLikeYouTalk.com) I asked this question:
Need some input from #TVNewsers --— Jeff Butera (@WriteLikeUTalk) April 27, 2018
Many of the @WriteLikeUTalk followers are about to graduate college and try to get their first job.
WHAT'S YOUR BEST ADVICE FOR THEM AS THEY GET INTO THE NEWS BUSINESS??
For the next 48 hours, excellent replies came flooding into my mentions. The advice was so good, I decided to put all of the suggestions for the recent graduates in one place:
KCRG, Anchor, Cedar Rapids
Find kind people in your first newsroom and listen to them. Ignore jealousy or petty people; you’ll move forward and away from them. Be known as the hardest worker in your newsroom, not the know-it-all.
KXTV, Executive Producer, Sacramento
Learn everything. Be a sponge. Read/watch things you might not agree with. Be skeptical, not cynical. Learn how to speak different "languages" (GM speak, photog speak, colleague speak). Be curious. Ask zillions of questions. Don't be afraid to ask for help
KHOU, Morning Asst. ND/EP, Houston
Be humble. Be a force of positivity. Work hard. Keep an open mind. Look out for opportunities to pick up new skills. Listen. Listen. Listen... & soak everything up like a sponge. And please, please, please don’t list your high school gig at Abercrombie on your resume.
Choose to love your small market. It’s not just a stepping stone. The viewers there deserve your best work. Don’t just make slot with the mindset that you’ll be outta there soon. Treat it as you would a job at the network.
KUSA, Anchor, Denver
Be yourself. No one will take you seriously if you aren’t genuine. In this climate of journalism, it’s important that we make the audience understand we’re people too. It’s much easier to trust someone when they show you who they really are.
WTLV, Anchor, Jacksonville
-Be humble and take advice. You don't know everything.
-Mistakes will happen. Learn from them and move on.
-Find a hobby and friends outside of work...so you can have an escape during those stressful times.
-Always do your best work...no matter the story.
WBHH/WZVN, Asst. ND, Fort Myers
Find somewhere that has someone that will TEACH you all the things you think you know but don’t. What you don’t know is the most dangerous for the first step of your career. Also, and maybe more importantly, learn the business side of TV. College neglects this point horribly.
WSVN, Investigative/Special Projects Producer, Miami
‘TV news’ is increasingly being consumed outside of TVs. That will continue and it’s OK. The delivery methods will evolve — but the demand for local stories isn’t going away. You are the best prepared for the future shifts, not us. Be accurate, be fair, be first (in that order).
WFTX, Producer, Fort Myers
Even if you screw up on an application, own it and keep going. I got the NEWS DIRECTOR’S name wrong on an email/application. Apologized afterwards, somehow still got an interview, and GOT THE JOB.
WXIX, Reporter, Cincinnati
It’s tough landing that first job. I almost gave up. When the application says “no phone calls,” bug the heck out of the news director... in a respectful way. It worked for me. It shows the ND you have that fight in you!
KOKH, Anchor, Oklahoma City
Do your best every day. Don’t look too far down the road. Focus on the present. Have a good attitude. Be nice to everyone. LEARN AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE.
KPRC, Producer, Houston
Definitely listen to those in the newsroom with experience, even if they are rude about it. Sometimes when you think they are being tough, they are teaching you the biggest lessons you'll ever learn.
KRDO, Producer, Colorado Springs
Don’t be discouraged by market size. The worst thing a station can ever say is no.
KHOU, Executive Producer, Houston
Learn every job... every new thing you can. Be multi-skilled... and hungry to always do better. Try new things. Even if it feels uncomfortable. Take a job that might be ‘less’ than what you think you deserve, to get the one you really want down the road. Work hard & have fun!!!
WATN, Reporter, Memphis
If a senior, make TV your '"job" last semester. Do stories that stand out on college stations. Fill up w/reel options. You could be ‘rejected’ dozens of times before getting a nibble. Keep your head up. Be enthusiastic. Explain your diverse skill set, be open to doing many tasks.
WGCL, Reporter, Atlanta
Do the right thing! Tell the story exactly as it is with integrity! The job has so many variables. You WILL make mistakes, but let them never be a case of you intentionally misrepresenting the truth! It’s not worth it! Reasonable viewers understand human error, but not ill intent
KTBS, Anchor, Shreveport
Someone once told me Robert MacNeil used to put the letters “DTYSFS” in the prompter every evening at the top of the MacNeil/Lehrer Report copy. It stands for “don’t take yourself so f***ing seriously.” That advice has never failed me. A little humility goes a long way.
WGCL, Anchor, Atlanta
Just get in the door! Accept the position that's available. Master it, then volunteer like crazy in newsroom. Ask reporters and anchors to mentor you. Do everything no one wants to do. Do the grunt work - this is where greatness is developed!
1) Cast a wide net. You won't retire from there.
2) You have the foundation; you'll learn most of it by doing the job.
3) Learn the dynamics of your newsroom
4) Make yourself invaluable
5) Best advice ever, departure email from veteran photog: Show respect; Demand respect.
Voice of America, Broadcaster, RTDNA Contributor
Keep the anchor strong, with strong, tight ledes full of information. Don't keep all the information in your report. Forward the story after anchor reports the meat of it.
Former News/Sports Anchor
Always have a backup plan. For stories, interviews, shows and, honestly, life. Relationships are everything. Don’t be the person who’s always asking for something, learn how to give.
WBIR, Producer, Knoxville
Make connections!! Reach out to anchors, reporters, and news directors. Ask to see the station or ask for feedback on your reel. You might meet someone who knows someone that's hiring...
AccuWeather, Director of Network Programming
1) This industry is so small. Never burn a bridge
2) your co-workers will talk about you but don’t get caught up in the newsroom gossip
3) it’s ok to not know everything about the industry, you’ll learn
4) find a veteran newsie to mentor you
5) be open to good / bad feedback
KOKH, Anchor, Oklahoma City
Get in your car and drive to small markets you're interested in. I said "I'm coming to town. Let's meet." That's how I got my first job after sending out dozens of tapes.
WSVN, Executive Producer, Miami
1: Write like you talk
2: Nothing is beneath you. The more you know how to do & actually do, the more valuable/marketable you become.
And may I add if you’ve read this gem of a book @WriteLikeUTalk (so you can obviously write) - feel free to send me your resume!
Former Sports Anchor, Current Educator, West Virginia University
Practice your craft and take constructive criticism seriously. The goal is to continually get better. Don’t cheat yourself looking for shortcuts!
WXOS 101.1FM, Digital Brand Program Manager, St. Louis
Research the market you want to truly work in. Research the station and its brand. Figure out what that brand is and you’ll be a rock star right out of the gate. Don’t be afraid to say no and make sure to ask questions during the job interview. This’ll impact your happiness.
KSAZ, Reporter, Phoenix
Things will be hard. You'll question what you're doing. If you truly want to be in the business, persevere. Money can be tight but you can make more later. Don't be afraid to reach out to people for advice/help/support.
Former TV News Reporter
1. Find a mentor. Or two. Or three.
2. Embrace the adventure! Don’t limit yourself to markets close to home, part of the excitement and fun of news is exploring the country and making great friends along the way.
Talent Coach, TerryAnzur.com
Don’t freak out when they ask you to sign a contract for 2 years. Just do it.
WZDX, News Director, Huntsville
If having every holiday off is important to you, go get a job in government.
KMFB, Anchor, San Diego
Learn how to take and learn from criticism.
WZVN, Anchor, Fort Myers
1. Never stop learning
2. Be versatile; it makes you valuable
3. Accept the sacrifices now; overnights/weekends/holidays/low pay will happen
4. Find/do stories that MATTER
Jeff Butera is the main anchor at WZVN-TV in Fort Myers. He is also the author of “Write Like You Talk: A Guide To Broadcast News Writing.” You can buy the guide at www.WriteLikeYouTalk.com. You can reach Jeff at Jeff@WriteLikeYouTalk.com.
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