Is a Career In TV News for You?

Published: Mar 10, 2009

 Job Search       

Just because it's your day off doesn't mean the world stops. News doesn't always come at the most convenient time in your life when you are a television journalist. Ask any veteran journalist about sacrifices made: missed birthdays, anniversaries and vacations are possibilities, and personal relationships are often put on the back burner as well.

The exciting part of working in television news is that every day is different. You are constantly meeting interesting people and learning about new ideas. One day you may be covering a court case, and the next day you might be skydiving.

The starting salaries in television news are extremely low. It is definitely one of those careers you pursue because you love it and because you believe you can make a difference in the world through your work. That doesn't mean the money won't come eventually. As with anything else in life, if you are good at what you do, you will be rewarded. It just takes some time in television news.

Building a career in television news has traditionally required moving around a lot. Most people start off in very small markets where the pay is low and someone with no experience has a shot at landing their first job. To make more money, most people hop around the country, jumping to larger and larger markets. This strategy is definitely true of people who want to be on air. Those behind the scenes also move around a lot as well, but have more opportunities to start out in larger markets or at the national level. If you don't think you can handle living in Paducah, Kentucky for a year, you better think twice about a career in television news.

Desired Skills & Traits

Persistence: There is a fine line between being annoying and being persistent, but it is a line journalists must walk every day. Getting an exclusive or landing a "get interview" takes many long hours of persuasion, negotiation and patience. Many people get into the business for the rush of beating a competitor to a big interview or convincing a reluctant interview subject to share their story.

Perspective: Whether you are an assignment editor, reporter, editor, photographer or a producer, understanding "the big picture" will keep you from being overwhelmed by details when you are producing a story. Producing for television is a team effort and each role is crucial in the creation of the final product, the newscast.

An assignment editor needs to prioritize the stories of the day in terms of resources, a producer needs to understand how a story flows with the other stories in the newscast, and reporters need to convey both sides of a story, offering a balanced perspective to viewers.

Storytelling: Simply gathering the who, what, when, where and why of a story won't make you a great television journalist. To take yourself to the next level, you need to be able to convey the information you've gathered via an interesting and compelling story that will resonate with your intended audience.

Presentation Skills: Much of television is about presentation. It is, after all, a visual medium. While looks aren't everything, they count for a heck of a lot. Always seek out the extra detail or finishing touch to be sure to tie all your elements together into a story that flows seamlessly. A good eye goes a long way in television.

Communication Skills: Despite what track you are on, it goes without saying that great communications skills are a must. If you want to be an on-air report or anchor, a clear and fluid delivery is just as important as your writing skills. If you want to become a producer, a catchy and concise writing style will help you rise above the rest.