FOR STUDENTS: 6 WAYS TO DECIDE IF TELEVISION IS THE RIGHT CAREER FOR YOU

Check out a few suggestions based on my personal experience and shared with students throughout the years. Each station is different. All options may not be available at all stations. These are some ideas for starters:

  1. VISIT A TV STATION– Get the tour and see how the process works.  Reach out to your favorite station, find out how/if a visit can be accommodated and follow procedures for setting something up. You can do this before you come to college or even start your freshman year. 
  2. JOB SHADOW—If you want a closer look at how the news gathering process works, try job shadowing a reporter and/or producer for a day. It gives you the opportunity to observe the day-to-day news operations and see first-hand how decisions are made, stories are told and newscasts are put together.
  3. INTERN – Internships don’t have to start your senior year of college. If you’re headed home for any summer, check in with your local television station after the holidays. Find out how their internship process works and what you’ll need to do to be considered. The summer after my sophomore year of college, I returned to my hometown and did an unpaid internship with the local television station and a paid internship with the local newspaper. Though my time was split, the experience was invaluable.
  4. MAINTAIN CONTACTS AND/OR SEEK OUT A MENTOR – During the job shadowing or internship process, always try to get business cards for the people you meet. If you connect with someone, always follow up with a thank you note. By checking in from time to time, you can develop a resource with whom you can ask your questions.
  5. JOIN A PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATION – This is a great way to interact with professionals in the field you are pursuing. You don’t have to be a seasoned pro, many times you can join as a student. I joined one such organization my freshman year of college for 25 bucks. It provided access to professional tools, paid internship opportunities and forums to connect with the pros. Examples include The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), The Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA), The National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) and Radio Television News Directors Association (RTNDA).
  6. ATTEND CAREER CONFERENCES –  There are many professional organizations that host national conferences. This is an opportunity to interact face-to-face with recruiters, talent and news management. Even if you are not looking for a job, this is one way to learn what employers are looking for. You can get your own business card made (if a student, you would want to include your name, email, a phone number, school and graduation date) for networking. Though employment may not be your goal, you could score an internship if you’re lucky!

 

PREPARING YOUR FIRST TV NEWS REEL

A TAPE/REEL is a short representation of you and your work, typically 5 to 7 minutes. A news director wants to see YOU. They want to see your on-camera presence, you interacting with your environment and how you put your stories together. At my first TV internship, I sat in the office while the news director reviewed tapes to fill a reporter position. If you didn’t impress him in the first 10 seconds, you were out.

That said, News directors don’t wait to get to the good stuff on your reel. You have to put the good stuff first.

STANDUP MONTAGE:

Typically the first 45 seconds to a minute of your tape should include a standup montage. That’s several quick clips of you interacting with your environment…typically telling a part of the story you don’t have video elements to support.

The rest of your tape should include two solid packages, no more than three.

A PACKAGE is a taped self-contained news report. It is your opportunity to showcase your writing ability and show a news director how you organize information to create a story that is factually accurate, visually interesting and engaging for viewers. The length of the package requirements may vary. For a typical newscast you might see any of the following:

SHORTER PACKAGE LENGTH: approx. 1 min

AVERAGE PACKAGE LENGTH: approx 1 min, 15 sec   TO 1 min, 35 sec

LONGER PACKAGE LENGTH: more 1 min 35 sec +

Typically this includes a reporter’s pre-recorded audio and edited video clips to support the story being told. When putting together packages for your class or your TAPE/REEL here’s some advice to remember:

  1. CLEAN AUDIO. Make sure your audio is clean when sending out your stories. If you are conducting interviews, it is always a good idea to put a microphone on your interview subject. You don’t want your interview sound to blend into the background. This can often happen when using the microphone on your camera and not a separate microphone on your interviewee.  You dont want your news director to struggle to understand what people are saying in your stories.
  2. USE A TRIPOD. You want to make sure video shots are not shaky. That can be distracting for viewers and take focus away from the important information you want to share.
  3. SHOOT A VARIETY OF SHOTS. If you are shooting your own video, shoot a variety of shots for editing. You should always have a mix of wide shots, medium and tight shots when shooting video to support the story you are telling. These shots will be what viewers see as they listen to your pre-recorded audio TRACK (defined in section 4 below). When new to shooting, You should shoot these wide, medium and tight shots on the TRIPOD to avoid shaky video. When editing, typically leave each clips up for 3 to 5 seconds unless the story dictates otherwise. If your clips change too quickly, sometimes that can look like a flash frame or error you forgot to take out of the story. If you leave your clips up too long it will maybe cause a news director to feel you didn’t have enough visual elements to support your story.
  4. SHOWCASE YOUR WRITING. In order to get a reporting position, you need to show that you know how to write. That means including stories with a reporter TRACK, that’s your audio recording of you telling the story. News directors want to see how you put the story together, not only visually but also your telling of that story.
  5. TRACK WITH ENERGY. Do not just read the story. Bring the story to life. Think about the story you’re telling and why viewers should care about what you’re saying. Carry that energy into your delivery in the audio booth. If you don’t sound interested in the story, why should viewers be?
  6. BE YOURSELF. Think of the camera as your friend. How would you tell your friend that story? Communicate that in your delivery. If it is a sad story, make sure your tone reflects that. Same goes for happy stories as well.

 

BONUS EXERCISE 1: Though the writing style is different, a good exercise is to pick up your local newspaper , find a story and practice reading the story aloud in the appropriate tone. If it is about death and destruction, you wouldn’t read that in the same tone as a story about the state fair coming to town. This is an easy way to teach yourself how to become more aware of content delivery.

 

BONUS EXERCISE 2: After trying exercise 1, watch part of a local newscast to see how the professionals handle content. See how they handle the sad/happy stories, listen to their tone in delivery and pay attention to how they maintain energy (particularly on sad stories) and keep your interest in that story at the same time. Use these tips to improve your own delivery.