How to get a job on television

For many people, working in the broadcast media is an ideal job. But obtaining that job can be quite difficult. Finding out what skills you need and how to acquire those skills are essentials to starting your career in broadcasting. First of all, TV is not all the glamour it seems to be. What you see on the screen is a small fraction of what actually goes on.

Before a story hits the air, someone has to find the story, assign the story, research it, set up interviews, write it, and then it all has to be condensed into its edited version. And this task of putting together one story, called a package, involves lots of people. For starters, there’s the assignment editor who plans the story coverage.

who will be interviewed and why, where will the interview takes place, what visuals are available, etc. The producer oversees this whole process, sometimes in conjunction with a news director or a managing editor. In all, there are always people looking over your shoulder on TV. Hardly any story involves only one person. The reporter may put it all together, but the photographer will shoot the story and edit it, while the producers critique it.

Finding a job in the newsroom can be daunting. Often the producers and on-air talent have been there a while and that can result in a newsroom clique, which can be hard to infiltrate. But having the skills to do a good job will ease that tension. For budding producers and writers, having an open mind and a keen sense of what is newsworthy will help your career immensely. Be willing to work with the reporters and other producers to tell the story in the right way. Find out what the preferred news writing style is at your station and try to emulate that. If you give the bosses what they want, they will want to hire you and keep you.

Perhaps the easiest position to get in the newsroom is that of an intern. This position is almost always unpaid, but it can yield great benefits. You’ll mingle with all the people whose jobs you envy and you can learn from them what it takes to achieve your goal. Reading copy, ripping scripts, and logging tapes, among other things, will help you to get a full sense of what goes on in the newsroom.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions or suggest story ideas. Take the experience and make the most of it. This is your opportunity to get your foot in the door, learn all the necessary skills, and then land a job in the industry. To find internships, contact local TV stations and ask who the internship coordinator is. Send a cover letter and resume and be sure to make yourself available to intern on a regular basis.

The more flexible you are in scheduling, the better. Once you have the internship, stay up to date on all the news stories and ask people about their jobs. You may find someone’s job more fascinating that you initially thought it could be. From this internship, you can hope to earn the position of a part-time assignment editor or writer. And if you continue to be as aggressive, you’ll move up the ranks from there.

Trying to be a reporter is another story. It’s still ideal to start out as an intern so you can get a full perspective of the industry. But if your ultimate goal is to be reporter, make sure you hook up with a reporter or two so that you can get a true feel for what the job entails. They have to ask all the questions, write a stand-up and put the whole story together. It’s a lot of work and there is definitely skill involved. If you ask a reporter for help and guidance, they will most likely be flattered and will help you.

Keep in mind that you will have started out small in a tiny market in the middle of nowhere. You will need a demo tape that shows what stories you have put together. Hooking up with a photographer during an internship is also a good idea since he or she can help you make that crucial demo tape. Learning to shoot video and edit it can come in handy for a reporter, too. These skills can best be learned by taking a course at a journalism school or tagging along with professional photographers and editors.

The reporting, producing, and editing are mostly done in the newsroom and in the field. But beyond the newsroom, there are more jobs on television. Those jobs are in engineering and operations. Operations technicians and engineers are responsible for all sorts of behind-the-scenes things ranging from post-production editing to controlling audio to directing the newscast. These jobs often require very specific skills, such as how to edit, how to log tapes, how to bring in and send out satellite feeds.

These skills can be learned either on the job or through a good television production program at a local journalism school. Most of the time, you’ll have to start out at the bottom when obtaining operations or engineering jobs, since those senior employees have loads of experience. A lot of engineering and operations jobs start out as part-time positions and you can work your way up the ranks as you prove yourself. Also, you may find yourself working overnight shifts in master control or coming in at 4 a.m. to be the floor director for the 5 a.m. newscast.

Finally, consider whether or not a job on television is really a dream after all. Remember that television has odd hours and works all hours, including weekends and holidays. The industry traditionally does not pay well and it can be very thankless, especially if you’re behind-the-scenes. Make sure that you can reconcile yourself with such a commitment before you choose this career, or you may end up disappointed.

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