Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Harsh Realities of the TV News/Sports Biz

A lot of people think this gig is easy.   Reality TV has made seem it like wannabe tv reporters, anchors, etc. can up and get a job.  Some can, candidly, it's the really good looking ones. The majority cannot.  The realist is this business is much more cutthroat, harsh and vile than it seems.

Here's a recent e-mail I received from a viewer who shares his niece's story. 

Here's the e-mail:

Hello Ms. Miller,

I'm writing on behalf of my niece XXX XXXXX. She recently graduated as a broadcast journalist major from the University of XYZ and is currently working for a public relations firm in X City. Like many college graduates she has not been able to find a job in her field. She has had positive interviews with the This Team and That Team as well as ESPN, CNN and numerous local television stations across the nation. In each and every case she has been told that she has very good broadcasting skills. They really liked her and loved her personality and attitude, but in all cases the job went to someone with more experience. I know that is the nature of the beast, but there must be some way to break in to the business. Her family is very sports centric. Her Uncle played football. Her father played for A Big Time SEC School. She has always been around athletics and is very knowledgeable of it. Because of this she is interested in a career in sports broadcasting. That brings me to why I'm contacting you. Do you have any information that I could pass on to her regarding the broadcast industry and how to get her foot in the door? I would appreciate any advice or encouragement you could provide.

This was my response:

Thanks for the email. The story you have told me is the same one that hundreds of thousands of aspiring reporters, anchors, journalists have encountered, as well. It's the nature of this beast. I have only been offered 5 jobs in my career and been turned down for about 250. Seriously. When I graduated college my goal was to send out 5 tapes a week my senior semester of college. That was around 80 tapes that year (at the time it cost $3.74 to send those VHS tapes out via USPS - it SUCKED). I got ONE job offer. (that sent me to Guam) I've been in this business for 15 years and while I am not currently submitting material for positions at that rate, I've applied for A LOT of jobs and been turned down for many more. It's a brutally tough business. That's why the majority of people who major in radio/television/journalism end up doing something else.

The pay is poor: most recent college grads make around $12-14,000 a year in small markets. The hours are long: no overtime on a 40-60 hour work week. The work itself is challenging: digging for stories, shooting & editing all of your own material while having to focus on looking professional and attractive when you need to be on television. It's really tough. Combine that with the fact that stations are eliminating positions and and many predict that local news operations will die in the coming years, it's tough to get a job.

That being said, if she wants to work in this industry, she just needs to keep at it. I know it's tough, frustrating and challenging. While she is working her pr job, she should offer to work for free anywhere that will have her with a company/team that can help her advance in the direction she wants to go. She should start a website or a blog so she practices writing and "covering" stories. She should start video blogging so that she can showcase her skills and knowledge on the web. This kills two birds with one stone: it shows her knowledge/passion/skills and keeps her work fresh and current.

it's not easy. it's one of the toughest industries to break into and succeed. She needs to stay persistent, almost doggedly so. If she has the talent, knowledge and drive something positive will happen.
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