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A Day in the Life of a Television Reporter

A reporter’s job is not for the faint of heart. It requires a great deal of stamina, physical fitness, and unflagging self-motivation. Aspiring television reporters must be strong on perseverance, be able to look danger squarely in the face, be willing to work long hours, forego weekends, holidays, and special occasions, and be ready to be on the road at a moment’s notice. Television reporters gather information, investigate leads, and write and report stories “live” or “on the scene.” Occasionally they tape their newsstories, sometimes called “packages,” for a later broadcast. Reporters must be able to accurately compile notes, conduct interviews, determine the focus of a story, and quickly organize and complete a story. Because of the increased pace and efficiency of electronic news-gathering techniques, reporters are sometimes hard-pressed to properly complete their stories before they are called upon to go “live.” Reporters with good memory and poise who are able to speak fluently and extemporaneously will fare well. With violent crime rates up over the past several years, reporters must be both emotionally and psychologically stable so they can face and report from gruesome crime scenes. They are usually assigned leads to pursue by station assignment editors. Some reporters are given a specific “beat” to cover, such as police stations, city hall, or the courts. Others specialize in areas such as medicine, consumer news, sports, science, and weather. While most reporters do on-the-spot news coverage, investigative reporters usually cover “long lead-in” stories that often take days or weeks of information gathering and, depending on the subject matter, may involve danger. News correspondents stationed in foreign nations at war or facing civil unrest place their lives on the line with every live report. These correspondents must not only learn how to maneuver through difficult situations to locate sources of valuable information but must also overcome language barriers, cultural barriers, and fear to get to that information.

Paying Your Dues

A bachelor’s degree in journalism is the minimum requirement to get your foot in the doors of most broadcasting stations, but significant emphasis is placed on collateral experience and internships. Applicants must show college newswriting and demonstrate that they’ve had reporting experience on school newspapers or at college television stations. Additionally, extensive internship experience and a specialized degree in political science, economics, or business, plus a minimum of three to five years reporting experience, will substantially enhance one’s chance of being hired by a major market network. Most on-air television reporters and anchors in major cities such as New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and San Francisco started out in small-town stations where they learned everything from the ground up. Though lacking the glamour and pay scale of big-city stations, these podunk markets are necessary proving grounds and great experience for any aspiring reporter.

Present and Future

Today’s reporting profession is significantly more stressful than that of yesteryear. The competition among television stations for higher ratings and more advertising revenue has meant that reporters are often required to enter increasingly dangerous situations in order to present the news “first and live.” Technology will continue to play an integral role in the television reporting business. Reporters will therefore have to be on the very cutting-edge of the latest computer software programs, on-line services, the Internet, and digitized news libraries. Along with the routine of reading most major news publications and generally keeping abreast of current affairs, the reporter will have to be alert and savvy enough to filter useful information from a plethora of sources.

Quality of Life

PRESENT AND FUTURE

At this stage the reporter is probably working at a small-town broadcasting station as a general assignment reporter. The work, though tedious, might sometimes entail behind the scenes work such as editing, camera operating or photography. This is the time when the avid reporter develops contacts, learns every facet of news gathering and dissemination, and fine tunes his newswriting skills.

FIVE YEARS OUT

A seasoned reporter at the five-year mark has the poise and the presence to report from most situations. The reporter may be assigned to a beat, waiting around courts and police precincts for that “big story” to break. The television reporter is now ready and anxious to assume more and varied responsibilities.

TEN YEARS OUT

The ten-year veteran is a confident and able reporter. If he is still employed by a small station, then this reporter should have an impressive working knowledge of every aspect of the news business and is probably able to operate most if not all related equipment. The ambitious reporter would have specialized in one or more fields, amassing a wealth of knowledge and thereby enhancing his marketability. The reporter is now ready to be signed by a network in a major news market.