News Coach: Many roads lead to electronic journalism

June 7, 2017 01:30

By Joanne Stevens, RTDNA Contributor

So, you're dreaming about getting into electronic journalism? There are many ways to get there. Let’s start our engines and look into a few of the best non-traditional entry roads into radio, TV and digital news:
 
The print journalism road
We are video and auditory-dependent journalists, and with the advent of digital news we now provide written reports as well. You are a print journalist who has either elected to join our side, or you’re being wooed. We are cut from similar cloth and depend on language and writing. Your ‘palatability’ in our world ranks very high.
 
  • Head and passion of a journalist: Check
  • Writing skills: Check
  • List of sources and contacts: Check
Most of you work within a beat. This is a particular bonus, especially if it’s within government/politics or business. Are you willing to submit to a conversion? What I mean is, are you willing to tighten your writing, learn how to construct a ‘news package,’ execute on-camera standups, report live to camera, and interview protagonists or experts on camera? Please do not ignore the sirens' song if you’ve been hearing it. You can learn new skills relatively quickly. I promise. 
 
The Wall Street road
I often hear myself saying that you first need about six years of experience in a finance/business career. Why six?  It’s just a gut feeling. In your case, your new career targets would most likely be the business news networks, as well as a growing number of business news entities and silos on the digital side. We want to draw from your knowledge and your perspective. Your end-goal journalism will most often be via live contributions. You’ll face the challenge of learning to share information in an alarmingly truncated manner. You’ll learn our writing style because that’s how we talk, and some of your contributions will most likely necessitate TV writing skills, designed for the  teleprompter. If someone else writes for you, you'll still need to know the good from the better, and how to potentially tweak your script to put it more into your own voice. You’ll also need to understand the tenets of journalism such as attribution, ethics, and off the record. Oh! And having a personality on the scale from easygoing to beguiling doesn’t hurt.  
 
The lawyers road
We tend to assume that you appreciate and execute strong and accurate writing, and this clearly impresses us. But you, too, will need a crash course in writing conversion, reporting and journalism guidelines. The personality parameters hold the same as for everyone else: You’ll need to abandon many misconceptions, misguided advice (such as, "You need to smile more," or "You’re using your hands too much") and learn to communicate on a one-to-one intimate level, either with other on-camera colleagues or with us, your viewers.
 
The graduating journalism students with a [head start of a pre-selected beat] road
I’m including you in my ‘breaking in’ category because this may garner the attention you need to rise above the hoards. You may have focused on print, but if you chose a sector of concentration such as health/pharma or energy, you might be hired by a news entity that is interested in what you can contribute, and potentially hopes to groom you for growth within their organization. 
 
All of these backgrounds could lead you to a career in electronic journalism. Next time in part two, we'll talk about turning your dreams into reality (Annie Lennox of the Eurythmics knew a thing or two about this). We'll show you some of the more squiggly breakthrough paths on which you start as a consistent contributor, or (and please don’t get your hearts set on it) as a traffic reporter! There may be a part three with more "how-to" advice coming as well.

Stay tuned!

 

News consultant Joanne Stevens has written extensively about broadcast writing, reporting and anchoring, including columns in the former print version of RTDNA's Communicator Magazine, and earlier versions of the RTDNA website. She has taught at Columbia and New York University and serves as a news award judge for the New York Press Club. She has returned to RTDNA.org to offer a new series of News Coach columns with tips, best practices and more. Many of her previous columns are available on her website.
 
Looking for your first job or your next job in journalism? We'll have a bunch of recruiters at Excellence in Journalism 2017 in Anaheim, September 7-9. Come to the conference, sharpen your skills, and maybe find your next gig!