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Traffic Reporter


It's a familiar scenario . . .it is 6:47 a.m. and suddenly the morning commute has become a nightmare! Traffic is at a standstill and drivers are wondering what the hold up may be. An accident? Construction? Within a matter of seconds, traffic is backed up and the highway resembles a parking lot. Maybe if they would have tuned into the traffic report on the radio or television before they left home, they could have avoided this hold-up and made it to work on time. Traffic reporters broadcast on the radio and television about traffic issues and help commuters avoid these messy situations.

Traffic reports are one of the most listened to radio programming elements. In our fast paced society, people always seem to be in a rush to get somewhere and depend on quick answers from traffic reporters. Traffic reporters announce the latest accidents and hold-ups and focus on providing timely and useful information to commuters planning their drives to and from work, as well as to those already en route. More experienced reporters will work the peak listening hour time slots, usually during the morning commute or the drive home.

Traffic reporters sometimes report live on location from helicopters. Helicopter reporters paint a visual picture (bird's eye view) for drivers stuck in the middle of a traffic mess or on their way into it. They literally have to look out their helicopter window to report on such blunders -- "There's a tractor-trailer overturned on the freeway" or "There's a four-car pile-up on the bridge." With the increase in numbers of cars on the road, these reports are very necessary to listeners.

All reporters have different styles, and different listeners will respond accordingly. Traffic reporters may conduct research and scriptwriting or just broadcast live without a script. Some traffic reporters are hired because of their perfect-sounding voices, which become the comforting voices that we listen to daily and grow to know so well.

On television, reporters may film live from a helicopter, in the studio or on location. They must be very comfortable in front of the camera. A traffic reporter's ultimate goal is to figure out how to present traffic news logically and interestingly so that people can understand and use it in their daily commutes. Since the traffic reports are mainly broadcast live, there is little room for error. This can be quite stressful for those who are inexperienced, camera shy or nervous since announcers usually love to have their voices heard. They are constantly on their toes; often improvising when need be in order to keep a live broadcast running smoothly.

Traffic reporters have a duty to providing accurate and impartial news. The reason accuracy is so important is to both serve the public with correct news and because slanderous and libelous statements can lead to costly lawsuits. Also, people depend on these reports and if they are false, they will ultimately ruin an individual's important plans.
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  Interests and Skills  
Traffic reporters must have pleasant sounding voices and good enunciation, and those working on television must have a neat and manicured appearance. They have a general interest in traffic and helping people with their daily commutes. Traffic reporters usually exude self-confidence, have the ability to ad lib and provide interesting small talk. They should be enthusiastic, and have the ability to relate to an audience.

Traffic reporters should enjoy working with broadcast materials and compiling information. Those who report from helicopters must feel safe in the air. This industry is very cutthroat therefore, traffic reporters must have clear set goals and go for them.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Report on traffic conditions by maintaining contact with external sources of information or by observing traffic from air or land vehicle
  • Read traffic reports to listeners on television and the radio
  • Read commercials and public service messages
  • May research and write their own material
  • May act as host and conduct proceedings of shows or programs
  • Traffic reporter generally work five- to seven-hour shifts, which may include early mornings, evenings, weekends and holidays. Those who work the morning drive shifts usually start at about 5:30 am. Also, these reporters are always on call and have a crew on standby throughout the day in case of traffic and breaking news. Since many radio stations and television stations are on the air for 24 hours, traffic reporters can expect to work the graveyard shift when breaking into the career. The work can be stressful because live broadcasting allows little room for error. Traffic reporters may work in comfortable, although sometimes crowded, studios or in soundproof broadcast booths at various non-studio locations, such as helicopters. Traffic reporters also do preparation work, attend staff meetings and other community events.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Traffic reporters are primarily employed by radio and television stations and networks and by commercial firms that produce traffic advertisements for radio or television. Some may find work at specialized news stations that report on traffic every few minutes.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Traffic reporters usually find work by marketing themselves through audition tapes and personal interviews. Other specialty areas that traffic reporters can move into are within the industry, such as, weather, sports or interviewing. Some traffic reporters move between stations and develop significant followings. Traffic reporters may also become programming directors, station managers, news directors or executives with broadcasting companies.

  Educational Paths  
Most traffic reporters have a university degree in broadcast journalism or a technical college degree in radio or television arts. In school, they can focus specifically on traffic and roads. These days, aspiring reporters must volunteer at high school and college radio stations or local community stations. In this industry, everyone must start at the bottom and work their way up the traffic ladder. That means entry-level positions will either be at small rural stations or unpopular shifts. Lastly, talent and ability, as demonstrated during an audition, are important hiring criteria.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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