Broadcast Journalist

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Broadcast Journalist


What do Barbara Walters and Peter Jennings have in common? Besides being extremely rich and famous television and radio personalities, they both started their broadcasting careers as unknown journalists at local radio and television stations. Broadcast journalists research, investigate, interpret and communicate news and public affairs for broadcast on television, radio and other live communication media. They investigate leads and news tips, read documents, observe events taking place at the scene and interview people. Broadcast journalists play an important role in our media-savvy society; compiling information, writing stories and broadcasting news that informs us about current local, national and international events and the conduct of public officials, corporate executives, special-interest groups and others who live in the limelight. The ultimate goal after gathering and synthesizing information is to figure out how to present it logically and interestingly so that people can understand, enjoy and use it in their daily lives.

Entry-level journalists and those working for small radio or television stations may be assigned a variety of tasks including writing headlines, operating equipment such as video cameras, using editing machines and writing editorial news stories in addition to covering all aspects of local news. This is a great environment for a journalist to start in because they learn a broad range of journalistic skills and can decide to specialize in a particular area they enjoy working on the most. Broadcast journalists must be comfortable on camera. Since they are often reporting live from the scene of a news event, they must compose their story on the spot, without any extra takes. This can be quite stressful for those who are either camera shy or nervous therefore, broadcast journalists must love to shine on the camera or have their voices heard on the airwaves. Curious onlookers, police, or other emergency workers can distract those reporting from the scene for radio and television so journalists must be focused on their story and make sure they get the footage and details they need.

The title broadcast journalist is quite broad because journalists do a number of different things: Some cover a "beat" (one news area such as police, city hall or law courts), others report for news services that provide broadcast material to subscribing radio and television stations, while some journalists specialize in fields such as health, business, film, sports, social events, science or religion. For example, a psychiatrist may conduct a call-in radio show that answers caller's intimate questions. A journalistic piece must be as unbiased as possible and not favor any viewpoint for the journalist's job is to report on the story in a meaningful and insightful way, but not in an editorial fashion. Editorials are something completely different and deserve their own merits. Broadcast journalists are usually confined by specific time slots and they must have excellent grammar and writing skills. They often cover more than one story a day so they must be on their toes.

Broadcast journalists are dedicated to providing accurate and impartial news. The reason accuracy is so important is to both to serve the public with correct news and because slanderous and libelous statements can lead to costly lawsuits. It is also important that they know about journalism ethics and laws related to journalism such as defamation law, but those principles are well covered in journalism school. It is crucial that broadcast journalists have a complex understanding of different cultures. Most stories are about diverse and interesting people therefore, journalists must also be culturally sensitive.
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  Interests and Skills  
Broadcast journalists must be naturally curious and have a nose for news. When it comes to interviewing people, they should be interested and respectful about the answers and know what types of questions to ask. Obviously this also requires great people skills and written communication skills. They must be 100 percent accurate in their fact checking therefore people who can pay close attention to details and are scrutinizers would be perfect broadcast journalists. They must also be open-minded, because they have to understand and see a story from both points of view in order to cover a story properly. Journalists also have extensive stamina that helps them cope with the pressures of the industry.

Broadcast journalists must have composure and poise on-camera or in front of a microphone, and some my have formal voice training.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Collect local, national and international news through interviews, investigation and observation
  • Conduct interviews as part of research using tape recorders and video cameras and carry out background research for stories or features
  • Cover all the stories for specific subjects such as health, sports or arts
  • Go live, on-location to provide eyewitness coverage of some events
  • Write and broadcast editorials and commentaries on topics of current interest to stimulate public interest and express the views of a publication
  • Broadcast stories on camera for television publication or on the radio
  • Assist in directing camera operators who are filming news events
  • Receive, analyze and verify news and other copy for accuracy
  • Make shorthand notes and/or record information on tape
  • Discuss work with editors and have them supervise certain stories
  • May operate video camera and obtain video footage of news events
  • Broadcast journalists work both indoors and outdoors in a variety of conditions. Their work is usually hectic and stressful. Since they are under great pressure to meet deadlines, reports are often broadcast either with little time for preparation or live on the scene. Successful broadcast journalists may work in comfortable, private offices while others work in large rooms filled with the sound of keyboards and computer printers, as well as the voices of other reporters. Journalists broadcast either from the television or radio studio or on location, covering a story. When on location, they may work in unpleasant situations, such as crime and accident scenes. Similarly, covering wars, political uprisings, fires, floods, and similar disaster events can often be dangerous.
  • Actual working hours are irregular. Reporters are usually assigned to a day or evening shift and cover stories correspondingly. Sometimes hours fluctuate when a deadline must be meet, or when a story breaks late at night. The work also requires travelling to locations in order to cover stories. For some journalists, the travel can be international.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Broadcast journalists typically work for television stations, radio stations, governments, journals, advertising agencies, private consulting firms and other broadcast publishers. Freelance journalists are self-employed and work only on contracts. Broadcast journalists are constantly meeting new people and traveling to sometimes foreign and exotic places. A journalist's career may include anything from reporting from war zones and crime scenes to interviewing world leaders, celebrities and street people. Most tend to specialize in a particular area, once they are established.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Many entry-level broadcast journalists who work at smaller television and radio stations in rural areas can, with experience, easily move up into larger urban centers. Starting on a smaller publication is considered valuable by editors and producers and a move to a larger station is often a deserved promotion. Experienced reporters may advance to editorial, production and publishing positions.

Since broadcast journalism is such a highly competitive industry, competition for even entry-level reporter jobs is tough. Broadcast journalists with experience often become news anchors, or move up to become producers and beat writers. Other broadcast journalists become independent freelance workers. Since broadcast journalists are also writers, there is movement for them to write columns in newspapers and on television or move into related occupations such as technical writing, advertising copywriting, public relations and media consulting organizing large events, educational writing, fiction writing, screenwriting or editing.

  Educational Paths  
Most broadcast journalists have a university degree or college diploma in broadcast journalism, journalism or a related field, such as communications or English, however it is not one hundred percent crucial in certain areas of journalism. Some people get liberal arts degrees and then attend a one or two year postsecondary college program in broadcast journalism.

Broadcast journalists must possess a detailed knowledge of the geography, history, economy, politics, media law and social life of the communities and countries in which they work. Critical reviewers also need specialized knowledge in a particular area such as theater or international politics. Television or radio journalists can gain practical experience by working on high school and college radio and television stations or volunteer at smaller, rural or local community cable television or radio stations.

Most reporters start at small broadcast stations as general assignment reporters or copy editors. Large stations hire few recent graduates; as a standard industry rule, they require all reporters to have at least several years of experience. Broadcast journalists suggest constantly writing, reading and practicing your broadcast skills as a tool for success. Lately, there are so many places to get published and have your voice heard, such as school publications and the Internet. The more practice one earns, the better chances they have of landing a job.

There are also many journalism scholarships, fellowships, and assistantships awarded to college journalism students by universities, newspapers, foundations, and professional organizations.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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