Tallahassee Bureau ChiefSurvey
What are the top three skills journalism students should learn in college?:
Come on...do I even have to answer this one? Okay; I’ll satisfy the educational gods:
And, I’ll add a fourth, if that’s okay:
4. Schmoozing...I mean it...how’s a murder suspect’s best friend going to talk to you if you don’t establish a personal rapport with them from the get-go? Trust me. Schmoozing works...especially if you want to become a politician after doing the journalism thing!
What were your duties at ATVN? :
How did ATVN prepare you for your career?:
I can’t stress how instrumental my day-of-air shifts were in softening the initial stress factor I encountered when I started working my first job. Every other gig I had (ranging from hosting infomercials to turning evergreen-style packs) lacked a critical factor: a same-day deadline. When you’ve only got a four-hour time frame, you’re forced to learn time management skills, and your journalistic and creative judgment both intensifies and quickens. I’ve been lucky enough to have covered three hurricanes (Charley, Frances and Jeanne...they helped me develop some superb live shot skills) as well as all four major 2004 presidential candidates - up close and personal. Add the daily news items I’ve covered, and the experience has turned me into a detail-conscious speed demon at the keyboard and in the edit bay. And mistakes...ohhhhh, the mistakes! Why not make them while you’re in school, instead of on the air at a commercial station where chew-outs and lawsuits are always lurking around the corner? I’m glad I didn’t start my broadcast career in a medium- or large-sized market; believe me, I made plenty of mistakes in my first job that I’ll never make again, but that would be much bigger issues at a higher level. Day-to-day experience matters, and I’m getting it.
What is your advice to aspiring journalists?:
I don’t mean to sound like a lackey, but don’t take things too seriously! That’s not to say you should ever compromise accuracy and fairness; but don’t spend your time stressing over the composition of a shot, the wording of a story that’s already aired, or an unintentional mishap. This stuff isn’t brain surgery, and it shouldn’t be treated as such. If you’re starting on-air in a small market, get out and have some fun! The folks I work with are some of my best friends, and we regularly hit up the town for a few drinks and some great conversation...I love the work, but I also love the fun we have after work! That having been said, also watch out for legal issues. The best way to avoid trouble lies in constant attribution...you can never attribute too much when your reputation’s on the line.
What should graduates keep in mind when negotiating their first job?:
Before I instruct you to get a little self-absorbed, remember this: news directors in small markets generally have a set salary and benefit package to offer entry-level reporters. They are usually bound by it, which means you can’t really negotiate your way to higher pay. Do your time, and you’ll soon be in a position to start negotiating with a station that will have some flexibility. Now back to the self-absorbed preface. The biggest mistake of my life (I think) was signing a two-year contract. I did it because, by declining out opportunities in my second year, I was guaranteed a modest raise. Since I started working here, I’ve seen many a reporter move on to mid-sized markets after their first year. Some have had to pay the station to buy out their contracts; others wisely signed one-year contracts, and get out penalty-free. And man, if you can get an N.D. to provide you a clothing allowance, do it. If you’re on-air every day like I am, your wardrobe really takes a toll!
Any other comments?:
See above, and...staying up on the news. I’ve had the incredible good fortune to start my broadcast career in a state that’s often making national headlines...the hurricanes and many aspects of the 2004 campaign called the Sunshine State home, and it would’ve been difficult to turn the stories I did without staying up on current events. I will admit, however...I know close to NOTHING about the sports or entertainment worlds, which is fine with me - call me old-fashioned, but I don’t think those two subject areas constitute real news. Okay...let the attacks begin!