What are the top three skills journalism students should learn in college?:
1. Writing: It all starts with knowing how to write. Good video and sound help out a lot, but if you don’t know how to write, viewers won’t hesitate to change the channel. I am forever indebted to Serena and Willa (now on the radio side) for helping me improve my writing over the years.
2. Know your technology: You have an advantage if you know how to shoot and edit your own material. Plus, chances are you won't have it as good in a small market as you do at ATVN. Talk to John, Tom and Chuck. They know so much about the equipment we work with and are such a crucial asset to ATVN.
3. People skills: It’s very important in any field to be able to deal with people. Not just those you interview, but also other people in your newsroom (who can either be your best friends or worst nightmares). Also, make a lot of contacts. You'll only go as far as those who know you will allow.
What were your duties at ATVN? :
Executive Producer, News and Sports Reporter, News Anchor, Weather Anchor, Producer, WSE, Floor Manager, Studio Camera Operator
How did ATVN prepare you for your career?:
I firmly believe ATVN alums come out of school so much more prepared than alums from any other school in the country. Few universities can say they have a LIVE daily newscast, and ATVN is the only one in a major market. Being on the front lines of major stories in the number 2 market gives you instant credibility when you go into smaller markets in the job search. And that’s a credit to what USC preaches about being a leading urban university.
List any additional major(s) or minor(s) you had at USC. What impact have they had on your career?:
I also majored in history, giving me the additional skills to explain the context of a situation. It's one thing to do a story on, say, a new housing development being approved. But to be able to explain the backstory leading up to its approval gives your story much more depth.
What is your advice to aspiring journalists?:
If you find any other job that interests you more than TV news, RUN, don't walk, to that career path, especially if you have student loans. TV news will dump you like yesterday's garbage if it's not your first love, and even then, many in the biz liken it to a bad romance.
Give yourself a realistic timetable for success (3 years tops in your first job). Life happens...it can be unfair, no matter how much better you think you are than those who make it back to civilization. Have a back-up plan if it doesn't work out, and don't be afraid to execute it.
If you pursue the local on-air path, don't overstay your welcome in a small market; otherwise, you'll hate it and your bosses won't appreciate you not taking the job seriously.
Don't be discouraged by rejection while you're in school; be happy for those who succeeded and use it as motivation to get ahead. And if you did succeed while in school, don't rest on your laurels. Complacency is how you get stuck in a dead end.
Find the thing that makes you different from any other job candidate, and sell yourself accordingly. Maybe it’s being bilingual. Maybe it’s a unique experience like studying abroad. Whatever it is, know how to sell yourself.
If you want to be on-air, go into each new experience at ATVN being fully conscious that someday you’ll need to put together a reel. By always thinking about this, you hold yourself to a higher standard and as a result, you’ll have much more to choose from when you finally put it together.
What should graduates keep in mind when negotiating their first job?:
Don’t sell yourself short, and know what you bring to the table. If there are deal-breakers in the contract they want you to sign, come back at them from a position of respect and humility, see if they'll budge and proceed accordingly. If you turn it down, sure, there are hundreds behind you waiting to accept, but you can't put a price on your mental well-being.
How important are bilingual skills in your profession?:
Being bilingual should put you to the front of the line at most places in the US. Multi-lingualism becomes a necessity if you want to work overseas.
What types of stories do you cover? general assignment, enterprise, business, health, etc.:
I covered anything and everything when I was a reporter: crime, health, politics, education, and the fun stuff (oilfield skills competitions and beard-growing contests take the cake).