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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Craig Layne

Class of 2007, Master's


Story: “Putting the Pride Back in Harrisburg” - Station: WITF-FM/Harrisburg - Awards: Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Award for Radio Feature 2004, Pennsylvania Associated Press Broadcasters Association Award for Medium Market Radio Feature 2003


What are the top three skills journalism students should learn in college?:

It’s the final countdown…

3. Story Ideas/Enterprising - Develop good relationships with sources and use them wisely and respectfully.  Read the newspapers constantly and watch your competitors’ newscasts.  Listen to National Public Radio.  Read the local event calendars and check out blogs about your city.  Read billboards and signs as you drive around town.  You never know what you might come up with.  One story could easily lead to another if you get a talkative interview subject.  You never know where a good story idea is going to come from, but be constantly vigilant.  This is probably one of the hardest parts of being a journalist.  You never really leave work.

2. Instinct - My first week on the job I was told to “trust my gut.” It’s essential.  If it seems strange to you, it probably is.  Learn who to trust and who to treat with polite suspicion.  Chances are that your first job will have you crossing paths with some very… well… interesting individuals.  Check your facts when you can and always check your gut.  You can’t really learn this one, you just have to go out and report and get the feeling - all the more reason to work hard at ATVN and in your internships.

1. Attitude and Empathy - This is paramount.  You must carry yourself with confidence, not arrogance.  You have to look like you know what you’re doing and believe in yourself.  And you do have to be cool under pressure.  Learn about your co-workers and your sources.  Know where they’re coming from.  Add in a big slice of humble pie and some courtesy, and people will like you and find you a pleasure to work with.  Interview subjects will find you easy to talk to, and your coworkers will respect you.

What were your duties at ATVN? :

I served as ATVN’s graduate assistant for two years.  I also worked as an executive producer, anchor, reporter, producer, writer/shooter/editor, and floor director.  I also occasionally filled in on studio camera, audio, and teleprompter. 

How did ATVN prepare you for your career?:

ATVN brought me as close to the real world as I could get and still enjoy the nurturing learning environment of college.  I owe my career to ATVN.  It prepared me to walk right out of college and into a job without missing a beat.  I literally did my last package for ATVN one week, and the next week I did a package for WJET.  The transition was incredibly smooth and I felt extremely well-prepared.  All thanks to Annenberg TV News. 

What is your advice to aspiring journalists?:

ATVN is almost as good as the real world.  Sometimes, it’s better.  Learn as much as you can about as many jobs as possible.  You never know when your skill might come in handy or even make you more marketable.

That goes for non-TV-journalism skills, too.  Learn as much as you can about everything you can get your hands on.  You never know when a tidbit of random information will be useful.  Constantly feed your mind and your emotional intelligence - you’ll need them both when there’s a producer in your earpiece saying you’re live in 10 seconds.

Get yourself some hands-on internships.  I did three internships - I recommend you do AT LEAST TWO.  Do one with a bigger media organization (one of the networks) and one with a small station.  You can do a small-station internship if your home market is small - go back for a summer and get an internship.  Or, if you’re in Los Angeles, you can make the drive to Santa Barbara or Palm Springs one day a week.  I drove to Santa Barbara every Friday for a semester to intern with KEYT, and it was definitely worth all the gas money.  Small market stations will show you exactly what you can expect in the real world when you get your first job.  Smaller stations might even put you on the air - KEYT did for me and it looked great when I put it on my resume tape.  Go get those internships - they’re the most important thing after ATVN.

One more thing: get an account on

What should graduates keep in mind when negotiating their first job?:

Don’t sell yourself short.  You are a trained professional with a USC degree.  You should be proud of your skills, and you should know what your strengths are.  That said, it is difficult to negotiate for your first job, and it doesn’t get much easier for the second.

Remember that a TV station is taking a chance on you.  But you are also taking a chance on them.  Make sure you try to gauge the way the station treats its talent.  I am very lucky to be working for a station that values its talent and has a good spirit of teamwork in the newsroom.

Some stations appreciate their talent.  To others, you are just a piece of meat.  If the station you are looking at is one of the latter, the employees will probably be grumbling about it.  Remember that finding a job is like any other assignment a reporter will get - you have to do your research.  It’s not easy, but it will be worth it.

If, after a close look, the station seems to be a place where you want to work and you get a contract offer from the News Director, you could be in a spot to negotiate.  You probably won’t get much, but it’s worth asking - as long as you are polite and tactful.  Ask ONLY for the things you REALLY WANT and keep it simple and short.  If you would like moving expenses, say so.  An 18-month “out” on your contract?  A bigger salary?  Just ask - politely and tactfully.  You might not get anything you ask for, but if you are lucky and you play your cards right you could walk out ahead.  If other stations are making offers to you, it’s not a bad idea to mention it, if you’re slick enough to work that into the conversation politely and tactfully.

They key when negotiating is to ask.  Don’t sell yourself short.  You might not get exactly what you want, but you might be surprised.  As long as you ask, you probably won’t second-guess your decision when you make up your mind about the job.  Good luck and good hunting.

Annenberg TV News: YOUR HEALTH

May 22, 2007

A half-hour health and wellness special for students and their families.

USC Prepared

April 16, 2007

The shootings in Virginia affected many on USC's campus.  Craig Layne talked to some students and faculty who were saddened...


April 5, 2007

Craig Layne has reaction to the investigation of a USC financial aid officer


April 2, 2007

Craig Layne has the story on what a buyout it means financially for the Los Angeles Times and KTLA 5


March 29, 2007

Craig Layne traveled to Washington D.C. and found out that you may be drinking more than just beer when you...


March 19, 2007

Craig Layne has reaction to the  world's largest commercial airliner landing at LAX.


March 1, 2007

Craig Layne has the latest developments in LA's quest to host the 2016 Olympics


February 26, 2007

Craig Layne reports on the multi-million dollar project, and what it will do for residents around the airport


February 12, 2007

Craig Layne has more on a new development in one of Hollywood's most historic areas, which is hoped to bring...

USG Election spotlight: USG President Sahil Chaudry and running mate Max Slavkin

February 7, 2007

ATVN's Craig Layne has a look at the campaign of current USG President Sahil Chaudry and running mate Max Slavkin. 

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