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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Eric Klein

Class of 2003, Bachelor's

Allow me to serve as a bit of a case study for those of you who will eventually leave the television news industry (and some of you will do so be it by choice or necessity). After graduating from SC I began working as a General Assignment Reporter for KVEW-TV (ABC) in the Tri-Cities, Washington. Within three months my News Director (in similar fashion to what happened to me at ATVN) realized that my real passion was sports, and I was promoted to the role of Sports Director. I held that position for just under two years and had a great deal of success in the role. However, for a number or reasons (personal, not professional) by the time my contract was up, I had simply tired of the TV news environment, and I decided to leave the industry.  I have been working in global online sales at Symantec for nearly three years.


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

1.) Write, write, write. It is the foundation of what journalists do, and it has been the most important aspect of my career even after leaving TV. Learn to be concise, but more importantly, practice turning facts, quotes, (and in TV’s case) pictures into a narrative. If your work is not compelling, viewers will not care what the story is.

2.) Get used to the deadline. Once you are in a professional setting, the pressure is very real. As Sports Director I was responsible for roughly ten minutes of news a day, and I worked essentially as a one-man department. It becomes very important to pay attention to even the smallest details, and you must be able to keep track of those details as your day develops. You may have worked very hard to get the best story of the day, but one mispelling on a CG 30 seconds before air can undermine your entire effort and eventually your newscast. Viewers will notice careless mistakes.

3.) Practice interviewing. There is no story without a person to help you tell it. Be active in your questioning, meaning allow your questions to come from your subject’s answers. I know many reporters who go into each interview with a set list of questions, and because they become so focused on that list they miss major angles that develop during the course of a conversation.

What were your duties at ATVN? :

During my freshman year I started as a do-it-all sports staffer, which meant writing a lot of copy and editing a lot of video. I was chosen as a news anchor and reporter my sophomore year, which continued each semester until my final semester at ATVN when I was made a Sports Anchor (I still appreciate that, guys). I also anchored the 2003 ATVN Sports Spectacular.

How did ATVN prepare you for your career?:

For the sake of being useful I will answer this using my TV work as a reference. The biggest advantage of working at ATVN is simply that you are doing the actual work of a journalist. Coursework may provide you with the theory and background, but the only way to develop your own skills is by having a practical and hands-on application. My work at ATVN was far better at preparing me for my first job than any internship I ever held.

What is your advice to aspiring journalists?:

Do your job with passion. When you care about your own work and take pride in your effort viewers, readers, and co-workers will notice, and it will come across in the stories you tell. Also, learn to take criticism. You will undoubtedly make mistakes early on. The key to success in TV news is not repeating them. News Directors do not tend to have a lot of patience for repeat offenders.

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

Trust in your training. ATVN can prepare you better than any school I’ve come across (even a co-worker from Syracuse admits this to me). Thus, don’t be afraid to turn down those initial lowball offers (my first offer was for $13,500/yr). Be confident during your interviews and sell your experience (particularly being able to work in a major, multicultural city like L.A.). You will likely find out that once you start, you are already ahead of many of the other reporters working at your station. That said, if you are complacent, you will be exposed very quickly. Be prepared to prove that you deserved the job because the industry is truly cutthroat.

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