My Advice If You Want To Get Into Television

Posted: July 26, 2010 in Uncategorized

courtesy: Becky Johns

One of the questions I get most often…especially from young people who haven’t yet developed any sense…”how do I get into television?”. I’ve decided to devote this incredibly valuable blog space today to answer that question, so here it goes.

Don’t.

Are you still here? Are you ignoring my advice? Okay, that makes you a perfect candidate for television. Never take “no” for an answer. Well, there are times you should take no for an answer, but that’s a whole different subject. If you are dead-set on getting into television you will hear “no” a lot. You’ll also hear things like: “There’s no way on God’s green earth or anywhere else in the universe that you will ever succeed in TV or any business that remotely resembles it.” It wasn’t exactly “no” but I learned it meant pretty much the same thing. But I didn’t give up and neither should you.

Stay classy Detroit!

My first bit of advice: if you want to get into TV to be an anchor, forget it. That’s my job and you can’t have it.

Seriously though, the days of being “the Anchor” are quickly going away. Those of us with vast amounts of experience (read: “old”) are rapidly being offered the “opportunity to pursue other options”, which is a corporate euphemism for “getting Donald Trumped”, which is my euphemism for “you’re fired“.

Like virtually every other industry on earth the TV bosses are trying to figure out how to do more with less..and I certainly can’t blame them. When I got into TV there was a secret room in the basement of the station where they printed money…at least that’s what I heard; we never seemed to run out of the stuff. But back then there were only three TV stations in any given city and we had to walk to work, knee deep in snow, uphill both ways. Now days with roughly a million channels on cable, another couple billion websites, email ads and that guy in the dog suit outside PetSmart, the advertising dollar has been sliced pretty thin. And ad money is what makes our machine go ’round.

So, here in Detroit we’re learning to do a lot more with a lot less. Some reporters and anchors are shooting video, a couple photographers are showing up on air as reporters. Writers are learning to edit. We’re all getting trained in posting content to our website. There is understandably resistance to this kind of change…especially from some of the “veterans”. I can’t blame them. We’ve spent a lot of time getting very good at what we do. We’ve worked our way to one of the top TV stations in one of the biggest markets in the country. And now we’re being asked to do jobs for which we’re not qualified…at least not by our high standards.

"One Man Band" on Mackinac

Personally, I have to admit I’ve found new life and new energy in this new direction. I get plenty of strange looks when I show up at a story with a camera, microphone and tripod but no photographer. “Don’t anchors have people to do that for them?” I’m asked almost every time. We used to…but I’ve found I really enjoy the process of creating a news story, start to finish by myself. As the photographer I find myself examining the “location” much more closely, trying not to miss the best shots…and since I’m constantly in contact with the reporter (me) I’m shooting the video that will best tell the story I’m about to write.  As the reporter I’m utilizing the video much better, after all…I shot it! And as the editor I have the ability to fix all the stupid mistakes I made as the shooter and reporter. I’ve got to say, the stories I’m ending up with are some of the best work I’ve done in years. Stories I wanted to tell, told the way I wanted to tell them.  Could the photography and editing have been better? Sure, but overall the product is strong and I’m getting better at these new skills every day (at least that’s what I keep telling the boss).

Then the whole process moves to wxyz.com where I have to re-write and often re-edit the story. But I’ve found it also gives me an opportunity to add back all the stuff I hated to leave on the cutting room floor for the TV version. Plus I can become my own promotions department simply by logging on to Twitter and Facebook.

I guess what I’m saying for those of you interested in getting in TV is that you need to think about it as one job, not a bunch of different jobs. The journalist of the future will shoot, report, write, edit, package for internet, promote by social media and… yes… anchor. All at the same time.

You know…. on second thought forget all that stuff I said about “don’t’ get into TV. Go ahead and do it.

I’m having a blast.

Stephen

BTW here are a couple samples of my latest “solo” stories. Let me know what you think:   Blight Busters / Race Kart Family


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Comments
  1. So here’s my question, “When you do sleep?”

  2. Scott says:

    Steve, thanks for this incredibly interesting insight. Thank the producer and photographer for me, also!

  3. Pat Williams says:

    My question too! Several years ago I freelanced for some newspapers. I found that I was much more passionate writing about events and people because I found topics myself, researched them, interviewed people & took photographs.

    Do you find you’re MORE passionate about the stories you tell, now that your variety of roles has you so completely invested?

    • sclarkwxyz says:

      I’m much more excited about doing stories about good people doing good things… I’m not a big fan of “if it bleeds it leads”… we spend so much time chasing shootings, fires and car crashes that really have very little bearing on our lives. I’d prefer to meet–and report on people who inspire us to better things. So the short answer: “yes”. whew!

  4. Bassie says:

    Love your post! Love the atitude! Our teens can use a dose of DON’T GIVE UP!!

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