School of Journalism and New Media

The University of Mississippi

Student Perspective: What it takes to be a television reporter

Posted on: January 25th, 2011 by alysia

Meek School student Allie Ware explores the demands of broadcast reporting after an internship with WTVA in Tupelo, Miss.

Like society, journalism is evolving, and it’s important for those hoping to become reporters to stay relevant.

What does it take to get a job today? What are news directors looking for in an entry-level reporter?

After a month of working at WTVA in Tupelo and talking with WTVA’s news director, I got some insight as to what college graduates should and should not do to stand out amid hundreds of applicants who are hoping for the same position.

WTVA News Director Jeff Houston says when it comes to creating a resume reel, it is important to capture the attention of a news director in the very beginning.

“I want to be interested within the first 15 seconds of a tape,” Houston said. “If there is nothing I like within the first 15 seconds, I will take the DVD out and trash it.”

He recommended creative stand-ups in a quick montage, leading to good quality packages to capture attention. Though sometimes it is difficult to come up with creative stand-ups, Houston had some good advice.

“Basically I just don’t want to see you standing there,” Houston said. “Be interactive and move around, and don’t put anchoring on your tape because you will not be hired as an anchor right out of college.”

Years ago when journalists applied for jobs, video tapes had to be made and mailed out.  Now, with the Internet, entire websites can be developed to showcase a journalist’s work and talents, but Houston urged journalism majors to be careful about what impression they give when creating a resume website.

“ I realize that professional headshots look good, but on a website, it makes it look like its all about you when in reality, I want to know what you can do for me and the station,” Houston said.

He says it’s good to display photos of work, such as stills of stand ups or photos of an interview. News directors want to see what a job candidate looks like working in the field not in lighting, with extra make up. Also, Houston says skip the biographies.

“ I need Diane Sawyer’s biography, not someone who doesn’t really have a history in the industry,” he joked.

Questions about history or work experience will be asked in interviews and thought should be put into those answers before the interview.  Houston says the job is not glamorous.

“In your first years as a reporter you are going to be covering the things that nobody else wants to cover,” Houston said.

He says reporters work long hours and do not make much money. They also are expected to work through holidays and bad weather. Houston points out that reporters get to do and go to places and events that other members of society do not, but they are also required to go to places that nobody wants to go to.