To be a respected broadcast journalist is a hero's journey.
Broadcast journalism is definitely a wide, open, creative field with many pathways to consider.
A journalist can be opinionated, satirical, investigative, or artistic. Take your pick!
But if you want to become a celebrated journalist, your likely goal is to bring the most important stories of our time into people's smartphones, TVs, and radio.
Let's look at how you can start your broadcast journalism journey.
1. Persevere against standards of beauty
Let's get this uncomfortable truth out of the way first.
If you're worried about the standards of beauty getting between you and your aspiring broadcast journalism career, have no fear!
Al Roker famously jokes about being told he has the "perfect face for radio" at the beginning of his career.
The joke is on them! Roker has gone on to become one of the most recognized broadcasters in American television.
One of Canada's most respected broadcasters, Lisa LaFlamme, made global headlines when she was ousted earlier than her famous male counterparts for embracing her gray hair.
Now the global media community is on a mission to support Laflamme in finding her next big opportunity. 😊
2. Learn to write for the broadcast medium
Even broadcast journalists must know how to write (and write well).
Broadcast writing is:
Conversational: You'll use more friendly language than you would in print.
Brief: Shorter sentences to manage your breathing and to keep viewers' interest.
Crafted with an active voice: The beginning of a story starts with the subject performing an action (ex. "Adeola does x", rather than "X was done by Adeola")
Attribution-first: Be sure to note where the story is reported from before you begin the story.
Check out the BBC Young Reporter's three C's of news writing that can help aspiring journalists: 👇
Here are some free resources to start practicing:
3. Build your portfolio by trying it all
When you expand the scope of your career aspirations, you create more chances to develop the transferrable skills needed for a career in broadcast journalism.
Try different types of journalism.
You may be assigned a local musician for a genre you don't like, or a sporting event that you're not interested in. Just go for it! 💪
Join your school's radio broadcaster, start a podcast, or intern with a company.
Start your own news channel on TikTok or YouTube.
See if your local community center offers TV production courses or join an affordable online learning program.
Write for your school paper or offer to write for a local paper.
4. School or no school?
Good news: it's possible to become a successful journalist without a degree.
Walter Cronkite left college in his junior year, embraced the help of mentors, and is widely considered the most successful broadcast journalist of all time.
However, industry professionals advise against skipping out on formal education and instead recommend picking the right college.
A degree in broadcast journalism helps your career, because you gain access to:
Networking: You build a network in your industry.
Portfolio support: There are opportunities to build your portfolio in a learning environment.
How production works: Depending on your program, you can learn how to use technical production to enhance your storytelling.
5. Become a great storyteller
Boyd Huppert is a good example of a reporter that's respected for creating both informative AND entertaining primetime television. He encourages aspiring journalists like yourself to approach your role as a storyteller, just as much as a truthteller.
To craft compelling scripts and interviews, Huppert recommends that you:
Before producing the content or interviewing subjects, identify how you can attain the essential elements of a story with the resources you have.
Add Golden Coins
Viewers spend valuable time watching your broadcast. Brainstorm how you can create "A-ha!" moments or editing opportunities that will delight your audience. This could be a sound bite, punchline, sound, or other surprising elements.
Develop the Subjects
Think about the story arc of who you're reporting on. What did they overcome? What are they still facing? How are they reacting to their environment?
6. Understand healthy media consumption habits
Are you a doom-scroller? Be wary of the toll this profession can take on your mental health.
If you tend to focus on negative media, you can learn to manage your relationship with the news.
Consider your audience's health.
You can also reflect on the impact you want to have on your broadcast audience. Consider the facts when discovering what your voice will be as a broadcast journalist:
News is less entertaining. Seven years ago, 53% of young people said they enjoyed getting the news or found it entertaining. Presently, that has dropped to 32%.
Audiences are more selective. Now, almost a third of young people are working to manage the regular feed of information by limiting their time on apps or online.
Will you one day be competing with an AI-generated news anchor?
As technology and culture change, the ways you build trust with the public might change too. Upskilling in these areas will be an important part of keeping your edge as a reporter:
AI and Predictive Media
AI tools such as ChatGPT are predicted to give broadcast journalists more time to interview and create an objective picture of the story. Predictive media can help news networks anticipate public reactions to news items. Find out more from NiemanLab.
As more contemporary journalists seek to enact more social change with their work, more methods of best practice are popping up. Solutions-focused journalism aims to promote how people are solving problems instead of centering the problem itself.
Learning New Languages and Language Tools
Capturing the sentiment of interviewees is an important part of maintaining integrity as a journalist. Here are some tools the Global Investigative Journalism Network recommends.
Time to find out if broadcast journalism is the right move for you!