It’s finally here! The first Journo Resources job clinic, here to give in-depth, answers to questions you want answering. Well, hopefully. First through the inbox was this:
“My main question is how to source broadcast journalism experience? TV is particularly hard and I seem to have little luck. While I have found some, they are pretty much all unpaid!”
As you’ll probably notice, I’m not a full-time broadcast journalist, but I did work at a local TV station as my first full-time job and I still dabble in video freelancing. Hopefully this means I should be able to say something useful.
In order to answer the question fully I’ve broken this down into two parts. Firstly what initial experience do you need to be able to get paid job in broadcast? And then once you’ve got this in the bag, where do you find those great paid gigs? So, here goes…
What Experience Do I Need to Get a Paid Job in Broadcast?
In order to get any kind of paid job in broadcasting, even if it’s just an internship, you need some things to back up your video kudos, just the same as any writing gig. Here are just a few ideas…
Student Or Community Radio Or TV Stations
You’re going to need a few things you’ve shot or edited to make a showreel, so employers know you can actually turn a camera on. Most universities (and even some colleges) will have a student radio or TV station, and there are plenty of community and hospital radio stations.
Make sure to be strategic when contributing. If you want to be a broadcast journalist there’s no point presenting. Get out on the ground and create some solid newsy packages with interviews and save them for your showreel — along with any good figures about how many people listened or viewed.
— NaSTA (@NaSTAuk) September 9, 2018
Most of student stations will also be members of the national organisations for student TV and radio, NaSTA and the SRA. They both hold national awards you can put in for, as well as regional and national training, so try and get involved. Most of the time you can bully your union for funding too — after all the better you are, the better their station is.
Getting The Basics In Order
I can’t speak for radio so much, as it’s never really been my thing, but there are a few video basics that will mark you out as professional.
- Get the microphone out of shot. Please. Unless it’s a branded one the presenter is holding, no one needs to see it
- Keep it short. People switch off after the first three seconds, especially online. It might be hard to cut down a video to a two minutes, but trust me on this
- Avoid cliches in your voiceovers or unnecessary words. We used to get fined every time we said we said “literally”, or said “as you can see behind me”. I still flinch now
- Just use a tripod. No one wants to see shaky shots. And hold the shot for at least ten seconds to give you enough editing time
- Think about the rule of thirds. Put your interviewee in the lefthand or righthand third of the frame, looking diagonally across the camera
Make your Own Documentary, Yeah I Know Effort…
Okay, big effort here, but if your university has kit hanging around you can use, go all out and produce something amazing. A previous boss of mine hated people who said they wanted to make documentaries — he just wanted them to go out and do it.
Take Amy Ashenden, for example. While at university she produced The Gay Word, a full-on hour long documentary about people’s use of the word gay. She’s now gone on to do a podcast documentary in her spare time. She also got her first job at the Evening Standard, so fair to say it works tbh.
Get Yourself On As A Guest
An easy way to practice familiarity on the airwaves is to try and get yourself on as a guest when you can. If you’ve got a pet issue or story you can talk well about, approach student and community radio stations or podcasts to see if they’d be interested in having you on.
Try And Do A Bit of Work Experience
As annoying as work experience is, you’re going to need a couple of well known names to back up your student or self-shot experience. You only need to go for a week or two, and some universities will offer funds to cover your expenses.
Try your local TV or radio station before asking bigger players like the BBC or ITV. The more experience you have, the easier it is to get more.
Get Yourself A Showreel And A Website
SHOWREEL TIME. WEBSITE TIME. That up there is the latest version of my showreel, with a new 2k17 version out soon.
Pick out your best bits of all the stuff you’ve done, and mash it together with a jazzy soundtrack. The same principle works for TV.
Also, make sure all of this stuff has a home online. You don’t need to start writing a blog, but a simple WordPress site with your best pieces on is easy enough to build and won’t need updating often.
Upping Your Social Media Game
Social media is pretentious, self-obsessed and a million other of the bad things, but it is still an excellent (and free) way to present yourself as a professional, fully functioning adult who works in TV or radio.
— Jem Collins (@Jem_Collins) September 30, 2015
Make sure you have the same username and profile photo on each so you’re easily findable, and make sure your pictures link to TV or radio. My Facebook page, for example, has a header of me in our TV studio, and the profile picture is me doing a live piece to camera. The old on the screen of a recording camera or being in a studio always works too
Your bio needs to present you well too, showing you’re a professional broadcast journalist, but not an automated robot. If nothing else, get the words ‘student’ or ‘aspiring’ out of your profile. If you’re doing journalism, you’re doing journalism. Do not do yourself down by calling yourself a “soon to be / aspiring / student journalist.” A simple “Broadcast Journalist based in X. Done bits for X, X and X and / or Covers human rights, health and really really likes gin / other touch of humour” will do the job. And don’t write all views my own.
Constantly plug any kind of work you do. When I worked at a local TV station, I became obsessed with doing tweets as show previews. They’re not likely to be the next viral sensation, but they showed I was regularly doing TV, even if it wasn’t video content. The added bonus of having a work Facebook page too, is that you’re not constantly bombarding your friends posts all the time. Don’t be that person – keep it to Twitter, work Facebook and big announcements.
Also make sure to tweet your work as a finished product too, and short video clips for social are also fab. Tag the people you’ve interviewed, chuck in a hashtag or two and do add a bit of your own personality. My personal favourite who is great at this is Eleanor Cunningham.
Welcome to a world of pure imagination! Hundreds of rare props and costumes from @propstore_com are about to go under the hammer. Guess how much Han Solo’s jacket is worth? Find out here: https://t.co/koES6enYNH pic.twitter.com/O2W6cwhCtb
— Eleanor Cunningham 🏳️🌈 (@eleanorcunning3) September 6, 2018
You’ll also notice that there are sub-groups of journalists everywhere on Twitter. All the local broadcast journalists where I worked in Kent and South-East would know each other, and talk online. Do a bit of research, find the local journos join the conversation. It helps to cement the idea of you being a working and proper journalists, even if in reality you’re only talking to them about your cat.
Where Do I Actually Find Some Paid Work in Broadcast Then?
So you’ve got a banging CV, a load of work experience, and some groovy videos? What next?
Making Your Own Promotional Videos for Businesses
You can even get cracking on this one while you’re at university if you’ve got equipment. Small businesses and start-ups will often be looking for a cost-effective way to reach more people, so pitch your services for a price.
I made this while still at uni, and while it’s not my proudest piece, it still made me £500 and a portfolio piece.
Try Targeting Local TV Stations
Previously the way into big broadcasters was to work your way up from doing print work at a local paper. Local TV stations have bust this open in the last few years though, mainly because they don’t have the money to pay more experienced people.
For better or worse this means they’re staffed with younger, less experienced staff — often graduates fresh out of university. Of course this means the output is of a slightly lower quality than what you’d watch on the BBC, but that’s not a bad thing for you. You get the unparalleled experience of making TV everyday and then moving on up. Check out the local TV network to see where they’re based.
A lot of grads don’t think about freelancing as an option, but if you’ve got the skills there’s no reason why you can’t get a shedload of experience this way.
It’s often much easier to get on the freelance pool than it is get a staff job, but if you’ve proved yourself a capable freelancer, you’ll be first in line when a full-time gig does come up. There’s also no reason why you can’t freelance alongside your degree.
Most broadcast outfits will hire freelancers to fill gaps in their staff schedules, and often it’s simply a case of messaging the News Editor with your CV to ask if they need anyone. You’ll also freelance gigs listed on sites like Gorkana and Mediargh (oh, and us of course), so it’s worth keeping an eye out.
Think outside the box too — most national newspapers and websites will have a video department, many of which will use freelancers. Make sure you know how much you should be paid though — you can see more details on our site.
Think Outside the Main Broadcasters
You may have grown up listening to the BBC, but there are hundreds of other outlets working with video these days. All big newspapers and websites will have a video desk or podcast, and many local papers are also starting to invest in video too.
Often this kind of opps will give you a lot more freedom to experiment with video and try and new things, so it’s worth looking into thing which aren’t ‘traditional’ broadcast.
Join Relevant Facebook Groups
Facebook isn’t just for friends. People looking for TV work — runners posts loads of great opportunities every day, while freelance groups like Freelance Journalists UK are a great place to seek advice from friendly people.
Make sure to set group settings so you get a notification with every post, so you don’t miss out on any job opportunities.
Have we helped at all? If so please share this information with your friends and colleagues! You can also find tonnes more advice on our website, as well as follow us on Twitter and Facebook. Think we’ve missed something or want to send us a question? Drop us a line on firstname.lastname@example.org