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Television journalism: An exciting career option

Working in a television news channel means the sheer excitement and responsibility of your work being watched by millions and potentially influencing a lot of them. It also means that to work in a television news channel you have to be highly responsible, creative and committed. You will be operating in a medium that is constantly under public scrutiny, and which devours ideas and material and then demands more and ever more. But the adrenaline rush, the sheer buzz is fantastic!

What can you do?

Your first job will probably be more than one. You may report, shoot video, produce the TV package and do a Web version (all on the same story). Multiple-duty assignments, long common in small markets, are a trend in markets of all sizes. Versatility and flexibility are keys to getting a job and developing your talents. The more things you can do, the better.

Jobs, positions, titles and their combinations vary from channel to channel. Keeping in mind that the same person may serve in two or more of the positions, here are some of the people or positions:

Anchor: S/he is the on-air coordinator of a news program. Host and reporter, the anchor reads news stories, introduces reports by others and may interview news sources live. The anchor weaves the program together for listeners and viewers. News, sports and weather anchors interact as a team. An anchor may also serve as a program's managing editor or producer, and may report from the scene of news events.

Reporter: The reporter covers news stories, usually on-camera or tape and from the scene or the newsroom. Reporters develop sources and interview newsmakers. They also gather information from wire services, periodicals and computerized data bases. Then they tell the story with words, sound and pictures. They often report live from the news scene without a script or even notes. Many reporters also do some anchoring. Most anchors come up from the ranks of reporters.

Cameraperson: The cameraperson does reporting, especially in smaller operations. S/he edits or helps edit tapes or digital video-audio at many stations. As cameras become more compact and easier to use, stations are increasingly using "one-person bands"; the same person shoots and reports the story, combining journalistic and photographic skills.

Assignment Editor: S/he is the coordinator who keeps track of scheduled and unscheduled news events and assigns reporters and photographers to cover them. The assignment editor monitors police radio broadcasts, takes phone calls from news sources and must make quick decisions under time pressure. S/he maintains field contact with reporters and photojournalists through two-way radio and phone. The assignment editor is often central in scheduling and overseeing satellite feeds of news stories. The job is tough and may be a steppingstone to newsroom management.

News Producer: S/he is the behind-the-scenes journalist who brings together live and taped actualities of events, along with graphics and background information, into a news story and coordinates stories into news programs. Often writes news stories and lead-ins to them. May edit tapes, prepare graphics and adapt stories to the station's Web site. News producers are creators, decision-makers and often managers who must be expert in many aspects of TV news. They are prime prospects for later management positions.

Executive Producer: Overall supervisor of news producers and coordinator of production elements of news programs. Often chief producer of principal news program. Works with news director on matters of program format and content, production financial budget and personnel performance. Executive news producers often move up to become news directors.

Writer: S/he is a journalist who writes news copy from information gathered from news teletype services, network feeds, field reports, interviews, recordings, and other sources. In typical TV or radio operations, most writing is done by producers, reporters and anchors rather than by separate writers as such.

Tape Editor: Tape Editor is one who selects and assembles the portions of audio or video tape or digital recording that best tell a news story. Editing is also done by photographers, producers and reporters.

Multi-Media Producer: S/he is in charge of the station's Web site, keeping it up-to-date on local news, weather and sports, plus depth coverage perhaps not included in the limited time allotted news programs.

News Director: A News Director is the person in charge of a TV or radio news operation. This journalist-manager sets policies and makes decisions on news coverage and presentation, recruits and trains personnel, manages newsroom finances and works with managers of other departments at the station. News directors in radio and small-market television often also do reporting, producing or anchoring.

Other news job titles include chief photographer, graphics specialist, assignment desk assistants, assistant and associate producers, special projects producer, newscast director and managing news editor. The position of managing news editor is found mainly in large operations and may range from a program's chief editor to a news director's second-in-command for news matters.

Sportscasters and Weathercasters are part of the news operation at most TV stations and many radio stations. Stations usually hire specialists. TV weathercasters are meteorologists more often than not, and sportscasters must be expert in sports.

Is television journalism right for you?

The fame and fortune of many on-air personalities lures a lot of youngsters to take up jobs in television news channels only to soon realize that the job nature does not suit them at all. At the outset, be warned that working in a television news channel is highly strenuous unless you have the right combination of innate and learned skills. To get ahead in TV news, you should be educated, literate, inquisitive, clear-thinking and cool-headed. You must also be able to get along with people, gather news, interview news sources, write well and (if on-air) tell stories effectively to the listener or viewer. You must develop a sense of what news is. And to put the news into perspective, you'll need to be well-versed in current events and history.

Unless you work strictly behind the scenes, your voice and appearance also must be acceptable for interviews and on-the-spot reports. While golden voices and glamorous faces are not required, you need to communicate clearly, credibly and pleasingly. Broadcast reporters not only cover the news, but must be able to tell it effectively into a microphone and, for television, a camera.

How can you prepare yourself

While in high school or college, develop abilities you'll need. Learn grammar, composition and clear expression. Mastery of language is a foundation for your other development. Experience in public speaking, debate or dramatic arts will help prepare you for on-air reporting. Live reports require you to think and talk on your feet.

Learn to use a computer effectively for typing, information, the internet and Web construction. Become adept with things digital.

Read and observe as much as you can about all kinds of people and activities. Don't stop with assigned readings. Read books, magazines and newspapers. Become a knowledgeable listener and viewer of broadcast news.

As soon as you can, start getting experience. Working on a school newspaper can be valuable. So can debate and performing arts. There may be part-time or freelance work in news, announcing or production at a local radio or TV station, on or off campus. Use your initiative to check the possibilities.

Tag along with a reporter if possible. See how tape is edited and how newscasts are put together by news teams. Ask yourself if you'd like this kind of work. Check on opportunities for beginners to gain experience at the stations. Ask people now working in news for their thoughts on education.

College education 

Here are some of the country’s top colleges that will prepare you for a career in television.

  1. Amity School of Journalism and Communication, (More available at AKC House, E-27 Defence Colony, New Delhi -110024.)
  2. Indian Institute of Mass Communication, Aruna Asaf Ali Marg, JNU New Campus, New Delhi-110067
  3. A J K Mass Communication Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi-110025
  4. Manipal Institute of Communication, Udayavani Building, Press Corner, Manipal-576119.
  5. Symbiosis Institute of Mass Communication, Senapati Bapat Marg, Pune - 411004.
  6. Asian College of Journalism, Express Building, 1 Queen's Road, Bangalore -560001.
  7. Department of Communication and Journalism, University of Poona, Pune -411004.
  8. New Delhi YMCA, Centre for Mass Media, 1 Jai Singh Road, New Delhi

For Comments: psjamwal@amity.edu

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