Get Real: Key Interview Secret

Here’s some really interesting insight into what managers look for when interviewing you. They want to get to know YOU. They want to know why you do news, what your hobbies are and if you have ties to a particular area. They love to call me and talk about why they were drawn to a particular person when narrowing down their candidate pool for jobs.

Recently I was really struck by a news director’s comment about a potential producer. “( ) never got real with me. I heard canned answers. I want to know ( ).” I think we all forget this sometimes. ND’s want to hire someone they really like, believe in and want to be an advocate for. That requires making yourself a little vulnerable during an interview and giving a hiring manager a taste of what makes you tick. Think of it this way, that ND or AND will have a direct impact on your success or failure. If you two do not click and connect on a personal level to some degree, you could lose a key advocate.

Despite what many think, ND’s often take the fall for their employees (see “Taking Ownership” for an introduction into what that’s like) if they believe in the person. They will go to bat for you time and again. So when ND’s are interviewing you they are looking for someone they can mentor and help. ND’s really do love playing a role in helping someone launch their careers. Many think that part of leading a newsroom is helping the staff grow and make the most of themselves as journalists. They may not always be tactful. They may not always make it obvious. But most are trying to groom you and love bragging out your success later. So get real during job interviews. Say why you went into news. Say what you love most about your job. Explain your favorite types of stories and why. These answers might not only help you land a great new gig, they might also gain you an advocate throughout your career.


What Managers Really Want To See On A Producer’s Reel.

We recently talked about what hiring managers want to see on a reporter’s reel, and since then producers have reached out asking:  “What do I show?”

Last week I put that question up for debate on Twitter and was surprised to see so many people say “A-Blocks.”  Simple answer:  NO. That is not good enough at all.  Here’s why:  A blocks in most shops are truly a group effort.  Anyone can end up with one or two sizzling A-blocks to show off.

When I screen producer reels, I take a very close look at how you start each and every block, what the flow is like throughout the newscast, and your TEASES.  Often I see a great A-block tease then, as of the end of the B-block, the teases STINK.  That is a clear indicator the producer gets help at the end of the A.

Managers want to see a very solid newscast, with great flow from start to finish. They want consistent use of graphic elements, and natural sound.  They are looking for movement of the anchors with purpose (and that is proving harder to pull off than you might realize for many producers) and conversational flow.  Here’s another element they are looking for:  How you utilize social media in your newscast and with your own accounts.  This is getting to be as important as your reel.  If you act childish on your Twitter handle, they will not look at your reel.

Now let’s address the second most common misconception, that producer reels should always have heavy breaking news.  Not necessarily.  News managers know that to a large degree how breaking news is presented has as much to do with how the staff is guided by management, as it does how well the producer puts it all together.  This does not mean that managers do not want to see a killer breaking news/continuous coverage newscast.  But that should not be the only newscast on your reel.  Your “everyday” work should actually sell you more.

So to answer the “What should my reel have?” question, you need two things:  A very well put together “regular news day” show and one that showcases how you handle breaking news.  Yep, two newscasts.  Oh and, by the way, do not leave all of the WX hits and sports in there, show the transition, then cut to the end of the segment.  We newscast reviewers don’t need to see what the high temperature was or who won the game and we get tired of constantly having to fast forward.  You’ll get brownie points for showing that courtesy!



Getting the job.

There are few things more discouraging than applying for jobs in TV news. You’ve spent the last four years of your college career dreaming of this time. You’ve interned (you better have interned), you’ve watched the news religiously, you’ve practiced reading in front of the mirror. You’re ready to work.

The only real rule these days is that all the “rules” that existed, don’t apply anymore. When the “How To Get A Job In TV News” book was written, social media wasn’t prevalent. E-mail, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, etc. have changed the landscape of the job search. Today, I “know” people solely through Twitter. I stay connected to people from my internships through Facebook. My resume and demo was submitted (for both of my jobs so far) via e-mail. Things are much different now than they were even just five years ago, and they’ll continue to change.

There are no rules anymore, but there are some guidelines that may help you, the wide-eyed fresh graduate, navigate the vaguely-charted waters of getting a TV news job in 2012.

One mistake fresh grads often make (I made it), is we apply too early. I sent out dozens of DVDs and resumes months before graduation. I’m a planner. I’m futuristic. I was antsy to bypass my last few months of school and jump into my first job. When people asked me, “What are your plans after you graduate?”, I wanted to tell them about a job I’d secured. I’m no expert, but what I have noticed is that when my station has openings, we wanted to fill them yesterday. If you send in your materials, but haven’t graduated yet, you’re not what we’re looking for right now. This isn’t to say you won’t be thrown into a pile, to consider later; but whatever job you’re applying for during March is not the job you’ll be considered for after you graduate in May.

Another mistake, we apply places we don’t want to live. Bottom line, you work less than half of the day. You will have afternoons and/or evenings, and weekends in your new city. Don’t make it the last place you want to be. If you’re miserable in your personal life, you’ll be miserable at work, and it will seep into your work. You’ll become lazy, complacent, and spend half of your day sifting through job openings. Obviously, your first job will not be your final stop. But if you loathe the Midwest, don’t apply there. Yes, this job is a stepping stone; but if you treat your time there as a temporary inconvenience, you will be miserable. Apply in places you’d like to live, and enjoy your time there. Use this as an opportunity to experience something new, and soak it in. On the flip side, don’t limit your job search to just one region or state. Be open minded, and flexible. If you’re neither open minded, nor flexible, you should probably start looking for a new major. TV news isn’t for you.

Mistake number three is one I made at an internship, so I was able to course correct before it came time for my first job. However, since I’ve been working, we’ve had interns and job applicants who’ve made this same mistake as I did.

Q: Why do you want to get into TV news?

A: I want to be an anchor. I’d also love to host my own talk show.

WRONG ANSWER.  Here’s your new script: “I want to be a reporter.”

Most reporters want to be anchors. Granted, there are some reporters that love reporting, and would turn down an anchor job for a chance to be out in the field, but those reporters are extremely rare. Fact is, most reporters want to be anchors. They like to be seen, which is why they’ve chosen TV as opposed to radio; there’s nothing wrong with that. Chances are good that if you truly want to be an anchor, you’ll have an opportunity at some point, in some capacity during your career. Once you’ve secured a job, you’ll be able to fill in on a weekend, a holiday, or while an anchor takes maternity leave. If you’re good, you’ll be considered for an anchor role when a position opens up. Those opportunities are rare, but they do happen.  Be patient, be available, be willing to work the “bitch shifts” and you’ll get your shot. And don’t assume that because you anchored on Christmas, management automatically know you’re interested in the job. Fill out an internal application, and make it known to your boss that you would like to be considered for the vacant anchor job.

Lastly, don’t get discouraged. If you’re meant to work in TV, you’ll find work. If you’re willing to work (for CHEEEEEAAAAAAP!), willing to learn, and a fast learner you’ll find a job eventually. There are lots of burnt-out people in the business, and energetic, eager blood is always a nice change of pace.

So, get those DVDs burned, make sure your Facebook/Twitter accounts are future employer-friendly, and send out your stuff.

Good luck.

Oh, and please wear a suit during your job interview (sounds basic, but you’d be surprised….)


Kenny King is a morning anchor for ABC 6 News in the Rochester, Minn. market. He joined the ABC 6 News team in December 2011, following a stint at KSAX Eyewitness News in Alexandria, Minn.
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Welcome to news, now brace yourself. How to survive the wild ride.

If you just graduated in May and — if you’re lucky — were hired right as college ended, you’ve been on the job at a television station for about two months now.  If not, don’t worry too much.  Even in the best economy, it can take a new grad months to get hired as a broadcast journalist.  We’re seeing an uptick in the number of TV jobs available and the amount of hiring going on, despite the still lousy economic environment.  In fact, the latest RTDNA/Hofstra University Annual Survey found that TV news staffing  grew in 2011.  And it grew a lot, by more than 4 percent from the year before.  So if you’ve got a little talent that can be developed and a lot of drive you’ll be employed soon.

But when it happens, expect a shockwave to hit your body, mind, and spirit.

That first job in a real newsroom where you’re working full-time, overtime — whatever the assignment desk needs! — is exhausting even for those of us who’ve been in the business for more than a decade.  You’re probably used to a senior year of a few classes a week, maybe an independent study or internship, perhaps a part-time job to help pay the bills, but all-in-all still enough time to hang with friends, read US Weekly, and watch NBC Nightly News.

Mmmmm, not so much after a news director brings you on-board.

Your official day in the newsroom might not begin until the 9:30 a.m. editorial meeting.   But that’s just what station managers write down as your official start-time.  You’ve literally got to have something to bring to the table each morning.   And that means waking up early to check your local newspaper and neighborhood blogs online, flipping between the network morning shows so you find out what’s going on nationally as well as what your station and its competitors have in their cut-ins, and calling around to “cop shops” and other sources to see if there’s a story that could make a great package.  (After you’ve been on the job for a little while, you’ll hopefully develop a long list of sources you can call every morning to once a week for tips that’ll have you scooping the competition.)

When it’s time for the morning meeting,  please come into the conference room with at least three doable stories.

I have been on both sides of the table — as a reporter pitching ideas and as an anchor whom management trusted to make calls about which stories to pursue.   I can tell you, nothing is more aggravating for your colleagues than for you to come into a meeting with one teensy idea,  one that we don’t even know if it applies to our market because you saw it on Good Morning America but didn’t make any calls to local leaders, and then when someone in the room asks, “What else ya got?”  You look at us, shrug, and say, “I’m open to ideas.”

No, I don’t think so.

We reporters bring ideas to the show producers, assignment manager, and ultimately the news director for them to approve or turn down.   We are the ideas people.   Not them. (They will, of course, contribute ideas.  But my point is to not rely on them.)

Reporters are reporters because we have a need to know before other people and are naturally curious about what’s happening in our community.   For instance, while driving to the mall, you see a patch of land that’s been cleared.   You start wondering what’s going to be built there.   You start calling City Hall, real estate agents, and developers.  You learn it’s where the governor wants to put a small business incubator on a bet it’ll create jobs for your town.   She just hasn’t announced it yet.   But you don’t need to wait for her news conference because you’ve already confirmed it with local leaders, zoning documents, permits, etc.

The reporter who does this before a morning meeting is in and out the door in under five minutes.   And believe me, no matter which side of the table you’re on, you want to limit the amount of time you’re in a morning meeting.

Let’s say shooting this story takes four hours because you’ve got to drive all over your market to get the right people on camera — the people who actually know about the project.   You barely have time for lunch.   In fact, when you ask your photographer to swing through McDonald’s he says “OK,” with a sigh because he’s already eating his sandwich and wonders why you didn’t bring your lunch, too.

It’ll probably take you an hour to an hour-and-a-half to write a package at the beginning.

Then it’ll probably take your photographer an hour to edit it.

You’re both running late again as you head out the door for your live shot but you make it in time.

You’re live at 5, 5:30, and 6 p.m.

The 11 o’clock producer calls and would like a look live.   So you spend another 10 minutes shooting that after your last live shot.

Then you’ve got to drive back to the station and write your web story.

When it’s done, you notice the red light on your desk phone is on.   So you spend another half hour returning messages.

By now, it’s pushing 8 o’clock at night and you haven’t even had dinner yet.

And for a person who’s only had part-time jobs before, all this is going to wear you out.

I say that with no judgment.   It happened to me during the first three months at my first TV news job.   It happens to a lot of people because that’s a long day.

So here are some tips on how to cope:

  • Stay in touch with a friend from college so you can both commiserate about what life is like now that you’ve entered what your father, big sister, and the commencement speaker sarcastically refer to as the “real world.”
  • Don’t forget to call your best friend.   Facebooking is good for little updates here and there.   But you want to continue to nurture that deep bond you both have.
  • Skype with your parents and/or significant other every night if you have to.
  • Keep your apartment full of fruits, vegetables, and the foods you love.  Stock-up for the whole week the weekend before, if you have to.  (Also, since you won’t be making much money in TV news in the beginning, learn where the Aldi, Dollar General, or other discount store is in your new neighborhood.)
  • Have a favorite show?  Set that DVR to “series record.”  You never know when you might get called out to breaking news.   And as TV people, missing our favorite TV show puts us in a bad mood.
  • Read for fun.   (As in a trashy novel or something else that gives you a thrill.)
  • Go to a church/synagogue/mosque if that is part of your tradition.
  • Take time to meditate if that is a good outlet for you.   Free meditation guides and music are all over the internet.  You can find lots of music on iTunes, too, as well as podcasts.
  • Be firm with yourself that you will go to bed by 11:30 p.m. even if you’re naturally a night owl.  Sleep is so important to your mental and physical well-being.

Finally, don’t forget to enjoy this part of the journey.  We are driven, ambitious people.  And too often we sign a contract at one TV station and immediately start daydreaming about how big of a market we’ll be able to get to from here.

I’ve made that mistake.   So have many of my friends.   Sounds like Robin Meade has been there, too.

But you’re going to drive yourself crazy and your contract is going to seem really long if, from day one, you’re thinking about your next gig.

So embrace your market.

Yes, it’s rural.  Yes, people here “talk funny.”   Yes, there are still places in the United States that don’t have a Target.

These are the memories you will need for the rest of your career.   This is the texture and perspective you will be able to credibly add to your banter when you’re a big time anchor in Chicago or to your package scripts when you’re a correspondent at CNN.

Not to sound like those sappy people who spoke at your graduation, but you have begun an incredible journey.

Embrace it.




Matthew Nordin is no longer counting down the days until the end of a TV contract.  He tells us he is loving it in Cincinnati where WXIX-TV has hired him as an investigative reporter/anchor. Feel free to reach out to him on Twitter @FOX19Matthew.