Advice for TV journalists you might not know (but really should)

June 4, 2019

Editor’s note: Poynter’s Al Tompkins writes: Les Rose gave this year’s graduates a gift: some final thoughts to take with them to their first TV news jobs. Les worked in TV  for many years before joining the Newhouse faculty at Syracuse University.  You don’t have to be in journalism to enjoy his advice.  Read on.

  1. Know your custodian’s name. They work a helluva lot harder than you ever will.
  2. Learn to select the best sandwich that will not fall apart as you drive. Also, consider iced coffee
    over hot. There are bumps in the road.
  3. If someone takes the time to give you advice, even if you already know 99% of it, listen politely. That 1% revelation could change your career.
  4. Whoever drives The Live Truck gets to pick the radio station. This is the law.
  5. Think what it is like to be the other, the person not like you. And suddenly your story is better.
  6. Don’t like the look of your live shots? Write faster. There will then be time for proper lighting!
  7. Share the glory with the news director who made your story possible. Assignment desk. Photographer. The tech who brought in your live shot signal.
  8. Be kind to interns, and help them whenever you can. You know, pay it forward.
  9. Don’t gossip in the newsroom, unless it involves ownership change.
  10. Make mediocre and dull stories the best they can be. This is how you get better. Pretty simple.
  11. And when you are lucky enough to have a hard-working TV news photojournalist as your partner, for God’s sake carry the tripod. And buy lunch every now and then!
  12. Got 90 seconds for your story? Come in at 1:20. Your producer will love you, and payback time is when you have a really great story and you need more time.
  13. Anybody with the last name “Kardashian” is not news. Ever.
  14. There is nothing “real” in reality TV.
  15. You are Real News. That said, we must daily rebuild the trust of the people.
  16. The mayor is fair game. His wife and especially children are (almost always) NOT.
  17. You will make friends in the darndest places: news subjects, folks at other stations and police.
  18. Ladies (and gents), do not marry the local cop. Listen to me! They say hello to you at a three-car wreck at 4 a.m. They ask you out to breakfast (Denny’s). You fall for them. Boom! You are now stuck forever in that starter market. Establish EARLY that you are moving two years into your three-year contract. Do this before you finish your pancakes. Or sooner.
  19. Always remember: journalism, and journalists, matter. It is the First Amendment for a reason. Dictators that take over a country shut us down first.
  20. There has never been a famine in a country with a free press, because journalists will find out where the food is.
  21. Never forget how many journalist have been killed, captured, or tortured for simply telling
    truths. Respect their memory.
  22. From my teaching partner Bob Dotson: Find hope. Report hope.

Les Rose spent 38 years in broadcast journalism, including 22 years with CBS National News Network as a photojournalist and field producer. He spent seven years working with CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman on the series “Everybody Has a Story.” He is a professor of practice at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Broadcast and Digital Journalism Department, at Syracuse University. On Thursday, he’ll lead Storytelling with Les Rose: Tips, Tricks and True Tales. Click the link for enrollment information.

Comments

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  • And we wonder why the public is losing trust – an article for journalists is about sandwiches and carrying a tripod.

    1) want to move up – it’s not about moving out – it’s about being better than the rest. Break stories, work harder write better, your shot will come when you are breaking stories.
    2) arrive everyday in the newsroom with 2 new story ideas – if in 1 week of work you haven’t had your stories selected ask why, and learn what you aren’t doing.
    3) If you are only given 90 seconds – you have a crap story the ND or Assignment editor gave you and they have written already n their head. Want more time bring something no-one else has and you’ll get more.
    4) Talk to your cameraman about thy story get their views – more minds open new ideas.
    5) Ask the dumb questions – a reporter who goes in trying to be smarter than everyone else is an arrogant ass and misses the story – the obvious questions often produce answers no-one suspected and reveal the true story.
    6) being a journalist is not a 40 hour week – it’s 24/7 always on the job, listening learning digging – if thats not you then you are just a “meat puppet”

    Sorry but thats the way it is – want to show respect to the great ones that walked before you – then work as hard as they did to get the story.

  • As one who shot and produced for nearly 2 decades – I tell my students the journalists’ mantra: “eat when you can and pee when you can. You never know when you’re going to see either opportunity again on any news day.”

  • I have one more piece of advice. Treat the video editor with love and respect. She/he is the last to touch your story before it airs.