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Media careers

Journalism: Television

Why get into television journalism?

‘Television journalism’ covers a huge spectrum of jobs – from games journalism, showbiz and entertainment, to cutting edge current affairs documentaries and news. One thing’s for sure: if you’re picturing yourself standing in front of a camera, reporting from exotic places all over the world, then think again.

The reality of these jobs is far less glamorous, but if you’re willing to put in a lot of hard work, a graduate job in this field can be a truly fulfilling and massively rewarding environment to work in. 

How do I get into television journalism?

It’s a fact that if you want to get into journalism of any kind, you’ve got to put in a good amount of unpaid work before you can even consider getting paid. It’s the old ‘catch 22’ situation that you encounter in many jobs these days: you can’t get a job until you’ve got experience, and you can’t get experience without getting a job. Solution?

In the world of television journalism, the free work experience placement is rife. In fact, without some kind of work experience, it is very unlikely you’ll get that first vital foot in the door. The benefit of a good placement is that you’ll get to see how everything works, close up. You’ll be given the chance to try things out, without it mattering too much if you make mistakes.

Use any placement you do manage to get to the max. After all, getting into the industry is all about the contacts you make. We can’t stress this enough! Introduce yourself to everyone you meet, tell them what you want, what your interests are, get their email address and keep in contact with them. Send them your CV as soon as your placement is over, maybe even try and meet up for a coffee to discuss your ambitions.

If you’re interested in documentary journalism, the best way to get some work experience is to target the big independent production companies that get the commissions from the likes of Channel 4 and the BBC. A quick search on Google will soon get you a long list of indies to contact.

Always put your most relevant experience at the top of your CV and attach a brief cover letter. If you want to get into the news side of things, the big channels all have job pages on their websites where all their placements are advertised.

What can I do in television journalism?

If you want to get into documentaries, the roles (in order of hierarchy) are as follows: runner, researcher, assistant producer, producer/director.

The runner’s job is to act as an assistant to everyone in the documentary film team. You’ll be doing anything and everything, from mundane tasks to helping out on shoots. As a researcher, you’re required to become a mini expert on the topic of the documentary in a matter of weeks. You can’t be afraid to pick up the phone and get talking to people.

Additionally, the researcher’s role is to assist the AP (assistant producer) to uncover the bulk of the story. More and more, if you’re working as an AP, you’ll have to be able to shoot on a Z1 or Z7 camera.

You’re at a huge advantage if you can use a camera, as it means you can help the director pick up shots that they may not have time to get themselves on a fast turnaround documentary. At the top of the ladder are your producer and director. However, in a small team these roles are often done by the same person.

What can I do in broadcast journalism?

In the news room, you’ll start as a news runner or broadcast assistant. Beware: the pace of news is incredibly fast and often you’re given one chance to impress. If you get your chance, make sure you know the current news stories of the week/day and are constantly keen to offer your assistance.

Broadcast journalism is all about working in teams. If you’re good at working with people and people like working with you, half the battle is won. Don’t worry if people get snappy with you – in a high-pressure environment, it happens. Make sure you never take things to heart and keep going!

All over the industry, ‘staff jobs’ rarely exist anymore. Rather than being affiliated with one organisation, you’ll more often than not become a freelancer. So what does that require? Well, it means short term contracts, which sometimes only last for a couple of weeks (or if you’re lucky up to six months).

You’ve got to learn to be proactive in finding your next job. Again, this is all about who you meet on your way up, so work hard, maintain a positive attitude and make yourself indispensable.

Written by Anneka Sharpley
Freelance Broadcast Journalist

For more info on the technical side of television careers, check out the Technical Production Crew subsector!