“You’ve got to be determined, you’ve got to work hard and not for a lot of money.” Heard that before? This time the advice comes from WCBS-TV news director David Friend, according to the Hofstra Chronicle. It also helps to have a good education and some experience, Friend said. If you have an internship, he said, “Be smart, be informed, ask questions.”
I second that advice. Too many newsroom interns sit around waiting to be told what to do instead of anticipating what needs to be done or volunteering to do more than the bare minimum. Trust me, that doesn’t make an impression on anyone and in today’s job market you need to take advantage of every possible opportunity to stand out from the crowd.
Friend also values writing skills. “You have to paint pictures with your words. You can’t assume an audience will absorb all that stuff without explaining it,” he told the students. “I’m intrigued by great writers.” One way to become a better writer, he advised, is to “find a reporter on television and copy that person’s writing style.”
That’s a useful tip, too, but only up to a point. I encourage aspiring to transcribe stories by TV and radio reporters whose work they admire. (Online versions are a good starting point, but you won’t get the full picture unless you go back to the video and fill in the nat sound and sound bites.) Look closely at the use of language, at sentence structure, and at lead-ins to sound bites. Pay attention to opens and closes. Take the script apart to see what makes it work. Listen to the delivery. But don’t try to “copy” that person’s style exactly because it may not be “you.” Remember that broadcast news should be conversational. If you’re trying too hard to sound like someone else, you may not achieve that goal.