A better TV reporter resume reel

If you’re one of the thousands of journalism graduates looking for an on-air job in TV news right now, this post is for you.

By now you’ve probably put together your resume reel and posted it on YouTube or elsewhere online.  And, if you’re like most others hunting for reporting jobs, your reel begins with a series of stand-ups that showcase your on-cam capabilities.

“The montage at the top of the resume is the standard,” says  WKRC  news director Kirk Varner.  “It got started because news directors didn’t want to wait through half a package to get to the first stand-up.”

Dave Cupp, a long-time former news director turned educator, says research shows that most news directors watch the montage for approximately seven seconds before deciding if a candidate has what it takes.

So how do you make those stand-ups sizzle?

“Don’t rush – explain – you need to speak as if everything you’re saying is the most important thing you’ve ever said,” Cupp says.

Watch what you’re wearing.  Varner says you need to look like you understand how professional journalists dress.  For example, news director Jeff Houston’s station, WTVA in Tupelo, Miss., has a strict dress code.

“My advice?  Dress to make your mom happy,” says Houston.

For Varner and Cupp creating “interactive stand-ups,” those that reference your location, involve props or purposeful movement, are critical.

“If you’re standing in the middle of a corn field, you’d better have an ear of corn in your hand,” says Varner.  “You have to be aware of what’s around you when you are on camera.”

After the stand-ups?

“Don’t put your anchoring on there if you’re right out of college,” says Houston. “Showcase your storytelling ability.”

Cupp says you should put your best story right after the stand-ups, regardless of whether it’s hard news or a feature.

“Then shake it up, show your versatility,” Cupp adds.

Varner encourages students to find creative ways to simulate a live shot.  He described how one candidate delivered a story on camera for more than a minute without a single edit or any video relief.

“It gave me a sense of what he could do live, even though he didn’t have access to a live truck,” says Varner.

Other advice?

According to Varner, a recent grad’s biggest challenge is that he or she is competing against working professionals.

“The number one strike against you is your youth,” Varner says.

Cupp says, though you can’t instantly grow older, you can sound older.

“The instant way to sound more professional is to articulate clearly,” says Cupp.  “Just pronounce every sound in every word you say.”

For Houston, the advice is even simpler.

“Don’t make it complicated; make sure the  link to your resume works.”