I recently went on an interview and was asked to take a writing test. They gave me some wire copy, along with some stuff from one of their newscasts and asked me to rewrite it.
Is this common, and what is the point? Can't they see my writing ability on my tape?
Yes, writing tests are common and they're used to find out two things: how fast you write, and if the work on your tape is truly your own. Many people have so much of their stuff rewritten that managers want to see what you do on your own.
Years ago one of our reporters who would be kindly referred to as a ditz got a major market job. "How in the world did she get a job there?" asked one reporter. "Because a manager wrote all her packages," said a producer. I'm sure when she arrived at the major market the managers there discovered she needed a ton of help to get a package on the air.
Same applied to anchoring. Good anchors like to write their own copy, since it is easy to read your copy that that written by someone else.
I'm a new grad and I'm a little worried that I'll be competing with a ton of people who also just graduated. I'm worried that our college equipment just produces stuff that looks bad. And do News Directors get swamped with tapes this time of year?
Swamped is putting it mildly. Bushels of tapes arrived at the end of May and early June from recent grads.
The best way to set yourself apart is to have a tape that showcases your potential. Many grads are worried that their sets and lighting are bad, or their cameras aren't the best. But just worry about the content, as NDs understand many colleges have hand-me-down equipment often donated by local stations. If your video looks grainy but you show a lot of potential, your talent will shine through.
My assignment editor is a big meanie. Any suggestions on how to take the edge off this guy?
Well, it's the worst job in television news, so it's pretty common that AEs can get testy at times. The main source of said attitude is usually the lack of story ideas in the file. Bring more than your share and you'll make the AE happy... and then maybe he'll direct his venom at someone else.
Is there a future in this business?
Yes. I just don't know what it is.