Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Mailbag: After you get that foot in the door...


I just got my first job as a general assignment reporter and I am very excited, but also nervous. Do you have any advice/tips on how to shine AFTER you secure your 1st job? What are the most important things to think about? Any tips from how to deal with work relationships, meeting package deadlines, and coming in everyday with story ideas?

Ah, excellent question, as perhaps the "dropout" rate out of the business is highest after the first job. Some people think they're home free once they get that first job, but there's a big difference between college life and that of the real world.

Having hired a bunch of young people in my time, let me run down some of the more common mistakes:

-Thinking you know everything. In reality, you know very little coming out of college. You need to be a sponge and soak up every bit of information you can. Ask for help, ask for advice. If the ND doesn't provide feedback, seek out a veteran on the staff.

-Throwing knives. Young people often start running down the other reporters in the newsroom in an effort to move up the internal ladder. It doesn't work, and just labels you as a backstabber. Be nice to everyone.

-Drama. There seems to be a drama king or queen in every station, and this is particularly true in entry level shops. Resist the urge to gossip.

-Not watching network or big market reporters. You're probably not going to learn much watching other entry level reporters in your market. If you want to be the best, watch the best. And that's all readily available on the internet.

-Not dressing appropriately. Too many rookies need to understand the concept of dressing for the job you want, not the job you have.

-Being too aggressive. Showing the mike in the grieving widow's face is just tacky. Learn to have compassion when you need it.

Now, tips for keeping that job and heading up the ladder:

-Bring at least two story ideas to the table every day, and I don't mean stuff you've cut out of the local newspaper. You can read out of town newspapers to get ideas and localize stories you've read elsewhere. When you have free time, read. Talk to everyone you met, and ask if they know of a good story. Hand a business card to everyone.

-Hit your deadlines by not wasting time early in the day. Checking emails, making phone calls, and surfing the internet wastes valuable time. Get your story going as soon as it is assigned. Setting your story up a day early will really give you an advantage.

-Don't date anyone in the newsroom. Or the news business for that matter. It rarely works, and think how much fun it will be trying to find two jobs in the same market when you're ready to move.

Bottom line, be professional in the way you act, dress, and do your stories.

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