Thursday, September 23, 2010

Mailbag: A "prestigious" college degree doesn't make you smarter


I'm graduating next year and I'm wondering how I'll compete with everyone else getting a diploma. I'm attending a school that isn't even known for broadcast journalism and I was wondering how it will stack up against people who have gone to prestigious J-schools. Even though I've done internships and will have some on-hands experience, will my "no name" degree hurt me?

Well, as we used to say in New York, that and fifteen cents will get you a ticket on the subway. Of course now it's about two bucks to ride the train, but prestige has about the same value.

The most clueless reporter I ever saw had a degree from one of the most "prestigious" schools in America. I've also worked with some incredibly smart people who never went to college. And while there are many great J-schools that regularly turn out good reporters, it doesn't matter where you get your degree. Since you've taken the initiative and done an internship, you're ahead of those who have gone to the great schools and spent their summers on the beach.

Remember, it's what's on the tape that gets you hired. If you went to a community college and have a great tape, you'll get the job over the kid who has the elite degree but a lousy tape.


I'm a rookie reporter and in a few days I'll have to cover a story that will attract a ton of media people. I don't want to get swallowed up and shoved around by the crowd and I'm petite, so any tips?

Ah, the maiden voyage on the media horde. You've seen them on TV and in the movies, but nothing compares to the scrum that can take place when you're covering a national story.

First, get there very early. If you know exactly where the person to be interviewed will be, plant yourself and don't move. If you don't ask whoever is in charge what route the person will take and put yourself in the middle. If there's a photog already there with a tripod, you might stand next to it so you'll have a barrier on one side.

Second, realize that you'll get shoved around even though you are a woman. Etiquette goes out the window in situations like this. So stand your ground and don't be afraid to stick out your elbows to give yourself a little space.

Third, try your best to ask the first question and don't be afraid to raise your voice. That makes the person stop (usually) and look at you, and often face that direction for the duration of the news conference.

Fourth, don't focus on the fact that you're a rookie. You have as much chance as anyone else to ask a great question and to get your question answered first. Kick some tail and take no prisoners.


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