Dallas TV News Anchor Marc Fein on Getting Started in Television

working on camera in tv marc fein nbcdfw

Being a TV news anchor is about building a relationship with the audience, according to NBCdfw’s Marc Fein

Technology has changed the way people consume information.

It’s rare that someone waits for the six o’clock news to find out why helicopters we’re hovering over their neighborhood that afternoon, instead they hop on the computer to scan the internet, check Facebook or scour Twitter.

It’s a just add water society, we all want, and expect, results immediately. Which begs the question; does local TV news have an ongoing role in our consciousness?

According to Dallas’ NBC 5 news anchor Marc Fein, local news is about more than just what happened.

“I really believe people will always connect with the local news in a way that is different than any other way they get information.  There is a relationship with the people delivering the news, a connection to the brand, in terms of feeling like you are a part of that team, and I think if we do a good job with quality storytelling, people will be compelled to tune in on a daily basis.”

Here’s more insight from veteran news and sports journalist Marc Fein:

During your years in broadcasting you’ve worked with all types of people – is there one trait, or skill, that you’ve noticed leads to success?

Fein: Yes!  Hard work.  You can’t fake doing your homework.

There will be people who like the way you look and others that don’t.  There will be people that like your personality and others that don’t.  But if you work hard and know what you’re talking about it’s hard for people to be critical of that.

sports sideline reporter craig sager

Despite the awful wardrobe Craig Sager has credibility because he does his homework and works hard.

I’ve always thought Craig Sager was a great case study.  I was lucky enough to work with him for a few years at Turner.  Craig is known of course for his outlandish attire.  And there are a lot of people who don’t like it, or might even call it shtick.

Say what you want about Craig, he works his butt off and knows what he’s talking about.  He’s also a great interviewer.  I don’t think he’d get away with the pink sports coats if he wasn’t good at what he does.

You’ve worked in sports and in news, what is the key to a good story and does it differ from news to sports or are the principles the same?

Fein: I don’t think there is a difference in terms of what makes a good story.  The thing you always want to find is good sincere human emotion.  Whether it’s coming from a family who’s grateful to an athlete for visiting their sick son in the hospital, or from a family who is sifting through the remnants of the home they lost in a tornado, you are always looking for that human connection.

Just today a 100-year old tortilla factory burned to the ground in Dallas.  During our afternoon news meeting our news director was quick to remind everyone that we needed to get the family that owned the company, the people who worked there for years.  What she didn’t want was cliché firefighter sound about how many trucks were on the scene.

One of the most important parts of being a reporter is developing reliable sources. How does someone starting out, either recently graduated or beginning in a new market, develop sources?

Fein: I think the most important thing is to have a plan going in.  Once you start working, you’re going to make a ton of contacts.  The mistake I made when I was young was not being organized enough.  Of course, I’m old enough that I didn’t have a smart phone to make it so easy!

Keys to staying organized:

  1. Keep track of who you meet
  2. Make notes about what you discussed
  3. Follow up with thank you emails
  4. Check back in with people often, don’t go a long time without chatting

It all helps maintain the contact and the relationship.  Then when you need to ask that person a question, they know who you are.  Or if you’re on a story that they are involved in, they will be familiar with you.

Meeting people is the easy part.  You need a plan in place to keep track of them and maintain the relationships.

How does your station use technology to enhance your brand?

In order to stay relevant we do need to use the technology that is available to augment what we are doing in our shows.  We are extremely active on Twitter and Facebook.  And our website, NBCdfw.com (shameless plug) is as good as it gets when it comes to delivering more for our viewers.

We have a full time staff dedicated to social media and our website with several people constantly on duty working to continually update and make sure the latest information on all of our stories is always at the viewer’s fingertips.  And of course people can follow not only our on-air talent, but the station as a whole, or our meteorologists or our investigative team on all of the different platforms.

I’m sure you have a lot of interns trying to make demo reels and gain experience, what is the most common mistake you see aspiring newscasters making?

making it in tv news marc fein nbcdfw

The key to succeeding on air, according to Dallas TV news anchor Marc Fein (center), is to always work on your craft.

Fein: I’ve always thought the most important thing is having your best stuff up top.  And I also think it should move at the beginning.  News Directors want to see what you look and sound like and get an idea of your personality.  If you don’t get their attention in the first thirty seconds, you’re fighting an uphill battle.  I am amazed at how often I’ll see a reel that starts with a three minute feature where I hardly see the reporter on camera.

If someone walked up to you today and said “I really want to work on camera!” what advice would you give them?

I’d say “do it!”  And there are two meanings for that.

First off, when I say “do it” I mean I’d encourage anyone to follow their dreams and pursue the career.  I love what I do.  Unfortunately when I was starting there were a lot of people who said things like, “It’s so tough, what if you don’t make it?” Fortunately there were also a ton of people who were supportive, including my parents and closest friends.

Surround yourself with people who believe in you and will help you make your dream a reality.

The second thing I mean when I say “do it” is find a way to practice.  A current MLB play by play announcer started working on his craft in high school going to minor league games and sitting in the stands calling games.

The team let him set up a table at the top of the stands, he had notes, and they helped out by giving him daily game notes and he called the game into a tape recorder. Before he graduated from college, the same kid was given the play-by-play job for that minor league team and now he’s a very successful Major League broadcaster.

Another example; when I was at CNN/SI several of our young interns and AP’s worked freelance for the PBS station reporting on high school football games on Friday nights.  Many of them are currently working full-time on air jobs in TV.

The more you do something the better you get at it.  Find a way to work at your craft and do it as often as possible.

Also, get feedback.  When I was in Harrisburg, PA, I sent my work to sports directors in Philly and Baltimore.  You’d be surprised how many people are willing to help.  And most of them will be honest.

But bottom line is, just like anything, the more reps you get the better you’ll get.  So “do it”.

Key Takeaways from Marc Fein NBC 5 News Anchor:

  • The key to a good story is human emotion, don’t get caught in the rut of cliché sound bites, find the people most connected to a story emotionally and get their viewpoint.
  •  Having a plan and staying organized are the best ways to develop sources.
  • Local TV news will always have a bright future because of the relationship built between anchors and the audience; it’s less about how you look on camera and more about how you connect.
About Brian Clapp

Brian Clapp has worked in the broadcast media for over 14 years as a writer, editor, producer & news director. After beginning his career in Atlanta at CNN/Sports Illustrated, he switched coasts to Seattle to work at Fox Sports Northwest. In 2010, Brian began pursuing a new found passion on the digital media side, launching a successful website and then taking on the role of Director of Content for WorkinSports.com & WorkinEntertainment.com.

Recently Brian has become addicted to Google+ and LinkedIn so add him to your circles and make him a contact. No seriously, you should.