There are an abundance of avenues for everyday people to get their news, but television is still the main place Americans turn, according to a recent Gallup poll.
55% of respondents said television was their main source of news for current events, far outdistancing the internet which placed second with 21% of the results.
But times they are a changing.
No longer does someone have to wait until 6pm to find out why sirens surrounded a house down the street; Twitter, Facebook, and even television station websites can answer the question faster than ever before.
Even with these advances, people still want and need television, so television jobs will always be in demand.
To make sure you are as marketable as possible in the changing broadcast media environment we broke down the five essential skills you must have for television jobs – do you have what it takes?
Television Skill #1: Non-Linear video editing
There are certain skills that will always be relevant and necessary, no matter how broadcast media changes over the years.
Video editing is one of them.
If all the broadcast TV stations disappeared one day and everything was digital, there would still be a need for qualified video editors. Developing a visual story is the foundation of all television jobs, and video editing is one of the main methodologies for taking raw video, audio and effects and turning them into a story.
And that’s television folks!
An added benefit, knowing how to edit video puts you in control. I started out as a video editor, and as my career advanced my knowledge of non-linear editing served me well.
As a Producer I felt more in control, knowing if I wanted something specific for my show, I could jump in an edit bay and do it. If I needed a sound bite to be 20 seconds shorter and there weren’t any editors available, I could do it.
Even as a News Director, if news broke early in the morning before the majority of the crew was in place, I could get a head start on writing and editing a rough copy of a feature.
Knowing how to edit meant I never had to wait for someone else to be available.
Common Non-Linear Editing Technology Used in Television:
- Final Cut Pro
- Adobe Premiere
Taking it to the Next Level: If you have ever considered working in the field as a remote producer or reporter, you must learn Final Cut Pro. It’s mobile, it’s fast and it’s powerful.
Television Skill #2: Operating a Broadcast Quality Camera
Television will always rely on moving pictures and those pictures are captured by camera.
Just like video editing, this is a skill that will transcend all the changes the future brings. There will always be new technologies but the basic principles of shooting video will remain the same.
Having a familiarity with the various types of equipment used and the confidence to use it, will serve you well.
Seeing the world through the lens of a camera also helps to improve the way you visualize a story coming together. Most feature producers have experience behind the camera which gives them more tools to use in their storytelling – things like picture composition, natural light and ambient sound.
Most Popular Brands of Broadcast Quality Cameras:
Taking it to the Next Level: Don’t stop at learning how to operate a camera, continue on to understand the finer details of audio and lighting. Just think how bad television would be without sound and in the dark.
In all seriousness, a well lit subject looks better and when sound is clear and crisp the overall experience for the audience is enhanced. Have these skills and you will have opportunity.
Television Skill #3: Learn to Write and Communicate Clearly
Knowing how to write and effectively convey thought used to be an assumed skill for television jobs, but since the advent of social media effective writing is less common.
Being a good writer is now a differentiator!
Writing for television is different than most other styles since there is a budgeted allotment of time for each story, and it’s seemingly never enough.
Types of Writing in Television Jobs:
- Feature stories – on average two minutes long, comprised of sound bites and written reporter tracks.
- On Camera Reads – 15-30 seconds long leading into a sound bite, live shot, feature story etc.
- Teases – One of the most essential and unique writing styles in television, you have 10 seconds to convince someone stay through the commercials.
- Fullscreen Graphics – Usually 15 seconds of detail given to explain what the viewer is seeing at home.
Taking it to the Next Level: The benefits of writing well aren’t confined to composing a story, writing well helps in every day communication. With our societal reliance on email, so much of our daily communication takes place through written words – if you can’t convey your thoughts clearly you’ll never get ahead.
Television Skill #4: Digital Media
The first three skills represent where television has been and will continue to be, digital media is the emerging future.
The mentality of broadcast stations are changing, the focus was always on pushing your audience to the next news or sports program, more than likely at 6pm or 11, but now, as Executive Producer Doug Prusak recently told me, the mentality is “Web=Air”.
Broadcast news that operates 24/7 is hard to execute because it’s an expensive proposition, but news online is far less costly and far more immediate. There is a chance that broadcast news as we now know it may not exist in 10-15 years, everything could be digital.
So how do you prepare for the revolution? (and is that overly dramatic?)
- Consider a degree in digital production
- Understand streaming video and content management systems
- Learn how to edit imagery online using Photoshop and other software
- Master social media and analytical metrics
- Have a working knowledge of HTML and basic coding
Taking it to the Next Level: Start your own blog, but don’t just post photos of you and your cat, play around, experiment, try different things and see how they look on screen.
Don’t worry about traffic or monetization; this is just a learning platform for you. Post videos, play with the HTML, master WordPress, it may not be something you can put on your resume, but it’ll give you the confidence you can do it.
Television Skill #5: Attitude
A common phrase that gets thrown around in the television business is that someone “gets it”. Translation, they understand and accept that working in television means late nights chasing stories, weekends when everyone else is barbecuing and holidays when families yearn to be together.
To “get it” means you don’t whine and complain, you understand this is what you’ve signed up for, just like a cop or a fireman, but much less heroic. It has its plusses and minuses, but if you don’t like the idea of sitting in a cubicle all day running reports…it’s nothing but plusses.
Attitude goes a long way in television, if you show you “get it” and are willing to do what it takes, the job opportunities flow. It’s not always the most talented person who makes it in television; it’s the person with the best work ethic.
“I’m looking for people who are hungry, passionate and willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done,” says FuelTV’s Steve Becker.
You can teach people how to log, pick good highlights and sound bites, etc., but desire and willingness to do whatever needs to be done are traits that are inherent and those are the people that I want on my team.”
Attitude is a soft skill that some people will tell you can’t be taught, but I disagree. A bad attitude may just be a case of someone being confused, not yet knowing who they want to be, waiting for the right challenge for their mind. Find the right challenge and attitudes often change.
Bottom line, learn the hard skills and develop your soft skills, and television jobs will be yours for the taking.