By Chris Pollone
Scott’s note: Chris Pollone is a freelance correspondent for NBC News Channel. Prior to moving to New York City he worked at the NBC affiliate in Birmingham, Ala. for 11 years where he did both news and sports reporting. Before that, he worked four years in Jackson, Miss. That’s where we met and became friends. He had more hair back then, but the knowledge he has gained over the years far outweighs the hair that he’s lost. He’s one of the good guys in this business, despite his affection for the Boston Celtics, Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots. Chris graduated from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and is a native of North Andover, Mass. Today, he shares his 10 tips for breaking into broadcast news:
1. Network, network, network.
Every contact you meet could help you down the line when you least expect it.
2. Use online tools wisely.
Use LinkedIn to stay in touch with people in your network. Reach out frequently to just “say hi”. Google and LinkedIn are also great ways to research potential job sites to find out who the hiring people are and their contact info. On LinkedIn, you can put in something like “ESPN” and find all the people who work there who are on the site. Or people who went to your school who might be willing to help. Start trolling job titles, then contact folks who look like they can help. Some will probably be willing to point you in the right direction.
3. Start asking people to look at your work and to mentor you well before you need a job.
That way, you don’t seem like a pest just using the relationship to get a job, and when they have a job available, they’ll think of you because you already have an established relationship.
4. Always have an updated resume tape loaded on YouTube or Vimeo ready to go if someone asks for it.
5. Even if you don’t have a job, make business cards that have links to your latest reel and “paper” resume to hand out to potential bosses.
Working at campus TV, radio or newspapers are great, but nothing beats real, professional experience. Do as many as you can afford and your school will allow, and focus on places where you’ll actually get to do things. I have a friend who could have interned in Birmingham or at Fox News in New York one summer. She really wanted to go to NY, so she went to Fox News. When she got there, they put her in promotions, not news, where she helped edit promos all day. The experience added nothing to her ability to find a sportscasting job in local TV.
7. Take a job. Any job.
If you’re looking for your first job in news, 99% of the time you should take the first thing that’s offered. It’s hard to break into this industry, but you can often find the role you want or a new job once you have real, paid experience. So if someone is willing to let you work in a real, professional TV or Radio station, and you don’t like the money/location/hours/role, too bad. Someone else will take that job and you could be sitting on your parents’ couch for 8 more months. People with multiple offers, of course, have more discretion, but unless you’re some sort of wunderkind, that’s not likely to happen.
8. Be patient and persistent!
People have busy lives, and it might take them a while to respond, so don’t freak out if you don’t hear back right away. But it’s also fine to send a “reminder” if you haven’t heard back from someone after 4-6 weeks. If they’re like me, sometimes the inbox gets a little crowded and your email gets lost in the flood.
9. Showcase unusual and innovative work.
Oh, you covered the President coming to your town for a rally once? Yeah, so did every good small and medium market reporter/photog or producer. The President doesn’t impress news directors. Strong writing, incredible digging, and uncovering something new, does.
10. NEVER burn a bridge.
The kid you’re treating like crap in Broadcast News Writing today, could be the guy tossing your resume into the trash at a big market TV station in 10 years. Being nice pays off.