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TV is glamorous… Right?

April 12, 2012

The studio lights, the cameras, the fame, and oh the fortune of television journalism, it sounds alluring right? Think again. The life of a television journalist may have its perks but as far as being a desirable career, think again.

Careercast just released its “Top 200 Jobs of 2012” list and I am proud to say Broadcaster ranks #191 on the list. The list was compiled based on four criteria: work environment, stress, physical demands, and hiring outlook. Careercast defines Broadcaster as someone who prepares and delivers the news and related presentations over the air on radio and television. Further down the list at #196 is Reporter: someone who covers events for newspapers, magazines, and television news programs.

I’m not sure what category I fit into, but all I know is that my career isn’t a “Top Job” and I can explain why.

While television journalists have a higher earning potential than any other type of journalist, the likelihood of making six figures is out of reach for most. Katie Couric was paid a whopping $15 million to anchor the CBS Evening News. However, most television reporters in Montana start out making around $20,000 / year. From what my colleagues in the newspaper industry tell me, this is about $7,000 – $10,000 less than print reporters make starting their careers in Big Sky Country. This is why most tv journalists come to Montana, get their two years worth of experience and leave for a bigger market. The turnover in this industry is ridiculously high.

Television reporters carry heavy work loads. On an average day television reporters produce 3-5 stories. This means doing everything from scheduling and shooting the interviews, to writing, editing, and voicing the stories. Most reporters in small market television carry their own cameras and work as their own photographer. In bigger markets there would be one person scheduling and assigning the stories, one photographer, one editor and one reporter. Here in Montana, one person does it all.

Television journalists work on strict deadlines. If it isn’t done on time, it doesn’t air. If it doesn’t air, the reporter has just wasted a day and most likely the story won’t be relevant tomorrow. The pressure to get stories done is high.

Often times reporters see and hear things that are emotionally taxing. It isn’t uncommon for a reporter to beat law enforcement to the scene of an accident, fire or crime. Reporters read descriptive court documents about murders and rapes. They hear the heart wrenching testimony of victims and criminals. After a while it can take a toll on the reporter.

Public criticism can be ruthless. Television journalists work in a field where people are judged on their appearance and ability to communicate effectively. If someone is overweight, can’t read, looks bad in red, or has ugly hair they will hear about it. Viewers call in and gripe about how the meteorologist can’t pronounce her Rs correctly, or how a reporter looks shady when he wears glasses. These are on top of the complaints about being bias, unfair and inaccurate. Public criticism can be hard for anyone to swallow.

With all that said, I must admit I have a cool job. I am often the first person to know, and if I’m not, the person who knows will tell me right away. I have access to the movers and shakers, the policy makers and the people whose lives are impacted by change. I have an outlet to expose the truth and even in some cases spur change. The rewards aren’t monetary, but they do exist… even if it isn’t a “Top Job.”

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One Comment leave one →
  1. April 13, 2012 11:13 am

    Great article, Marneé!!

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