AIR CHECK BY DIANA MARSZALEK

Stations Welcoming Media-Savvy Graduates

There are currently good opportunities for broadcast journalism grads, at least in medium and small markets. While it’s true that there are fewer TV news jobs these days, newsroom recruiters are interested in the newbies because they bring increasingly important skills — digital know-how, multi-platform reporting and the like — that veteran reporters may not have. Of course, they also come cheap.

Not even a month after graduating in with a degree in broadcast journalism from Hofstra University on Long Island, Maria Betzios had not one but two jobs to choose from in her native New York.

The job she chose — a part-time traffic reporting gig for a local cable news channel — puts her career right on track in the right place, she says.

“I do feel very blessed,” Betzios said, adding that her friends, too, are “all landing gigs” with TV news outlets. “It seems as if they are eager to hire recent graduates because they know we are cheap, eager and will get the job done.”

For what I can gather from talking to local TV news execs, Betzios’s assessment is — some would say remarkably — correct. There are currently good opportunities for broadcast journalism grads, at least in medium and small markets.

While it’s true that there are fewer TV news jobs these days, newsroom recruiters are interested in the newbies because they bring increasingly important skills — digital know-how, multi-platform reporting and the like — that veteran reporters may not have.

“These folks, right out of school, are bringing a perspective and technological basis that’s inside them,” say Jason Effinger, regional VP and GM at Gray Television’s KOLN, the CBS affiliate in Lincoln, Neb. (DMA 106).

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“We are having to work with them on the core journalism aspects. But we do not have to spend a lot of time getting them to understand that the story that they are covering is an all-day story that comes out on all the platforms,” he says. “To them it’s very natural.”

That difference in mindset is why Brandon Gobel, news director at WTOV, Cox Media’s NBC affiliate in Steubenville, Ohio (DMA 159), actively pursues graduating seniors.

Gobel says he will actively recruit students who have interned at the station or who attend area universities, even though he received 250 or so resumes for the last on-air reporting position he advertised.

Gobel says he hires rookies to do a range of jobs — videography, shooting and editing, producing weekday newscasts and even, occasionally, for on-air slots. Gobel says he’s a big fan of digital journalism programs at schools.

“It’s a benefit for us,” Gobel says. “As a smaller station hiring these people, they come with training they have gotten in college in all these areas and they are learning it from the beginning.”

Al Tompkins, the Poynter Institute’s senior faculty for broadcasting and online, says the journalism students who graduate with multimedia skills are indeed the ones most likely to land jobs at TV stations and newspapers. “There’s a lot of hiring going on for video journalist and multimedia journalist jobs.”

“New grads are ideal for these jobs because the positions are low paying and require new skills,” he says. “A fair number of these jobs are at bureaus where [stations] are these days less willing to position what we think of as a ‘full crew.’ “

New graduates are also particularly well skilled for jobs that simply didn’t exist 10 years ago.

Jan Boyd, director of digital media at KENS, the Belo-owned CBS affiliate in San Antonio (DMA 37), and a veteran of traditional broadcast news, says even the nature of graduates’ job applications have changed from what they were a year ago.

The tapes with clips of TV stories done as an intern or student don’t necessarily pass muster anymore, she says. Those, she says, gave prospective employers a sense of what new hires could possibly do in a pretty linear way. Today, stations want to know what applicants already can do — and in how many ways they can do it.

“Are you Web savvy, can you write for television and for the website?” Boyd asks.

Also gone is the concept of hiring techies to run the website and journalists to produce the news. “I find that people aren’t just interested in doing TV news,” Boyd says. “They are interested in journalism, they are interested in writing, they are interested in stories, they are interested in the Web. They are interested in the all of it.”

In Augusta, Ga. (DMA 114), Mark Rosen, the news director at WAGT, Schurz Communications’ NBC affiliate, hires mostly recent graduates to fill vacancies. A job opening will garner from 20 to 50 applicants from all over the country, Rosen says. He received 25 applications for a digital journalist job that opened last month.

Rosen concedes that another obvious benefit of hiring young grads is that they come cheap. He says he pays in the mid-$20,000s, but he has seen grads making less than $20,000 in larger markets.

“There are long days, work on holidays, little to no pay and a lot of ramen noodles,” he says. “I let them know upfront that it’s not going to be easy, that they are not going to have the go-into-work-and-read-the-news-job that someone dreamed up.”

What’s encouraging is young candidates still want to be in the thick of news just as they always have, Rosen says. “Most people do it because there is some desire to help affect change or hold people accountable or make a difference in people’s lives.”


Comments (10)

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Rachel Barash says:

June 14, 2011 at 10:30 am

Great story. Let’s do the math. I send my kid to college for 4 years and it will probably cost about $100K for a state university education. Then they need to buy a car; rent an apartment; buy furnitue, food, clothing et for maybe a net of $18K a year. In my estimation they have been directed to the wrong profession of course, if they are a trust funder who cares.

    corey fogle says:

    June 14, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    well, its good to see nothing changes for the past thirty years!

Paul Gourley says:

June 14, 2011 at 10:38 am

This is Classic. As if the Local News/Tv Station model is not in enough trouble. Now ther brain surgeons running these media companies are hiring Cheap labor??? Am I the only one who sees the problem here? Keep it up boys and girls and you will balance sheet yourself right out of business?? This is what happens when you put News directors and non Sales executives in charge of media companies/Stations. They are narrow minded and dont understand the word value!. Raycom is a classic example of this!

    Jim Corboy says:

    June 14, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    You got that right!

    Jim Corboy says:

    June 14, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    These kids will end up in dangerous situations because they’re trying to get as much work done as their competition who has a team…the ND is breathing down their back…so they’re either going to wreck their car driving while writing down information…they’re going to get assaulted in the hood b/c they have no photog to back them up…and web stories will never be perfect…because they’ve already shot, wrote, and edited eight stories that day…and their brains are absolute mush when they go to post their website story after their 12 hour day with no lunch break. I know because I’ve been doing this for seven years!!! Something bad will have to happen before these companies put us back on reporter/photog teams…. of course Raycom will get off clean because they say “well don’t put yourself in danger” but of course they’ll get pissed if your story isn’t as good as the competitions or if you don’t get it up on the web first! Oh and make sure you tweet and post on your work FB page….but hey the only time to do that is when we’re in the car….would be nice to have a driver!!!!

    alicia farmer says:

    June 15, 2011 at 9:27 am

    Have to agree with other posters. Raycom is the worst major group to work for. Their news product is dreadful and employees generally are very unhappy. Suggestion # 1: Don’t major in journalism, communications, or broadcasting. Suggestion #2: Stay away from local TV stations.

Jack Quick says:

June 14, 2011 at 3:03 pm

So we’re talking cheap labor in markets 106, 114 and 159. Same as it ever was, just filling time between commercials.

kendra campbell says:

June 15, 2011 at 9:16 am

A college graduate should have his/her head examined if they expect local stations to offer any meaningful payoff. Local news is a ticket to nowhere and folks should run far away.

Shaye Laska says:

June 15, 2011 at 5:34 pm

Creative friction. Learn to love it.

Paul Gourley says:

June 17, 2011 at 12:03 pm

Adam.Trying to impress Raycom are you? What happen a few projects fall waaaaaaay short???


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