Talking TV: Reporters Making The Journey From Print To TV

Angelika Albaladejo and Jessica DeLeon are two former print reporters currently going through the Google-sponsored Journalism Journey Initiative to transition their skills to TV at E.W. Scripps stations. They share the tougher parts of the transition, the fresh-eyes advantages they bring to TV and how other former print reporters may follow in their stead. A full transcript of the conversation is included.

As the newspaper industry implosion continues apace and scores of journalists are dumped into an unwelcoming job market, TV reporting has not, as yet, been a viable alternative for most. The transition is too daunting, the skills and professional vocabularies too different for most former newspaper reporters to try to make the leap.

The Journalism Journey Initiative at the E.W. Scripps Co. was launched earlier this year to bridge that chasm. Sponsored by Google, the initiative accepted an initial cohort of six former print reporters for a two-year program that offers on-the-job training at Scripps stations across the country.

Angelika Albaladejo and Jessica DeLeon are two of the program’s initial class, and in this Talking TV conversation they share their early reflections on what drew them to the program and how they’re managing the transition so far. Their individual stories may illuminate the path for other journalists considering the change rather than quitting the news business altogether. And for stations still struggling with unfilled positions, they offer a glimpse at how widening the search for new journalists may bring advantages of experience and fresh eyes that younger hires might not necessarily offer.

Episode transcript below, edited for clarity.

Michael Depp: Earlier this year, the E.W. Scripps Co. launched the Journalism Journey Initiative, a program that looks to retrain professional journalists from the print world in the industry by redeploying their skills for video driven reporting platforms, notably TV. The program is being funded by Google. The first cohort of six journalists are currently going through the two-year program, all working in local and national Scripps newsrooms.

I’m Michael Depp, editor of TVNewsCheck, and this is Talking TV. Today, a conversation with two of those journalists, Angelika Albaladejo and Jessica DeLeon. We’ll talk about what drew them to the Journalism Journey initiative, the challenges of transitioning from text to video-based reporting, and whether they may herald many more following in their paths as newspapers continue to sputter out and news deserts widen. We’ll be right back with that conversation.


Welcome, Angelika Albaladejo and Jessica DeLeon, to Talking TV.

Angelika Albaladejo: Thanks for having us.

Jessica DeLeon: Thank you, Michael.

I want to touch on your stories of how you came to this program one at a time, starting with you, Angelika. Your work has been in The Guardian, USA Today and Mother Jones, but you’ve also done some reporting for Univision and CNN, among other places. What was the career trajectory that brought you to this program?

Angelika Albaladejo: Well, I’ve had a very untraditional path into journalism in general. I actually studied to work in the foreign policy space. I was doing work related to Latin America and U.S. relations with Latin America. And I started freelancing. I was a photojournalist for a while at the beginning of my career. And I wrote for a U.S. audience about issues taking place in Colombia.

Then I came back to the United States, and I started in some fellowships and developed skills as an investigative reporter. And that’s when I really started writing primarily for digital. So, I wrote for Univision and CNN for their digital websites at a certain point. And I really never thought about TV news. To be quite honest, it seemed unattainable for me, given that I hadn’t pursued studying that. But this program came along and just seemed like such a great opportunity to learn and grow.

I have kind of zigged zagged a lot in my career, and I’ve been open to those new experiences. So, this seemed like another great opportunity for me to learn and bring the skills that I already had as an investigative reporter into a new platform.

And so now you are at KMGH, which is Scripps’ affiliate in Denver, correct?

Angelika Albaladejo: That’s right. Denver 7 News.

All right. Now, Jessica, you’ve been covering law enforcement, crime, the courts and breaking news at the Bradenton Herald in Florida for nearly a decade where you also helped to unionize the newsroom. I’m sure they appreciated that in management. What was your own career trajectory that brought you to the Journalism Journey Initiative?

Jessica DeLeon: I started off with the traditional, during my time at FIU, internships, at the Sun Sentinel and the Miami Herald. And then ultimately, that’s how I got my first job at the Herald. It is the sister paper of the Miami Herald. And during my time there, I loved my beat. I didn’t initially start in the cops beat or law enforcement, but quickly made that transition. And that’s really where I stayed throughout my time.

I developed my skills as an investigative reporter and started doing more in-depth investigative-type pieces, less of the daily breaking news, but still doing some of that because, of course, it’s in a small newsroom and everyone has to pitch in. But kind of helping, bringing in that deeper knowledge, even in those situations.

Really, I’ve just been covering the community of Manatee County, which is on the south side of the Tampa Bay area [WTFS]. Technically, we are in the TV market of Tampa, which is where I’m at now at ABC Action News. So, when this opportunity presented itself for me personally, I was at a time in my life what was the perfect time for personal transition.

You mentioned our union. We had just successfully finished negotiating our first collective bargaining agreement. So, I felt confident that I had accomplished something wonderful and left the place better than it was and was ready to move on to my next adventure. I’ve always seen myself eventually going into television, but always knew that it was going to be a hard road, or I thought it would be because traditionally, to go from print to TV, you’ve always had to kind of just work your way in the back door.

And here was a program that presented itself and they came out after me or they reached out to me. Willing to give us all the tools and resources to learn and do exactly what it is I wanted to do—investigative reporting. But on the television side, it really just was an amazing, like almost a dream come true.

The newspaper industry’s overall implosion — I think it’s safe to call it that — has dumped a lot of good journalists into the market. In your experience so far, how successfully do you think the skills that you picked up in that world be ported over into television or video-based reporting?

Jessica DeLeon: Well, I mean, I think at the core, the reporting of it, the investigating of it, that’s the same. That doesn’t change how we present it. But at the core, getting that story and wanting to present a story in a fashion that makes people care or it tells them why they should care, that’s the same. Also, newspapers, at least I can’t speak for Angelica’s journey, but on the newspaper side of it, video has become a very important component of our digital presentation.

So, video was a big part of the daily beat getting video to accompany our stories. That had already become part of the mindset. Now it’s just switching to a video mindset first. Obviously, the digital side of it, that’s identical. There’s nothing different to how we present information online, whether we be a newspaper or at the television station. And we actually bring the unique skills of being able to go deeper and writing a digital story quicker, probably because of the vast experience. So, I think that will only help our stations with their digital presence.

Now I’m coming into this conversation with you in the early days, relatively speaking of this. You’re at the beginning of this two-year process. So, have either of you been on camera yet doing any reporting that way?

Angelika Albaladejo: I just had my first shoot last week and I’m working on the script for that story. I still haven’t gone through the editing process yet, but this first month of the program has been fantastic in terms of learning opportunities. There’s been a ton of workshops for us on all the things that we need to get up to speed on in the broadcast world. So, like Jessica mentioned, our skill sets as reporters translate almost directly into our new job. It’s thinking about how to present those stories for a TV audience that is requiring us to make a little bit of a mind shift here. And Scripps has been providing us with a ton of training to get us there.

Angelika, tell me a little bit more about that mind shift just in terms of how you are working through that. What’s a difference from the previous career to now that is particularly notable for you?

Angelika Albaladejo: Well, for me personally, I work on a lot of longform investigations for digital, so I had a lot of words to tell my stories in. Now I’m working with a much shorter time frame in which I have to get that story out to an audience. And, you know, if someone’s reading a story I wrote, they have time to go back and reread something if they didn’t quite get it. We can get into things that are maybe a little bit more complex and more detailed, but I’m learning that with telling a story for TV, it’s really about characters and visuals and sound in a way that we just don’t have available to us when we’re writing for text.

So, there’s a lot that you can do there to really tell the story in a shorter period of time. But in terms of the writing, it’s a lot more conversational. It’s a lot more concise. And so those are adjustments that that we’re having to make now.

Are you able to take your work and have a longer-form version of it than that appears online?

Angelika Albaladejo: Absolutely.

So, you get to flex that long-form muscle still.

Angelika Albaladejo: Yes. We do have a website for Denver 7. And many of Scripps local stations have this as well. And our digital stories are definitely longer, more detailed than what we’re able to tell on TV. So, we absolutely direct our audiences to not only watch our broadcast but go to our website for more information if they’re really interested in digging deeper into a story.

Jessica DeLeon: Or download our app, you can absolutely read us there.

In a way — in many ways — both of you are coming into this industry with fresh eyes, and I wonder how do you think your respective backgrounds maybe give you an advantage coming into TV news that you’re seeing things that your colleagues might not, that they’ve been trained or habituated differently to see?

Jessica DeLeon: Well, for me personally, given that I’m still in the same market I was and have been fortunate that I actually will be still covering that same area for our station, there’s that institutional knowledge, knowing the community where I live and am a homeowner myself and have lived for the last 10 years and have worked and told stories for the last 10 years. That’s just invaluable information that allows you to provide context, even in a breaking news situation when something’s happening, to give it that bigger picture and just have that knowledge to be able to do so.

Angelika Albaladejo: Now Michael, I found that I approach stories in a very different way from some of my colleagues, and that’s been really beneficial for us all. I came in and was able to shadow a reporter early on in joining the station and had some ideas about how we could further that coverage and go deeper. My investigative background really makes me see certain angles that maybe some of my colleagues weren’t noticing. And so that back and forth and sharing of knowledge and experience has been really useful so far.

I wonder how you look at a lot of the station groups right now, including Scripps, maybe even especially Scripps, who are taking a hard look at the conventions of their newscasts. They’re reassessing what they do, reevaluating how they need to be relevant and how they need to present themselves to younger audiences if those audiences are going to become habitual viewers. And so, everything’s on the table for reexamination. To the point of your fresh eyes in this business, I wonder as you’re coming into television, and you look at some of the conventions that are commonplace in newscasts. Are there any of them that you’re thinking — I don’t want to get you in trouble here, but go ahead and be frank if you can — generally are there any things, anything that you see that you think, we don’t need this, we can claw back this time or get rid of this superfluous gesture and devote more of that to direct storytelling?

Jessica DeLeon: Well, I can tell you one thing I’m very happy about, and we spent some time talking about already as a group: the entire DEI takeover. And it’s conversations that have been happening in my very station is moving away from this TV anchor voice and hair has to look a certain way and we are really being told to bring our authentic selves to the table, to the camera. And to me, that’s very exciting, because let’s be frank, you know, that TV anchors study voice where you change your voice. It’s been made jokes out of for years. We all know this, and that’s often the joke between the differences on both sides.

Scripps is moving away from that, and I’m so glad to be part of a company that sees that and sees how people want to see someone who looks like them, who they see at the grocery store or walking in the same park and have a conversation with them.

It sounds the same when I’m talking to you through this camera and coming into your television to give you whatever the important news is of the day. I’m talking to you the same and you can trust me because I’m real, I’m part of your community.

So, no snapping into rigidity once the camera turns on then.

Jessica DeLeon: No, and it’s certainly a work in progress. While Scripps is pushing this really hard, it’s hard for some folks that have been in the business a long time. And I’m hoping that we can help continue to foster that change and just really bring the diversity, inclusion and our authentic selves to our broadcasts.

And speaking of hard, are there any parts of this so far that have struck either of you as particularly hard points in the transition to make?

Angelika Albaladejo: I think I would say that for me, just approaching stories in a different new way from conception is something that’s been a little bit of a challenge at the start, thinking about, you know, what can be an interesting character to tell the story. How can we visually represent something? I’ve done a lot of work with public records and trying to think now about how can I take some of this vigorous reporting that I know how to do and actually translate it into something that people want to watch. And so that’s been a bit of a challenge. But thankfully, that’s what my newsroom is brilliant at doing. And so, I’ve been able to learn from them and vice versa. It’s helping me to kind of move past that. But I think at this early stage of the process, that’s been the most challenging thing for me.

Jessica DeLeon: I would say it’s probably the writing as we’ve already both touched upon. And you know, the writing style is very different. Not only is it conversational, it’s concise, and, you know, it’s really hard not to want to explain everything in a story but realizing that while that’s a challenge at the same time, us coming to the television side is giving us opportunities to have a larger audience and tell the same important stories that we’ve been telling to a bigger audience. That’s important.

A lot of the people who might be watching this could be print journalists considering making this transition or people who are working in TV newsrooms elsewhere where this sort of program isn’t going on. I wonder if either or both of you could just briefly kind of paint a picture of how a workday looks. That is, I mean, you’re doing your learning on the job, so you’re in the job and you’re also getting trained at the same time. How does your workday deviate from a typical reporter at your respective stations?

Angelika Albaladejo: Well, I would say that in this initial stage there has been a lot of training involved. A typical workday has looked a lot like having training sessions, shadowing reporters and photographers. They’re working on their stories so that we can get an idea of what that looks like. Getting onboarded on to all the different systems and processes that are different for broadcast versus print.

And I think every day has looked differently, honestly, in this process. And now I’m starting to transition into working on my own stories. And at that point, my day-to-day will change, and I’ll be focusing more so on reporting, going out and shooting stories, writing scripts, tracking them, recording the voiceover and editing with my photographer.

So, it is a different process from working in digital, but it’s been a lot of fun, too, to have this new platform available to us. And like Jessica said, to be reaching a new and larger audience and to know that we have the support from Scripps to really take the time to learn at the outset how to do all of this is making me feel a lot more secure in this kind of period of time where we have a different day to day every day.

Jessica DeLeon: Yeah. I’ll echo a lot of what Angelica said. We’re obviously in a large transition right now, and that’s been hard, you know, for some of us in our group. And this is something we’ve had very in-depth conversations about and supported each other. And we’ve gotten support, you know, from our trainers and folks in our companies. It’s time for us to learn. We’re so used to every day, go, go, go, go, being out there, telling stories, that it’s very difficult to just take a step back. It’s like, OK, I need to learn all these new things. I need to change and learn how I approach stories, and that takes time.

And to do it well, you really need to sit back and say, OK, I’m going to step back from the newsgathering to some extent and just focus on learning. So, that’s been difficult and refreshing all at the same time.

I’d say it is truly refreshing and wonderful that Scripps is not throwing us to the wolves, but rather holding our hands through this process and teaching us. And I have to say, the training just, you know, our trainer — amazing. Just teaching us in different ways and not necessarily your conventional teaching. Like we’re walking, we’re having walking meetings outside, inside, like just really making sure we’re comfortable and learning the knowledge and that it’s being retained, and we’re not overwhelmed. It just goes such a long way in this process to making it a smoother transition, I believe.

I wonder, just lastly, what would each of you hope to take from this experience as your career goes further. Is it a longevity in television reporting? Do you see this as kind of a next step in the evolution of your career overall and being able to work in yet another medium? How do you see this fitting in personally to your career trajectories?

Angelika Albaladejo: Well, I think that the journalism industry is in flux, as it has been for years, and the instability that a lot of reporters are feeling in getting pushed out of the industry, quite frankly, and ending up in jobs in PR and just completely outside of journalism.

This seems like a great opportunity to broaden our skill set to different mediums. We won’t lose what we already knew working in the digital and print space. We’re just going to add on to that. And for my career trajectory, I think, you know, things are still pretty wide open for me. I’ve been pretty open minded throughout my career path so far to kind of take some different turns. And so, I’m open to whatever this leads to for me.

I think that one of the things I’ve been very attracted to is the idea of working on documentary films, and this seems like a great way into that, but maybe I’ll fall in love with TV and just want to stay here forever. I guess we’ll find out.

Jessica DeLeon: For me, since I always envisioned myself in TV, this seems like a good place to be right now, and I could see myself staying in television and moving towards maybe not documentaries like Angelika, but certainly longer form on TV is highly of interest to me.

But at the same time, what this program and what this current time in our industry is really teaching me is that we really need to just be flexible with how we present the news and being willing to go with those changes. Just like I was talking about earlier, you know for so many years or decades TV anchors and TV broadcast reporters have presented news in a certain fashion that is just not appealing to people, especially not anymore. And people just don’t trust that.

Who’s to say what, 20 years from now, people expect or want the news to look like? And we as reporters, as journalists, we need to be flexible. We need to deliver the news in the form that the people watch it, because if not, they’re not getting the information they need.

And we certainly know what problems misinformation in our country is bringing right now. So, we need to be flexible and stop getting in this mindset that we have to deliver the news in a certain way. That’s part of the problem. It’s not so much how it’s delivered, it’s what we’re delivering. And as long as we’re delivering, you know, the stories of our community, the good, bad and ugly of what people need to know to live their lives daily, then we’re doing our jobs.

And me personally, I don’t see myself ever leaving journalism. I’m a journalist. That is such a large part of who I am. I’m very passionate about it. I love to dig and tell stories and hold people accountable. And it makes me sad to see, you know, a lot of people I’ve seen come and go through this industry and, you know, go on to PR jobs or, you know, public spokespersons.

And part of what the job program is looking to do is to stop that, to harness some of that talent. And it makes me happy to see that, you know, they’ve chosen the six of us and they’re looking to keep harnessing this talent, so it doesn’t go away, it doesn’t leave the industry because if not, you know, without journalism, our democracy’s in trouble.

That it is. Do you think this program is scalable? You have six people now. Do you think more print journalists can follow in and we might do this at some serious scale?

Angelika Albaladejo: Yeah, definitely.

All right. Well, it certainly would help the widening news desert problem that we have if it does. Well, Angelika, Jessica, that’s all the time we have today. Thank you both for sharing your experiences and good luck to you as you continue to move through this program.

Jessica DeLeon: Thanks, Michael.

You can watch past episodes of Talking TV on, as well as on our YouTube channel, which I encourage you to subscribe to and to like. We’re back most Fridays with a new episode. See you next time.

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