Top 10 assumptions about TV reporters

kent_brockman210.  They can tell you what’s really going on. Well, yes.  But chances are they’ve put almost everything they know into a story already.

9.  They have writers who tell them what to say. No.  They write it, which explains why some of it is so poorly written.

8.  Reporters love dirt. Absolutely true.

7.  Reporters love stories about crime. A few do, but most don’t.  A few reporters thrive on the act of knocking on the door of a bereaved family and requesting an interview.  Most would rather pull their eyebrows out.

6.  Reporters consider it demeaning to do a feature story on, say, a cat show. Some reporters crave the lead story.  Many don’t.  Cat show stories can be low impact, fun to tell and lack the gut-wrenching drama of hard news.  They may also be the most memorable stories in the newscast.  It’s news directors who despise sending their own staff to the cat show stories.

5.  TV reporters are unscrupulous. Mostly no.  They have ethical standards and can get fired if they don’t adhere to them.  However, some are pretty cutthroat when it comes to beating their competitors.

4.  TV reporters despise other TV reporters. Mostly untrue.  Competing reporters eat lunch and drink beer together after work all the time.  But a small handful will shake their fists and curse the presence of their competition.  TV photographers, on the other hand, are an almost universally collegial bunch.

3. TV reporters don’t work as hard as newspaper reporters do. Until recently, newspaper reporters could often go for days without actually producing a story.  That gave them time to develop stories and work beats.  Cutbacks in newspapers have changed that.  Meantime, TV reporters have to work constantly to service round-the-clock newscasts. from 5am to noon to 6pm to 11pm.  They all work equally hard.

2.  All TV reporters are anchor wannabes. Few TV reporters would turn down an anchor slot.  And the reason is simple:   Anchors make better money and don’t have the grinding workload reporters have.

1.  TV reporters are rolling in dough. No.  Starting reporters in markets like Savannah often have to take second jobs to make ends meet.  Atlanta TV reporters can make six-figure salaries after a few contract cycles.  But only the highest-profile reporters make the “big” money.  Most of ‘em have credit card debt just like you do.

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Doug Richards is a reporter at WXIA-TV. This is his personal blog. WXIA-TV has nothing whatsoever to do with this blog, under any circumstances, in any form. For anything written herein, Doug accepts sole credit and full blame. Follow him on Twitter: @richardsdoug. All rights reserved. Thanks for visiting.

24 thoughts on “Top 10 assumptions about TV reporters

  1. rptrcub

    Lord knows that as a printy, I hated knocking on the doors of not just murder victims’ families, but deceased soldiers’ families. And even before the death spiral of newspapers really accelerated, I pumped out at least one daily a day. And the assumption that most reporters, of any stripe, receive large salaries is truly bogus.

    For just as much as some TV folks have trouble writing, print people still have problems conceiving visuals, which makes the job of getting good photos for stories difficult.

    Reply
  2. manager

    As a TV News Manager, folks shoud also know being a reporter is really a thankless job..heavy duty pressure, constant change, crummy hours some days, real family impact.

    Two hardest jobs in the newsroom:
    Photog
    Reporters

    Producers have tough jobs that are getting exceedingly tougher – but they don’t have to stand out in the rain or make snow angels

    Reply
  3. Matt K

    Awesome post, Doug! Very insightful look into the world of reporters. Also, as a promo/trailer producer, that Anchorman video is brilliant!

    Reply
  4. localtvnews

    Doug…

    So, so fantastic. I remember working as a reporter in Savannah. I was so broke the other reporters and I ate one meal at a buffet restaurant each day and stuffed ourselves silly. Ultimately I decided my only way to get ahead financially was: “get another job.” Off to Birmingham.

    Mark

    Reply
  5. gooberpeas

    #10 is spot on….it’s almost funny when an anchor asks a question of the reporter right after their story, and the answer we get is almost word for word what was in the story.

    Reply
  6. Dirty Laundry

    As a former local broadcast news producer (at three of our metro ATL stations) I MUST disagree with “manager.” Producers should – without question – be added to the list of “hardest jobs in the newsroom!”

    I spent a year shadowing each department at one local station – so while I’m no expert on the other positions (photog, reporter, manager, engineer, assignment editor, traffic, master control, production assist., sales rep, and yes, even anchor, etc., etc.) – I did get a flavor of the other positions. And, I still believe producers are burning the proverbial candle at both ends, plus the middle!!!

    For example; While yes, photogs and reporters are out in the elements, at least when they have down time, they get a lunch break. First, producers do NOT have down time – PERIOD. Second, producers NEVER get a lunch break. It’s more like heating up some frozen food or leftovers and eating at the computer while putting together a show. Third, producers have managerial duties, but do NOT get paid for that part of the job. Fourth, producers must baby sit most everyone on their shift. (From making “wakeup” calls to finding a story for a reporter to cover – jeeze.) Fifth, producers are constantly being required to take on new tasks without any additional time to do them. (i.e. learning new gfx programs or video editing, or web writing – but still required to do former tasks of creating a show lineup – all in the same timeframe and with no additional help!). Sixth, no one, and I mean NO ONE outside of the news biz knows what producers do. (There’s no credit, face time, and most often, not even moral support from managers, etc. Producers are definitely not in it for the glory.) And, there’s surley more bitchin’ that’s possible – but hopefully you get the picture. Fellow producers – I know you feel the pain!

    So, I put myself out there. Go ahead, give it back to me. . .

    Reply
  7. Esteban

    Great list, Doug. Much of it is the same on the print side. As a newspaper guy, I’ll take issue with No. 3, only on the assertion that until recently we could go for days without a story. That may be the case at the AJC, but at the small to mid-size daily papers where I’ve worked, the expected output has always been at least a story a day (plus a weekender). It’s nice to see the folks at the major metros working as hard as they should have been all along.

    Reply
  8. Deborah Potter

    Bravo, Doug. You’ve nailed it. We’ll soon have to revise #1, though. Six-figure salaries are vanishing and it will be a long time before we see them again.

    Reply
  9. Pingback: In defense of TV reporters « Advancing the Story

  10. Reporter Boi

    I’m sorry, but TV reporters don’t work as hard as the print media. Some big papers may not require a story a day, but most mid and small dailies require two a day plus one for the weekend.

    The typical TV guy has to write 100 – 300 word stories, while the average print is around 500 to 1,000. TV reporters have to gather less facts, don’t care about grammar, name spellings, or misquoting someone because their interviews are recorded by someone else, oh, and they tend to get paid better and get better name recognition.

    I’m not saying they’re all slackers, but they’re a gear or two down from where the print folk are operating.

    Reply
    1. Shel

      Grammar? It’s been out the window for the past 10 years or so. You can see misspellings in the crawls, fonts, and (what the audience doesn’t see), on the TelePrompTers.

      Typical examples: If a person wants to see the fireworks, they should go to…” (singular/plural)

      “The Website is http://www…..” (“www” is never necessary, as it is unnecessary in an email address)

      “Another troop (should be “soldier:) was killed in EYE-RAK (should be “ear-AHK”)

      On-air reporters don’t speak conversationally, but in some sort of unnatural sing-song manner.

      On TV station Websites, stories are often rife with grammatical errors. Example: “Students wanting to go to there final destination should take the proper school bus…”

      This happens in all-sized markets. Pride in reporting has been gone for years. Perhaps because all you need to be an anchor is a decent voice and a pretty face. Just as pro-football players don’t need an education to earn million-dollar contracts. Meteorologists simply modify a few numbers from the National Weather Service’s forecasts.

      TV reporters think “W” is pronounced “dubby-you.”

      Need I go on? As a former producer for top-rated local and national Radio shows, even though nobody could see what the reporter was reading, I guarantee you our News Director and Program Director came down sharply on any and all typos or errors in grammar. Then again, that was in the 1980s.

      Reply
  11. scott hedeen

    @ Dirty Laundry…”producers NEVER get a lunch break” WOW. That’s tough stuff.

    Great List Mr. Richards… I have to add my thoughts… two hour render times on Avid projects tend to leave me with alot of free time.

    Here’s my replies.

    10. They can tell you what’s really going on.

    if they can get the PIO to tell them what’s going on first.

    9. They have writers who tell them what to say

    yes. Faulkner and Twain are both on Mark Winne’s speed dial.

    8. Reporters love dirt.

    not really… i do LOVE that seminal grunge/metal crossover CD from 1992… the meeting ground of jane’s addiction/nirvana/hair bands… Alice In Chains were good for that moment.

    7. Reporters love stories about crime.

    i could be cheeky and make a reference to Johnny Strike and Crime… SF punk band from 77-79 era… or Crime and the City Solution, a leftover Factory reject from 1986… but i’ll talk about real crime. everyone LOVES crime… look at WSB’s ratings… if viewers wanted in depth socially important stories… PBS would be the number one network in the world. nuff said.

    6. Reporters consider it demeaning to do a feature story on, say, a cat show.

    i dunno, is there free food? can i be done back to the station and done by 4 o’clock?

    5. TV reporters are unscrupulous

    They also run Ponzi schemes out of their live trucks.

    4. TV reporters despise other TV reporters.

    well… i hate jerry carnes… he tells me that he thinks i get blotto and post on here. now wait… i love jerry carnes.. i also love beer… hmmmm… carnes… beer…. but if i could… I’d have Ross Cavitt’s baby!

    3. TV reporters don’t work as hard as newspaper reporters do.

    yes… but there’s a chance that TV reporters will be the only journalists with jobs come the end of the year…so is it harder to stand in an unemployment line? sad but true. go buy a newspaper! (for fish wrapping of course!)

    2. All TV reporters are anchor wannabes

    The reporter is the sneaky scummy dirt digging sycophant….the anchor is the corner stone of the community. (who has a short work week and gets two hour lunches)

    1. TV reporters are rolling in dough.

    Doug? arent you rolling out the dough at Johnny’s on Cheshire Bridge?

    Reply
  12. Jerry Carnes

    Some photogs are cute and fun to sleep with. I miss you, Scott. Wait, I hate you. Let’s go to a hurricane and drink Red Dog.

    Reply
  13. scott hedeen

    @Jerry Carnes…

    It’s true… i will always love you. remember when we covered that guy dressed up in a major domo suit running around the gym farting Volare? oh wait… that was after Mr. Rau ruined yr live shot in Glenwood by trying to start his old beater live truck during yr broadcast.

    Reply
  14. Bad White Trash Memories

    Reporter Boi- As someone who’s worked in television and worked extensively with the print media, I can confidently say that they work at least equally hard. To say that broadcast reporters don’t care about grammar is absurd. Grammatical errors are often more evident when spoken than when written. Not only do tv reporters have to write their stories, they also have to assemble the story including natural sound elements, visual elements, pacing and more. Things that print reporters never even have to consider. And often, they not only have two daily stories, but also have special projects that they are also working on.

    And Doug, as for the perception that reporters are rich… that’s too funny and still surprises me when I hear it. People sometimes used to assume that I was rich when I worked in television, which makes me die laughing. I started at WAGA in 2000 at $22,000 a year and worked two jobs for the first three years that I worked there. My brother used to be the morning anchor at the NBC affiliate in Augusta and he waited tables at Shoney’s in the evenings. I make more now than I did my first year in news and I don’t even have a job.

    I also wanted to ad that a lot of people don’t distinguish between reporters and anchors. They seem to think that the two are interchangeable and anchors often do have writers who tell them what to say.

    Reply
  15. bbmegee

    Amen to producers!! We work long, hard, crappy hours, but we don’t have to look pretty in the cold/heat like the reporters. BTW… that’s the ONLY advantage we have. It’s often I will take a lunch in on Monday, and bring it home with me Friday to eat for supper that night. And if you want to stay current on emails… better check it at home! But for those reporters, were would our lead stories be without you???

    Reply
  16. Pingback: stories from a Public Relations life » top 10 assumptions about TV reporters

  17. Burned out with news

    To Mr. Dirty Laundry who spent a year shadowing producers….shadowing!!!!! You don’t know enough about anything to comment about what reporters do. I’m a burned out news reporter/anchor who left the business after 20 plus years struggling with so-called producers that you speak so highly of. I learned there are two worlds in the tv business. Those who work in the field/trenches and those behind the scenes who really don’t have a clue as to what it takes to cover a story. As soon as the morning meeting was over, the producers held a meeting to discuss what they were ordering for lunch. Lunch!!!!!!!!! Who had time for lunch????? As a reporter chasing a stupid story – that came from a stupid producer – that was an impossible story to turn that day anyway — we barely had time to stop and use the restroom. If you had time for lunch, it consisted of a burger and fries through a drive-thru that you never ate because reporters are constantly making phone calls and taking calls from the producers wanting to know what they should write for your story for the headlines, anchor intro and teases !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Hell, you don’t even have the story yet! While you’re working on that stupid story you get another call from another producer who asks you to swing by some place that puts you 45 minutes out of the way to pick up a SOT (soundbite) on another story for his show. 15 minutes later that same producer wants to know when you will arrive back at the station — because you’re live at the top of the show from some location that has nothing to do with the story you covered. Give me a break!!!!! Producers don’t have a clue! They cause chaos, confusion and stress to reporters and photogs out in the field. They should spend an hour in the field shadowing reporters and photogs to learn how to support their crews better…not give then headaches! Their shows would run a little smoother.

    Reply
  18. Dirty Laundry

    To: Burned out with news:
    Thanks for your comments. I’ll admit my post was a bit of a peevish complaint, but I thought most people realized I was generalizing. Of course there are reporters that bust their humps out there, and of course there are crazy producers who ask the impossible (isn’t EVERYONE crazy in the news biz?). I’m sure you’ll find the good, bad, and ugly in every news operation. My main point was I believe producers should be legitimately added to the list of difficult news jobs. Also to clarify where I’m coming from: I shadowed the entire (9 market) news station for a year – NOT just producers – but every department from sales and master control to assignment desk and YES reporters too. Then, I continued working as a broadcast news producer for a decade before moving on to a different kind of broadcasting career. (I consider myself quite lucky right now.) I think the “shadow” program was innovative and hopefully helped me be a more realistic producer who knows what it takes to actually hook up and execute a live shot out in the field, etc. I’ll bet they don’t have that program anymore – makes too much sense and probably viewed as a waste of resources by the higher ups.

    Reply
  19. arky

    Relations between print and TV folks are often of the Israeli-Palestinian variety, but a breakthrough can be made.

    When I was a mid-market TV reporter, I spotted a local newspaper guy whose reporting I admired. No matter how well I thought I had done on a story, I would learn something new from his piece the next day. He never missed an angle, so I decided to walk up and tell him so.

    As soon as I got there, he told me how impressed he was with *my* work. I told him that his stuff usually made me feel lame by comparison, and he said, “Yeah, but I usually get hours to work on it. Even once I have all of the information, it takes me at least an hour to actually write my story. I’ve seen you pick up a lengthy court ruling, scan it for five minutes, and then do a live report without notes, and without goofing anything up. There’s no way I could do that.”

    So, mutual distrust can be overcome by the one thing all reporters can appreciate… having their egos stroked!

    Reply
  20. Pingback: In defense of TV reporters | Advancing the Story

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