Q: I don't write for a newspaper but I am a journalist for a television station. I too am a one-man band -- bureau reporter. I shoot, write and edit my own stories. Right now, I am having several difficulties with my job -- one being that I honestly don't think I am cut out for this line of work.
I know all throughout J-school I was reminded you must have a passion for this or you will not succeed. After a couple months on the job I think I have lost that passion ...
Right now, I am still trying to figure out why. There are several elements. One, the area is very dangerous. I cannot play cop when I'm all by myself, my station doesn't know the area either so the burden of creating good quality news stories lies all on me, and lastly the frustration and stress levels of having a good story written, shot and edited by deadline. I have let the stress of it all get the best of me -- work is all I think about to the point where I can't even sleep well at night. I mean, is this normal?
I know it must sound like I'm complaining but I've tried to give it some time and I am still in the same position. The problem now is if I don't think I am cut out for this line of work -- how do I tell my news director when I have a two-year contract
Any advice would be greatly appreciated it. Thanks!
A: We turned this question over to three broadcast professionals who generously took time to give some advice.
Carol Wang, health reporter, NBC-5, KXAS, Dallas
A lot of reporters will tell you in the first job of their careers -- the first few months were among the toughest of their lives. It's overwhelming to go from college to real life. You have likely moved to somewhere new, have no friends where you are now, and are learning to be completely independent while at the same time faced with a steep learning curve at work, that allows for no time to adapt.
So what do you do ... first off, figure out how to make work as simple as possible for you. When you're talking to people, get story ideas from them and keep a running list for when you need them. Try to set stories up ahead of time, so that you know what your day is going to be like and are prepared for it. Practice editing and shooting faster if you think those are slowing you down. And don't set the expectations so high for yourself that you stress yourself out even more. Keep your shots simple and clean, don't overshoot when you don't have time.
And if that isn't helping enough, talk to your news director and propose that you turn stories three to four times a week so you can have research days/planning time to get what you want done. And seek out programs, conferences, journalism organizations that can give you skills you need.
You have evidently made a lot of sacrifices to get to this point, so I don't know that it's lack of passion that's the underlying issue -- it sounds to me like it's the exhaustion of being new.
Andrew Humphrey, meteorologist, WDIV-Local 4, Detroit:
First, two pieces of good news:
1. Success in any field, especially journalism, is a combination of three things: 1) Talent, 2) Timing, and 3) Who You Know. From what you've said, you definitely have Talent. Doing it all is the future. Possessing the ability to write, shoot and edit is amazing, and multi-talented journalists are highly valuable and will become the industry norm. Have confidence in that, and it will show in your work.
Instead of telling your boss you've had it and have no passion for journalism, share the specific stresses and concerns of your job with him/her. Let's look at the three you mentioned.
Your physical safety is vital and paramount to getting the story. You want to stay healthy and alive, and your news director wants that. Talk about the details of specific cases, explain how you felt threatened, and ask how to avoid harm in the future.
If lack of knowledge (of the geography, sources, communities,or cultures) of your coverage area is widespread, that is a news department problem. Without singling out individual co-workers, explain your experiences to your news director. If communicated effectively, he/she will actually appreciate you bringing this to their attention and encourage the entire staff to know the region. In the meantime, do all you can to acquire the knowledge yourself for the type of stories you cover. Proactively studying maps and calling to introduce yourself to sources will make your future work easier.
Finally, all journalists have the pressure of meeting their deadline (i.e., "making slot"). Being an all-in-one journalist it requires a great array of aptitudes, which you already know. The additional attribute is time management. This is something your news director knows about, too. So far, your stories are good and have made it on the air. Now the key is to get them on the air with considerably less rushing and stress. If you ask your news director for the best ways to get a story done in a timely fashion, they should be able to give you advice and even take you under their wing. It's also good to seek guidance from veteran journalists at your station.
Bottom line, look at your news director not just as a boss demanding the job to be done but as a guide to help you get it done.
Al Tompkins, broadcast and online group leader, the Poynter Institute
I understand your frustration and uncertainty about your career choice.
Working as a one-man band or "backpack journalist" as it is being called these days has the advantage of autonomy and freedom of creativity, but for somebody just starting out it can be a lonely existence. One man band workers often tell me that what they miss most is the feedback and friendship we all get from a reporter or photojournalist partner. Working in a bureau can be even more isolating. It also makes sense to me that a one-man-band worker would also have concerns while working alone, especially at night on some assignments.
It is time for you to talk to your boss about your safety concerns. All of us have worked, at some time, in a job that was not fulfilling, but feeling unsafe is not tolerable.
How often, if ever, does the station send other folks to the bureau to work with you or give you feedback? When somebody at the station is sick or on vacation, do you get to work at the mothership?
I wonder if you were promised one thing but when you took the job the duties changed -- or did you get exactly what you signed up for. If the station changed the job after you signed a contract, the contract could be void.
Do you have a mentor who can give you feedback on your work? I think having a professional mentor is vital -- especially for a young journalist.
What part of your job do you love? (Hint-if you can't name anything, you might in fact be in the wrong career.)
I can't tell you if you are in the right job, but it is a difficult situation to put a new journalist--in a bureau doing three complicated jobs at once-reporting, photojournalism and editing. You are learning valuable skills right now that are going to serve you well in the future. If you become a full time reporter you will have a great awareness of what photojournalists do. If you become photojournalist you will be a photoJ who can write. These skills are in high demand in the online and convergence world right now. With a year or two of experience, could be highly marketable.