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What is a Broadcast Journalist?

By Garry Crystal
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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Broadcast journalists are the frontline of television and radio journalism. They are thought of as the face and voice of a news story. Broadcast journalists must feel comfortable with thousands, sometimes millions of people looking at their face or listening to their voice.

As well as an expertise in researching and reporting on stories, the broadcast journalist possesses some other particular qualities. Unlike a print journalist, the broadcast journalist needs to be able to stay calm under pressure. Often, he or she will be reporting live from the scene where a story is taking place. There can be many distractions around the reporter, and an ability to stay focused is a major benefit.

The first step in becoming a broadcast journalist usually takes place behind the scenes. Broadcast journalists may begin their career at a small television or radio station. They may start off working the equipment that is used in the broadcasting. Sometimes, they can start off doing small slots, such as the local weather or hourly news bulletins.

Journalists or reporters of any type are now usually required to have some form of educational qualification in journalism. A great deal of experience can be gained from journalism courses. Further experience will come from working on local newspapers or small radio stations. It is at these small establishments that the broadcast journalist will learn his or her trade.

Once he or she has become more established, a broadcast journalist can choose to work in a specialized field. Fields such as politics, entertainment, and war reporting all need their own qualified broadcast journalists. The hours can be long and stressful. A great deal of time is spent researching stories, checking facts, and attending meetings and interviews. The amount of time spent on air will usually be far less than the work that goes on behind the scenes.

Competition for the role of a broadcast journalist is fierce. There are always a huge number of candidates for the jobs advertised. However, if one already works in the field and has plenty of relevant experience, then his or her foot will already be in the door. It is also very helpful if the broadcast journalist is an expert in whatever field he or she specializes in.

Although the competition for jobs is fierce, there are now more opportunities than ever before in the world of broadcast journalism. Cable television has an ever increasing amount of channels with a variety of different shows. Radio stations are also on the increase, and companies know that a good broadcast journalist will help boost and maintain their ratings.

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Discussion Comments

By wavy58 — On Apr 12, 2012

I will never forget an incident with the local TV station's leading broadcast journalist that showed exactly how focused and professional she was. A big distraction that she was fully aware of was going on behind her as she interviewed a new business owner, and she kept her cool like a pro.

As she stood on the sidewalk in front of the business having its grand opening, a man in a chicken suit stood behind her, about ten feet away. He started doing all kinds of goofy dances and shaking his tail feathers. He did everything but make chicken noises.

She totally ignored him. She didn't even crack a smile. She knew that he wanted attention, but she wasn't about to give it to him and sacrifice her dignity.

By StarJo — On Apr 11, 2012

Lots of universities will help out their broadcast journalism students by giving them jobs at the campus radio and TV stations. Some even help students find jobs in the real world.

I majored in broadcast journalism, and I was able to get a job doing the news with the campus station. My adviser also provided me with a list of places in the area seeking broadcast journalists, and she even helped me build a good resume.

Without the help of the university, I probably would have been just another drop in the sea of applicants. My adviser helped give me the necessary tools to land a job.

By Perdido — On Apr 11, 2012

@orangey03 – While it is tragic, it is understandable. Television stations have to always keep their audience in mind, and with so many eligible candidates for broadcast journalist positions, of course they are going to choose the ones that the public will want to look at on a daily basis.

A typical newscast lasts for thirty minutes. This means that for half an hour, you are going to be sitting in front of the screen, staring at the person who is bringing you the news. It is a lot easier to look at a pretty person for this long than to look at an ugly one.

That may sound harsh, but it is just the nature of the business. People should take this into account before going into broadcast journalism.

By orangey03 — On Apr 10, 2012

I think it is kind of sad how broadcast journalists have to be attractive. I understand taking care of yourself and being well groomed, but some people with journalistic talent just aren't born with good looks, and there is only so much you can do.

I have a good friend who is great at being a reporter, but because she isn't attractive, she always gets stuck with the desk jobs. She has even worked as a researcher, helping more attractive news anchors develop the stories that they will relay later on the air. I know this is a low blow to her.

Does anyone else think this is unfair? It seems to me that if you are great at something, you should be allowed the opportunity to shine. You shouldn't be exiled because you aren't pretty.

By Ivan83 — On Apr 10, 2012

Has anyone noticed differences between American broadcast journalists and broadcast journalists in other countries? I feel like British broadcasters are definitely different, more serious, less outsized with their personalities.

Watching American cable news can be like watching a kindergarten class sometimes. And often the worst behaved is the host themselves, the one who spends the most time on the air in front of the microphone. I know that journalism gets pretty messy in other countries too, but here is just seems silly.

By summing — On Apr 09, 2012

It seems like it would be impossible to get a broadcast job. Even hoping for something on cable feels like a pipe dream. Does anyone have any advice?

I was a broadcast journalism major in college but it has been so hard to find a job in the industry. I can't even find work at a TV station as a tech or a receptionist. I have a reel and I know that there is good stuff on there. And I am not so hard on the eyes. Why can't I get a break? How do I get noticed in this business?

By truman12 — On Apr 09, 2012

There are now more opportunities than ever to become a freelance broadcast journalist. Film and recording journalism has gotten so cheap and easy that almost anyone has the tools they need to put together an on the scene news broadcast in the pocket of their pants.

I have a friend who works as a freelance photographer and it is all abut seizing opportunities. If you go someplace, do a quick report on it. If you happen to be around when something dramatic happens, interview a few people on the scene. You would be surprised at how much news outlets will pay if you have good footage. This can also be a great way to get exposure and maybe even a network job.

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