I started my career as an on-camera reporter at CNC World, a cable TV station that is the Chinese equivalent to CNN, in Chicago, Illinois, during my sophomore year of college. I gave directions to my then-lost but soon-to-be boss while covering a riot at the NATO Summit. CNC World is a government-funded cable TV channel and broadcasts 24 hours a day in China.
The role of an on-camera reporter is to talk to people with firsthand knowledge of important things and review documents to discover previously unknown information and tell people about it. TV reporters generally avoid sharing their opinion.
During my internship, I traveled to mass shootings, trade shows, and cultural events happening in the midwestern United States and reported on-camera about them for a Chinese audience.
The TV news life is not glamorous. The most common shift hours are 4 a.m. to noon, and 4 p.m. to midnight. You will be expected to work a weekend day and every holiday. Both male and female TV reporters wear makeup resulting in year-round acne. Your news director contractually has control over your appearance. You will literally have to ask permission to get a different style haircut.
At the beginning of your career, you will not be an anchor, not have a cameraperson, you will have to shoot and edit your own video. You will be sent into dangerous areas while it’s dark. You will be sent to knock on the door of people who’s loved one(s) just died. I was once sent inside an apartment complex to knock on a criminal’s door at 11 p.m. the night before he was supposed to surrender to police.
The following advice assumes you are a high school student. For college students, skip ahead to the next bolded text.
My advice is to get an internship or volunteer opportunity with your state senator or mayor. If you are in 8th grade, you will have to volunteer, but you are eligible for a formal internship once you’re in 9th grade. This will make you a better journalist because these two types of representatives do constituent services, which will help you understand the problems people in your community often face. It will also help you understand how laws are made and what types of news stories cause politicians to take immediate action.
I switched from politics to journalism because I wasn’t satisfied with the speed at which problems were being addressed, and which problems were being dealt with first. It felt…