Sports Jobs Q&A: The Best Way to Start an On-Camera Career

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It’s no surprise that many in our audience of sports job seekers desire to cover sports on-camera

The most visible figures in the sports industry, outside of the athletes themselves, are the anchors and reporters that fill up our screen. We invite them into our home, laugh at their jokes and respect their sports opinion – it’s no wonder so many strive to be them.

Some of the most common questions we get on our blog are about starting a career on-camera, and while there is a method that is widely accepted as the only way, I’m here to tell you there are options.

Let’s jump into this week’s Sports Jobs Q&A question from Mylene, who is struggling to make ends meet as she launches her sports broadcasting career.

Sports Jobs Q&A: The Best Way to Start an On-Camera Career Click To Tweet

The Q:

I am a 27 year old female starting out as a sports broadcaster with a desire to work in front of the camera. I have been at a TV station for over 2 years in their production department but as a freelancer. I find that to start out, you have to do a lot on your own, unpaid or barely, which I completely get, however I am struggling to balance that part and paying the bills. Any advice?

Mylene

There is a good way to start an on-camera career...and a great way #sportsbiz Click To Tweet

The A:

Mylene, the problem you are facing is a real one, starting out is not easy, and takes a great deal of perseverance. I’d like to present an alternative to you and all the other aspiring anchors and reporters out there which challenges the norm.

There is a tried and true method of getting started on camera in the TV industry – start out at a station in a tiny market, let’s say somewhere like Bozeman, Montana or Dothan, Alabama, and build your way up by “climbing the market ladder.”

It works.

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Sports Reporter Adam Mikulich started at a small market and worked his way up before settling into a anchor/reporter role in Salt Lake City

The majority of people go about their on-air careers in this manner, beginning in Pocatello, Idaho, then jumping up to Champaign, Illinois, and finally landing a job in Salt Lake City, so I’m not going to sit here and tell you that that technique is played out.

But I will present an alternative which I believe in even more.

First off let me present the issues I see with the tried and true climbing the ladder from the bottom rung method:

  • How much do you actually learn and improve at a terribly small market station?

Let’s say you start out in a really small market, you aren’t the only one who is going to be inexperienced, you’re going to be working with junior producers, co-anchors that are just out of school like you and quite possibly a news director or station manager that is over their head. Is this the best way to learn and improve?

  • Are you exposed to the best technology?

Don’t even get me started on technology – the TV industry is always advancing, but not at many of these small market stations that work with extremely confined production budgets. Small market stations are going to be working on non-linear editors from the early 90’s or worse yet still going tape-to-tape. Cameras will be old, graphics outdated, integration of technologies into the broadcast unheard of.

Why Start Small?

There is no guarantee of success no matter where you start, but the goal should be to put yourself in the best position to grow and develop a fall back plan. Is that a super small market?

People tend to convince themselves that if they start out in Small Market A, they will put in their time, work hard and advance to Mid-Market B and eventually to Top Market C.

But what if you stall in Small Market A? Then what? Do you have top notch TV production skills based on emerging technologies to fall back on? Do you have a stellar employer on your resume that makes other networks take notice?

Keep in mind, just because you start small doesn’t mean you automatically pass GO and collect a Mid-Market paycheck.

The main advantage of being in a small market is more live reps, and that is valuable, but that isn’t the only important part of your career growth curve.

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An Alternative Method for Starting an On-Camera Career

Alright, so I’ll finally get to the alternative method I speak of.

What if, instead of starting in Pueblo, Colorado, you began your career off-camera working at a larger network as a Production Assistant?

You don't have to start in a tiny market to launch your on-camera career #sportsbiz Click To Tweet

Now stay with me here, I’m not suggesting you give up your dreams of being on-camera, quite the opposite, I’m suggesting you learn from the best the business has to offer before you go out on your own. Consider it your Masters in TV Production and Journalism, but you get paid!

Sports jobs reporters anchors

Bryan Salmond of Boston Fox affiliate WFXT interviewing Floyd Mayweather

Here’s where the benefits shift:

  • Instead of working on grunge era equipment you are working on the cutting edge.
  • The anchors and reporters on staff are the best in the business and you can learn from them
  • During off hours you can develop your demo reel on a top quality set, shadow reporters in the field, make friends with top producers, camera ops, Directors – you name it.
  • You’ll have a top market, or cable network, on your resume
  • If working on camera doesn’t pan out, you’ll have your experience working at a top market to help you land your next production job

I started my career, right out of college, at CNN and I’d say about 25% of the Production Assistants wanted to eventually work on camera. The success rate was high, I’d estimate about 75% of those are now working on camera in big markets and the majority of the others have top production jobs, or executive/management roles.

You may love the idea of starting small and working in a tight-knit community, if that fits you, go for it, but remember you have more options than you think.

If you have other thoughts for Mylene, would like to share your experience, or have a question for an upcoming Sports Jobs Q&A column – please add it to the comment section below!

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About Brian Clapp

Brian Clapp has worked in the sports media for over 14 years as a writer, editor, producer & news director. After beginning his career in Atlanta at CNN/Sports Illustrated, he switched coasts to Seattle to work at Fox Sports Northwest. In 2010, Brian began pursuing a new found passion on the digital media side, launching a successful website and then taking on the role of Director of Content for WorkinSports.com & WorkinEntertainment.com.

Recently, Brian has become addicted to Google+ and LinkedIn so add him to your circles and make him a contact. No seriously, do it.

And if you want to know where our privacy policy is before you submit your comments below, it's right here.

Comments

  1. Maureen Lindsey says:

    Hello,
    If you want to be on-air in sports, you don’t necessarily have to go the local market route anymore. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great experience and you can hone your craft, but that’s not the only way to go. Many of the more recent sportscasters that I have worked with didn’t go that route. With all of the different platforms out there, some folks can go the non-traditional route and it works as long as you have the right coaching. You can go to a regional sports network and work your way up there or you can go to a team and become their digital reporter. You start out doing digital reports and work your way up to being the team correspondent for the team’s network. Usually other freelance gigs stem from this and then you are on your way. It’s about hard work, learning the right skills and being a self-advocate.

    • Yep, you are spot on Maureen – I’m not necessarily an advocate of the start small route, because you aren’t exposed to the best technology, mentors or opportunity – getting in with a bigger network, even in an off-camera role, can really refine your skills. Best of luck and thanks for commenting – Brian

  2. David Berra says:

    DAVID R. BERRA
    713-432-0529 | 4401 Jonathan Street, Bellaire, Texas 77401 | davidberra@aol.com

    June 24, 2015

    Dear Work in Sports,

    As a Senior-Level Sales & Marketing Executive, I offer a proven ability to define and execute action plans that drive gains in revenue, market share, and profitability. Throughout my career, I have excelled in directing both general business practices and global sales teams for industry-leading employers.

    My management experience includes international markets, partners, staff, and clients. Please consider the following examples of my work:

    • Initiated aggressive sales call frequency at BERIC that increased end user purchasing companies in South America, Malaysia, Singapore, and Rotterdam, establishing a base case and regional distribution plan in the process.

    • Worked with Chairman of HCC and Lone Star College to produce “Fundamentals of Excellence” training program for factory management and employees allowing them to be certified in specified courses.

    • Set strategic direction and managed efforts to increase Anheuser-Busch’s market share in Texas from 30% to 50% over a ten year period; generated 30% of the company’s incremental revenue as a result.

    • Created a template for Anheuser-Busch that tracked statistical data for field sales managers to enhance sales call effectiveness with distributors and retailers; also build a region home page that catalogued and chronicled data in order to produce business reports for immediate download and customer presentation by field managers.

    Confident I will prove beneficial to your company, I respectfully submit my resume for your review. I would also like to request a personal meeting to discuss your upcoming goals and how I can help you achieve them. I will make myself available at your convenience and look forward to your call.

    All the best to you and I sincerely appreciate the opportunity of working with you.

    Sincerely,

    David R. Berra

    • David thanks but we aren’t the hiring company or a recruiter, we are a job board and if you find somehting you like you can apply through our site. Best of luck, Brian

  3. Liana Daywalt says:

    This article is EXACTLY what I’ve been looking for!! I’ve been telling myself this since graduation. I don’t want to go the typical route small market middle of no where. I’m a Philly girl the idea of that isn’t appealing to me. Thank you for reinforcing my thought process, this really made me excited and gave me another push I needed.

  4. Shrashti Padarha says:

    Can one become a sports anchor even after doing engineering ??

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