How to be a Sports Reporter That News Directors Want to Hire
“I work with a photographer a few times a week, but the other days, I do everything myself. Even on road trips.” says Adam Mikulich, (@AdamMikulich) Sports Reporter for KUTV in Salt Lake City, “In 2011, I covered BYU at the Armed Forces Bowl in Dallas and I was all alone.
I carried 100-plus pounds of equipment through two airports, shot my own interviews and stand-ups when I got there, fed them back on a deadline, and then took a deep breath at the hotel, before coming home to more work. Male or female if you don’t know how to shoot video, you don’t have a chance”.
Salt Lake City is the 33rd largest TV market in the nation so this trend isn't limited to smaller markets, it is the reality of this generation. Budget constraints and pressure on local sports to provide greater value have put an increased burden on sports departments to hire multi-talented, versatile sports reporters and anchors who are often expected to shoot their own video, among other things.
“Knowing how to do everything and do it well—shooting, editing, producing, and reporting make me invaluable to a newsroom,” says Kelly Burke (@KellyBurkeSprts) Sports Anchor/Reporter for WSIL-TV in Southern Illinois. “Especially since sports departments are being asked to do more with less resources.”
What News Directors are Expecting From Sports Reporters:
- Digital Media Skills: You have to know how to communicate on social media and it would be helpful to know some basic HTML coding and how to embed videos (after you wrote, shot and edited said videos). Today's audience is online more often than in front of the TV, so be prepared to tell stories and break news through digital avenues.
- Video Photography/Shooting/Videography: Learn how to use a Panasonic P2 camera, they are a very popular camera in news and sports operations. Small, relatively lightweight & powerful with HD capabilities, they are the perfect camera to learn on.
- Editing: Learn some type of non-linear editing system, my suggestion would be Final Cut Pro, a broadcast quality non-linear editing software that can be used on laptops so it is extremely mobile. Most non-linear editing systems like Avid or Quantel take up a room, FCP is mobile so it's perfect for reporters.
- Writing Skills: Stories crafted for your stations website have to be professionally written. Writing for TV and writing for print or online is very different. TV you can write like you talk, informal and conversational, for online you have to write with greater detail and clarity. Practice.
- Producing Skills: You have to put it all together; book guests, talk to media relations, coordinate feeds, organize the stories, make sure your equipment is in place and more. You will be in charge...of everything.
Notice, nowhere does the job description mention looking good on camera, having great teeth or a winning smile. Those things do help, but the expectations are higher than ever for sports reporters.
“News directors crave versatility,” says Sandy Malcolm VP of Programming and Production for PlayOn Sports. “ These days the more diverse your skill set the better, especially being able to shoot and edit your own reports.”
Where do you Learn How to Shoot Video?
The idea that just anyone can pick up a camera, point and shoot like a pro is like saying because you drive fast on the highway you could be a NASCAR driver. It’s just not realistic. Telling a story with video is a craft that takes advance schooling.
“There are many complicated details of shooting that seem to be missed nowadays,” says 6-time Emmy award winning Producer/Photographer J.D. Pruess. ”Details of rack focusing, white balance, iris, things you can do that help tell a story better. Many today think you can just point and shoot, but to really hone the craft takes time and skill.”
Many collegiate programs have training on how to shoot video like a pro, but many don’t. This is where choosing your internships wisely while in college becomes vital. Try to get internships in multiple environments – local TV stations, national networks, production houses – these will give you access to different equipment and people of various skill levels and experience.
When I was the News Director at a regional sports network, it seemed every intern wanted to work on camera, so they begged to follow around our reporters. Makes sense, but just as important as questioning the reporters is understanding how the camera operators do their job. Ask questions about composition, techniques, tricks of the trade and see if they’ll let you do some shooting and then review/critique your work.
“Learning the right way to shoot video allows you to completely understand how you will tell your story visually, it’s not enough to write a great piece, you have to be able to convey it in pictures,” concludes Pruess.
If college courses or internships aren't an option look into online courses. There are some high quality online education sites that can help you learn the techniques used in shooting video. Obviously, online classes are limited since you won’t be working on an actual camera, but they will give you a leg up on the competition who doesn't know the difference between aperture and shutter speed.
Learning how to edit is also essential, the good news is if you learn one non-linear editor you basically know them all, the concept is the same, just different keystrokes to reach the end result.
If classwork while in college isn't an option a program like Final Cut Pro costs around $300 and there are plenty of online tutorials available to teach you the ropes. If you want to do it right, take the Apple certified training course, provided by Ripple Training, it contains over 5 hours of training modules for under $50.
If this is going to be your career, take it seriously and learn the skills necessary to be really successful.
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