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Job Description - Broadcast Journalist

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What is the work like?

Broadcast journalists research and present news items for broadcast on radio, TV and online. Their job is to tell each story in a compelling way - combining the facts with the most apt sounds or pictures.

Many journalists appear on the air as presenters or reporters. Most also carry out backroom roles, writing bulletins and scripts.

The range of material spans the entire spectrum of current affairs - from international politics to local 'human interest' stories.

The treatment of stories is similarly varied. A broadcast journalist may spend some time putting together a package of recorded material for a bulletin or documentary, or they may have to report live from the scene of a major incident as it unfolds.

The rolling deadlines of 24-hour news and the rising use of online media, in tandem with traditional broadcasting, make for an exciting and often demanding environment.

Daily tasks may include:

  • generating ideas for stories, or taking a brief from a news editor/producer
  • researching stories through personal contacts, the internet and other sources
  • deciding on the most appropriate angle to approach the story
  • booking and briefing interviewees
  • recording interviews - in person, or through telephone or studio links - and sometimes conducting them live
  • speaking directly to camera or tape
  • finding appropriate images or sounds - either by recording fresh material, or retrieving them from library stock
  • writing introductions and scripting film material
  • adapting material for use in other formats and programmes.


Radio journalists often record and edit their own material, using specialised equipment. In television, reporters are traditionally accompanied by a camera operator and sometimes sound and lighting technicians. Increasingly, however, they are expected to capture video material themselves.

In both TV and radio, journalists work closely with technical and reporting colleagues. They report to a news editor or producer.

Most journalists work for a particular programme. They may have to tailor material for different audiences - for example, producing a short clip for a news bulletin and a longer piece for a current affairs show. They are also expected to record podcasts or write bulletins and blogs for the organisation's website.

Starting salaries may be around £13,000.

Hours and environment

Broadcast journalists are usually contracted to work for 39 hours a week. In practice, the nature of news broadcasting means that long and unpredictable hours are common. Journalists are expected to work flexibly in response to breaking stories.

In 24-hour news operations journalists may work shifts, including some early starts, nights, weekends and holidays.

Broadcast journalists work in busy newsrooms and in studios. They travel to cover stories and a driving licence is essential. Their work may mean overnight stays away from home.

Salary and other benefits

These figures are only a guide, as actual rates of pay may vary, depending on the employer and where people live.

Salaries for new entrants may start from around £13,000 a year.
With experience, earnings may rise to around £22,000.
Salaries for the most senior broadcast correspondents may rise to over £100,000.
Broadcast journalists may receive allowances for working shifts and unsocial hours.

Skills and personal qualities
A broadcast journalist needs:

  • excellent news-gathering and reporting skills
  • a clear and professional broadcasting voice
  • a persuasive manner and the ability to draw information from people
  • a feel for what makes a story and how best to present it to particular audiences
  • excellent writing skills
  • the ability to think creatively and see all potential angles of a story
    confidence
  • quick reactions
  • to be effective under the pressure of deadlines
  • to be objective, fair and balanced in the treatment of stories
  • technical knowledge and skills in using a range of audio and/or visual equipment
  • accuracy
  • a knowledge of the law, ethics and industry regulation as they affect journalists
  • self-motivation
  • flexibility
  • a smart appearance.

Interests

It is important to have an interest in:

  • current affairs
  • people
  • the way news is presented by different broadcasters

Getting in

There are opportunities across the UK for broadcast journalists.

The major employers are:

  • the BBC, through national and regional stations
  • ITN
  • national television companies - ITV, Channel 4, Five and S4C (Wales)
  • commercial radio stations
  • digital, cable and satellite networks
  • news agencies
  • independent production companies, which provide a growing amount of feature material to broadcasters.


Increasingly, trained broadcast journalists are also being employed by newspapers, which need skilled people to develop their video and audio material online.

Many journalists work on a freelance basis.

Although the growth of digital broadcasting has increased opportunities, competition for jobs can still be fierce. It is important to gain extensive work experience, for example in student, hospital or community radio.

Vacancies are advertised in specialist publications, such as Broadcast and Media Week. They may also appear in national and local press and on the websites of the broadcasting organisations.

Entry for young people

Almost all broadcast journalists have a degree. This may be in any subject.

Many providers now offer degrees in journalism, media studies or similar subjects. It is important to check that such courses cover the right practical skills and context and preferably include some work experience. Courses are accredited and listed by the Broadcast Journalism Training Council (BJTC).

There are three main entry routes.

Most entrants join a broadcast organisation after completing a postgraduate pre-entry journalism course. Most courses last for an academic year. Some colleges and independent training centres run 'fast-track' courses, lasting nine to 20 weeks. These courses are also accredited by the BJTC and by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ).
It is possible to join an employers' training scheme, for example through the BBC, directly from university. Competition for such places is fierce.
Some people move into broadcast journalism after gaining experience in newspapers.
For a degree, the usual minimum entry requirements are two A levels/three H grades (A-C/1-3), plus five GCSEs/S grades (A-C/1-3), or equivalent qualifications.

For pre-entry journalism courses, entry requirements vary. Providers are likely to seek either a first degree, or two A levels/H grades (A-C/1-3), or five GCSEs/S grades (A-C/1-3), including English.

Entry for adults

Mature entrants with relevant experience - for example, in print journalism - may be accepted.

Training

On-the-job training consolidates the skills learned in pre-entry courses. Trainees may shadow an experienced journalist, assisting in research or arranging interviews. Gradually they will take on their own assignments.

Employers may offer technical training in the use of recording and editing equipment.

Short courses in specific journalistic skills, such as sub-editing or new technologies, are run by organisations such as the BJTC and NCTJ.

Getting on

Broadcast journalists often advance by moving to a bigger-audience programme or network.

They may aim to earn a correspondent post with a major broadcaster, covering a specific area such as business, politics or sport. They may become news anchors or presenters.

Experienced journalists can earn promotion to a programme producer or editor role, taking editorial control. They may move into management, becoming a series editor or executive editor.

Further information

BBC Recruitment, PO Box 48305, London W12 6YE. 0870 333 1330.

Broadcast Journalism Training Council (BJTC), c/o Secretary, 18 Miller's Close, Rippingale near Bourne, Lincolnshire PE10 0TH.

National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ), The New Granary, Station Road, Newport, Saffron Walden CB11 3PL. 01799 544014.

National Union of Journalists (NUJ), Headland House, 308-312 Gray's Inn Road, London WC1X 8DP. 020 7278 7916.

Skillset, Prospect House, 80-110 New Oxford Street, London WC1A 1HB. 0808 030 0900 (in Scotland, 0808 100 8094).

Further reading

Careers brochures from the BJTC and NCTJ

The Broadcast Journalism Handbook - Pearson Education

Careers in journalism - NUJ

Introduction to Journalism - Focal Press

Journalism uncovered - Trotman

On air: The Guardian Guide to a Career in TV and Radio - Guardian Books

Magazines/journals

Broadcast

Media Week

Press Gazette

(Some may be priced)

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