#ASKNABJ- Q&A- Career Tips – April 2020
We’re All in This Together!04/20/2020
Grant Opportunities for NABJ Members from Facebook and Google04/21/2020
Q1. What are photo editors specifically looking for in a shooter's portfolio when they're
considered for an assignment or a job?
A1. Jarrad: Editors across the country are looking for a variety of things in a shooters’ portfolio.
In my experience as a shooter, editors want to see your ability to capture “the moment.”
Whether in still or video photography, it is imperative to show your ability to be in the right place
at the right time. It’s also important to remember that editors are selecting a shooter based on
their style and ability. Having a portfolio that shows your visual vocabulary and also shows your
ambition is important. It all comes down to: can you tell a story? What is your beginning, middle
and end? Some people try to make it more complicated than that, but the reality is that if you
can tell a story about someone/something, trying to get over something, and then end by stating
if they do, or don’t, you’re already ahead of the game. Photography is subjective and some
editors may feel you while others don’t. You can’t be discouraged. My ultimate advice to you is
to keep working on your portfolio. Treat it as a living and breathing thing. It should always
evolve. Continue to push yourself to make images despite having an assignment. That initiative,
those reps, will pay off in the long run.
Q2. What are the best alternative ways to write stories without interviewing someone face-to-
A2. Enjoyiana: I really like using FaceTime/Skype/Zoom and a handy-dandy recorder. The
same interviewing principles apply. I would shoot an email and let them know what the article is
going to be about and peak their interest. Before actually interviewing make sure to test out
audio and video before you get too deep into the interview and realize tech wasn’t working.
What’s worked for me is interviewing via my laptop (FaceTime, no headphones) and record the
audio via Otter (an app for phones) and/or on my iPad. Or you can try using recording software
on your computer, but make sure there’s a backup.
Q3. I’m an anchor at a TV station between markets 95 and 100. I’ve been here for a few years
and want to move to a larger market as a reporter. I don’t get many chances to do field reporting
and I need it for my reel. What’s the best way to approach this with my ND?
A3. Brandon: It's rare, and beautiful, to hear an anchor say they want to do MORE field
reporting. I would just be candid and express your desire to do it. But, I wouldn't make it about
getting out of that station or moving up markets for a different job. Rather, I would emphasize
how doing more stories as an anchor can add value to the news product and help the team.
Stress that you're seeking to build stronger skills to better serve the community and the
newsroom. Note how it's important that an anchor be visible in town and active in advocating for
viewers. Come to your boss with a possible plan, perhaps reporting 2 or 3 days out of the week
and anchor the rest. It may take a few extra hours, but it will be well worth it in the end.
Q4. There’s an editing job I’m qualified for and the position can be based at headquarters or
remote from the East Coast. I live in the southern region and want them to consider my area as
an option. Any tips to help me make the pitch and make it to their short list of candidates?
A4. Candi: If it’s logistical — meaning they prefer a candidate that lives in close proximity to their
HQ, or if most of their work is based on the East Coast — pitch yourself as easily accessible.
For example, illustrate for them how you can be available for company meetings or retreats
remotely, via video or teleconferencing. Show that you can work on East Coast business hours,
which may require earlier start times and work deadlines for you. Demonstrate how work can be
shared and submitted via email, text or Google docs. And offer that you’re willing to make
periodic, low-cost trips to their HQ or East Coast sites, if necessary, to fulfill the key job
responsibilities. Show them that you’ll make sacrifices to be accessible to them with few
logistical adjustments on their part. If their reason is knowledge-based — meaning they prefer a
candidate that understands a region, with expertise in a particular market — pitch yourself as
insightful and plugged in to the needs of that audience. For example, offer story ideas that
highlight topics of concern in those locations. Propose solutions to key problems in that market.
In your pitch, use language that is common in the regions you’ll need to work in (So, should you
say “sneakers” or “tennis shoes”? “Soda” or “pop”? “Hot dogs” or “franks”?) Without pandering,
demonstrate that your knowledge of their target audience is on par with your potential
colleagues already based in those areas.
Ernest: Flexibility is crucial. Employers rarely make accommodations for a competitive position
that has a sea of vested interests applying. Initiating the pitch with things you don’t want in
comparison to what they are looking for won’t help. Find out via a general inquiry if there is an
openness to consider the Southern region. If the answer is no, I would either be flexible or await
another job opportunity.
Q5. I’m three years into my career and know I want to be an editor before I hit seven years in
the game. What steps should I take now to let my bosses know I want to be groomed to be an
A5. Candi: The first step to becoming an editor that is in management is expressing your goal to
your newsroom allies. If they’ve got experience in the newsroom, your mentors and editors can
help you plot a path to the jobs you are pursuing. Next, don’t be pigeonholed into only “doing
your job.” For example, if you’re a reporter now, don’t just write stories; offer to assist with
editing stints during holidays or on some weekends. Show your knowledge of “big-picture”
issues by offering solutions to newsroom or news content problems. And this is key: Work
collegially with multiple people in the newsroom — do not just stick to your own supervisor. The
more you branch out and your work is seen/validated by other people, your name will come up
for assignments that may create multiple paths to your career goal. And this way, opportunities
cannot be blocked by an individual manager.
Ernest: Let your bosses know what your goals are upfront. Being mysterious and coy as a Black
journalist in a competitive industry doesn’t help advance us collectively. You have put in the
time, you have some experience — now is the time to start having those conversations to see
what is next within the opportunity pipeline. I would also suggest talking to other editors in the
industry outside your workplace to get insight and advice about the labor/expectations involved.
Remember: Closed mouths don’t get fed.
Q6. I’m graduating in June and want to apply for a job in a top 5 market. The position requires
someone with at least 7 years of experience at a professional daily newspaper, and experience
for the specified beat. I’ve won awards for my writing, and have solid references. Should I shoot
my shot and apply, or will I give the impression that I don’t pay attention to small details and
have ignored the specific requirements they’re looking for?
A6. Enjoyiana: I think you should go for it. I’m all for “go big or go home.” The worst they can do
is say no and that they’re looking for someone with more experience. But at least if they say no,
they see that you have the accolades and can associate your name with an application. I’ve
applied to things where I didn’t fit the description to a T, but in the interview, that’s where you
make the impression. Also think about why you want to work there? Is there something you can
get at another location or is it more the title, location, market, company, etc. Sometimes finding
other routes to get to where you want can work in your favor so that when and if you apply there
again, they can see that you’ve worked at XYZ and someone there can vouch for you. Plus,
waiting a bit can give you a chance to test out the waters someplace smaller where you can
make mistakes and make a name for yourself before transferring to a different location.
Ernest: Shooting your shot doesn’t hurt, but also be honest with yourself about the reality of the
industry right now. People with seven years of experience also have awards and solid
references, too. Employers are most likely going to go for someone who hit those desired
cylinders faster. I would advise working through your network and being specific of where in that
top 5 market do you envision working and see if there are some connections you can reach out
to before applying. Never go into an interview without seeing if you may have some personal
lead that’s already there. I’ve seen too many people make this mistake and they regret not
doing the research before.
Q7: My school chose to transition from face-to-face to all online courses, but most of the
students don’t see this as a good accommodation due to some students not having the
resources to be able to do the work online. I’m thinking of doing a story on students’ feedback
on the changes. Where should I start and should I use data from other schools to see how many
schools have made the same changes?
A7: Enjoyiana: I think starting with your students on campus is key. Wait a bit and see if they
can collect numbers and data for your school, but also look and see if other schools have the
data already. Then reach out to your connections at other schools to see how they are adjusting
to this change. Reach out to professors at your university but be aware they might have their
hands full trying to adjust their curriculum. Have questions and a good interviewing medium
ready (Zoom, FaceTime or Skype). Also look at how coverage of this issue is being done by
other outlets, everyone’s dealing with this issue now and everyone’s reporting on it. What will
your article provide that others won’t?