#AskNABJ – Q&A for Career Tips – May 2020
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President’s Corner: The News Needs Us05/22/2020
Ask NABJ (The experts: Enjoyiana Nururdin, Ernest Owens, Brandon Pope and Benét Wilson) Send questions to email@example.com. 1. Is it possible to transition into news photography if you have a background in other kinds such as event, editorial, or entertainment? Brandon: It definitely is. In fact, here at CW26 Chicago, we have many photographers who have never shot news before until they got this job. We embrace their creative eye, as I'm sure many other companies would. As long as your work demonstrates the key skills you need to shoot news: good sequencing, editing, and lighting. Ernest: Absolutely. If you know how to shoot remarkably well, the hardest part is already done. At this point, I would recommend you practice news photography independently before taking that leap into a major newsroom. Build up a small personal portfolio of some work to help express some prior interest/experience as you shoot your shot. Enjoyiana: It is! I would recommend practicing shooting while reporting so you can get a feel for it, whether it be with a phone or camera. Think about the angle a professional photographer would use to emphasize the shot. What image would you want to see for your article, and shoot it. If you’re working with fancy camera equipment, look up the ways to take pictures so you can start building your portfolio. As long as you know basic photography principles, you’ll be fine! Benét: In the olden days, this would have been a hard no. There was absolutely no crossing of lines between news photography. But that’s not the case anymore. As a matter of fact, there are news outlets that actually appreciate different photography skills. So look at the work of news photographers you admire, practice, then bring your own flair to the job.
2. I’m going into my senior year and didn’t get the two internships I wanted for the summer and need one on my resume. I’m now willing to do an unpaid one. How can I convince newspapers to take a chance on me? I know it’s going to be harder now since newsrooms are now virtual because of COVID-19. Brandon: Express your willingness to learn, grow and also contribute to their news product. Demonstrate value with your clips and links to your work.
Ernest: Now can be the perfect time to do two things: Figure out your strengths and determine how to either sell or hone in on them. So right now you need to figure out what you are good at? What kind of reporting, photography, and/or multimedia talents do you have? Write up a list of these traits and take it seriously. Two things can happen at this point: You can either intern or self-produce. Convincing newsrooms to take a chance on you isn’t begging, but making a case for what you are willing to offer, in addition to what you would like to learn there. Furthermore, while you are in this process, you should be honing in on your skills independently. Create opportunities for yourself by creating your own website, YouTube channel, or place where your work can be checked out. In other words, internship or not — we should never stop improving upon our skills. Enjoyiana: Now is a good time to utilize the time not physically in an office to create your own content. To reiterate what Ernest said, it’s about showcasing your talents and showing them what you have to offer. Think about what you want to end up doing as an intern and make it happen on your own. Once you start to build up your portfolio with items that you created, it’ll show initiative, creativity and that you’re willing to get work done. Also remember that with COVID-19, this is a new thing for a lot of people so think about what you could do as an intern that would bring a new perspective or angle to a newsroom. Think about some things people aren’t doing and make them happen! Benét: Having an internship in a working newsroom is the ideal goal. But that isn’t practical in the time of coronavirus. There are newsrooms offering virtual internships, but many have just cancelled them for the summer. That shouldn’t stop you from building your portfolio. There are nonprofit organizations that are struggling and would be more than happy to bring you on to help with media/communications. You can do things such as shoot “news” videos, create video/audio programming and help out with social media. I agree with Ernest and Enjoyiana — this is a great time to self-produce and create an online showcase of your skills that can be used when it’s time to apply for jobs. This shows off your talent, initiative and creativity in the absence of an internship. 3. I’ve been in my job for a little over a year and think I want to apply for fellowships for next year, but still keep my job. I know I’ll need a recommendation from my boss. Will I look "non- commital" to the job, or do you think I should wait until I have more time with the company? Ernest: This is a tough call, but you will most likely have to choose between the two. If it’s a paid fellowship that has a rigorous course load or schedule, this might pose a threat to your employer (especially when work is already hectic enough during COVID-19). Unless you can frame how this fellowship will directly improve your skill set for your current job at the moment, I would wait until you have more time with the company. Enjoyiana: I think you have to weigh the importance of the fellowships and your job. What will they bring that your current job can’t? What is your role at your current job? Have other people done fellowships and maintained the position? What will the outcome of the fellowship be? Is job security something to consider? Will a fellowship ruin chances for promotion? Will the
fellowship experience set you apart from other candidates if you need to apply for other jobs? Are you able to keep your job and do the fellowship? I personally would apply for the fellowships and see what happens because the worst thing that could happen is that you have to choose between the two in the end. You would still have had the experience from work and from the fellowship. Benét: It would be nice to do a fellowship and come back to a job, but the truth is your employer is under no obligation to have your job waiting when you return. That being said, I’ve seen NABJ members who did fellowships and went on to much bigger and better things. It’s a gamble on you. Depending on the program, fellowships can bring a life-changing experience, an expansion of a network that will sustain you in your career and a chance to breathe and decide your next career steps. If you want to come back to your job, explain to your boss how what you learn will be a benefit to your newsroom. If there's a project in the newsroom that needs to be addressed but no one has time to get to it, maybe that can be what you pursue in your fellowship. But do NOT suggest this if you decide that you don’t want to come back. Fellowships can open up opportunities outside your current newsroom and you may not want to return at all. 4. A few jobs I’m interested in say bilingual applicants are preferred. How else can I make myself more attractive to them outside of taking a crash course in Spanish? And what other language should I have under my belt besides Spanish? Ernest: Jobs say they want a lot of things that they are sometimes willing to compromise over. Some say they want advanced degrees, more than 5 years in the workplace, and if you’re bilingual, another bonus. But truth be told, some of these preferables can be worked around if you get to the heart of what the particular job requires. For example, if you are applying for a job at Telemundo, you should really emphasize your bilinguality. If you are trying to apply for a senior level management role, you should emphasize your years of experience and versatility in the field. Different job roles call for a major emphasis on a particular set of talents that shouldn’t all be weighed the same. Rule of thumb: Look at the job description and see if you are best qualified to perform the major tasks at hand. Enjoyiana: A crash course in Spanish can’t hurt, it’s easy enough to learn and I’m sure no employer wouldn’t be impressed. I recommend DuoLingo to start with if you’ve never spoken Spanish before. Then increase your speaking proficiency crash courses and by speaking with Spanish-speaking individuals. The hardest thing to learn with Spanish would be the proper grammar when writing in Spanish, but after a few crash courses, you should be fine. To reiterate what Ernest said, I recommend working around the job descriptions. Build on what you have that fits while also working towards the extras they might want, such as the other language. Benét: If a job says they want someone that is bilingual, there’s usually a specific reason why, so you would want that skill. Spanish has become the second-most spoken language in the U.S., so it may benefit you to take lessons— but only if you really want to become proficient. If you belong to certain local libraries, you can get free access to Rosetta Stone, the online
program U.S. diplomats use to learn a new language. I agree with Ernest and Enjoyiana — make sure you have strong skills in the other requirements of the job. 5. Any wardrobe tips for on-camera talent? How can I get away with a few neutral colored jackets, shirts and dresses but make it seem like I have more. I’m in a small market and don’t have a huge budget for clothes. Brandon: I understand the budget struggle, trust me! Pastels and earth tones look the best on- camera. Black and grey for jackets can go with any shirt combo. Solid colors are preferred by most stations, but if you’re doing sports, features or entertainment you can branch out. Ernest: Don’t do the most, but don’t also dress like you’re going to a funeral. Unless you’re doing sports broadcasting, leave the Easter Sunday color patterns, wild stripes, and paisley prints alone. A solid neutral color (navy, black, dark brown, or grey) with a safe shirt pattern (light plaid or vector dots) is a smart choice. Ties also need to be either solid colored or with safe minimal patterns that aren’t too bold or distracting. Bonus points: adding a pocket square with a color that compliments your blazer doesn’t hurt either. Most important part: You want to look good without your outfit being the main focus as you’re reporting important news to the public. Enjoyiana: Take a look at your wardrobe and define your style based on combinations and based on your shape and personal flair. Lay out all of your clothes and see how many outfits you can create. Dress based on the weather and mood but also recognizing what colors work for you and what doesn’t on camera. Neutrals are a nice way to go, but you could also pick a few staple colors that you like and work them into your wardrobe. For every jacket, have at least three simple shirts to wear with it. I recommend using an app like Pinterest as a way to build ideas for outfits based on what you have in your wardrobe. You can also take pictures in your outfits before air and ask someone you trust for their opinion. Benét: All of this advice is great, but I’ll add one more tip: Thrift shops or consignment stores. Many have great clothes — some still have tags on them — that will look good on air without breaking the budget. Sometimes you will have to hunt, but I’ve never left a store empty-handed. Ask the clerks when they have sale days (my favorite store has 50% off sales during holiday weekends) and be there on those days so you can add to your wardrobe. Depending on the store, you can also bring in clothes and get a spending credit. I’ll share a secret: I haven’t bought new clothes in five years (including a Salute to Excellence cocktail dress I bought for $11) and have done just fine.