If you’ve been a television news reporter or anchor a few years, chances are that Barbara Frye has seen your work. She sees everybody’s. As vice president of talent placement services at news consultant Frank N. Magid Associates, Frye is tasked with (among other jobs) tracking the talent pool for anchors, reporters and producers. So she sees a lot of tape — and DVDs, these days.
What are the biggest flaws she’s noticed in those personal sales pitches?
“Too many people don’t remember their long-term goals when putting their materials together,” Frye warns.
In other words, before you start dubbing, ask yourself what kind of job you want.
OK, so you’ve decided to apply for a reporter position. What goes on the tape? Indianapolis’ WISH-TV News Director Tom Cochrun likes to see a montage, as long as it’s short and the audio is present so he can hear you and not just see you.
When that’s over, Cochrun wants “stories that indicate enterprise, response to breaking news and something more pedestrian that they do a good job with.”
If you’re looking for anchor jobs but you’re primarily a reporter, Frye says put your best anchor work at the beginning, even if you don’t have much of it.
A tape for a producer? That’s different. WISH-TV Executive Producer Stacy Thorne usually asks for a tape of last night’s newscast. She’s looking for “writing, clean headlines, anything that is more than the cookie-cutter traditional stack.” Thorne’s checklist also includes “good use of sound, good use of video, writing to the video.”
For photographers, the watchword is composition, says Steve Sweitzer, a seminar leader for the National Press Photographers Association.
“If photographers know how to frame a picture and how to use foreground elements, I can teach them most other things. But, in my experience, you either have an eye for pictures or you don’t.”
Sweitzer says he also looks for good pacing, seamless audio editing and visual storytelling.
The experts have three reminders for all résumé tapes.
Pay attention to details: Make sure the tape is rewound and that your name is on the tape box and the tape itself.
Quality matters. Use a new tape. If the tracking is off or it rolls, or the tape is down to the fourth or fifth generation of recording, or the DVD has digital hits, you’ll try a news director’s patience.
Put your best material on first. Don’t assume a news director will wade through several minutes of tape just to get to the big payoff.
Before your tape gets in front of the news director, it will pass through his or her assistant. At WISH, Dale Chandler also reminds you to include a concise résumé and cover letter, and to heed the ad: “If it says no ‘phone calls,’ that means don’t call.”
Kevin Finch is assistant news director at WISH-TV, Indianapolis and president of the Indiana Pro Chapter, SPJ.