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Bad Advice for Young Broadcasters

Starting out, I was grateful to receive guidance from wise broadcasters willing to share their experience and advice. I also learned some things that sounded correct but turned out to be totally wrong:

“Follow your passion and the money will follow.” Instead, follow what you are good at. You find what you are good at by first exploring your passions, and then keep exploring until you find what people are willing to pay you for.

“You have to make it in a major market.” Plenty of anchors in small towns are living their dream with stability and freedom while some big market broadcasters stress over bureaucracy and high cost of living. If you enjoy the work itself, the basic nature of the job is the same no matter where you do it. Look for a company with progressive management that is investing in research and hiring (not laying off) talent.

“Having a Plan B distracts from Plan A.” What would newspaper journalists who followed that advice in 1980 say about that today? What if one day your Plan A does not exist?  Future change will come fast and furious. Work hard on Plan A but keep your eyes on Plans B, C, D, E and F.

“Do not be personal. Be impartial.” Today’s audiences respect authenticity. Journalists who diligently present both sides of a story fairly can stand out by also sharing their emotions, inner thoughts, quirks, flaws and experiences. And unlike cordial Dick Clark-style presenters of the past, entertainment hosts who share little of themselves rarely break through today.

“You must be pretty / handsome / have a big voice / etc.” Lester Holt and Megyn Kelly would tell you that natural gifts are not all it takes. More often, I encounter charismatic talent taking regular ratings beat-downs from performers who work harder, prepare exhaustively and execute with passion.

“Get an agent.”  Some find that an agent can be helpful in negotiating, especially if the contract involves a big salary. Others who are just starting out find that reviewing their contract with a good attorney and practicing what they read in a dog-eared copy of “Negotiating For Dummies” works just fine.