My First Job in TV News:
Do I Eat or Pay Rent?
My First Job in TV News:
Do I Eat or Pay Rent?
Written by News Gal
🕒 February 18, 2018
I was crying while sitting on the hardwood floor of my old, cold apartment.
It was my first time living alone. I had one love seat, a big old television, a bed, and a dresser. I could hear everything the girl who lived in the apartment above me was doing. I mean EVERYTHING.
I was crying because things weren’t going how they were supposed to. I had just landed my first job as a reporter at a local TV station in market 150+. It was everything I ever wanted, at least, that’s what I thought.
I was two months into a two year contract, and I was miserable.
My $18,000 a year salary meant I sometimes had to choose between paying my rent and buying groceries. I was the ONLY full-time reporter at my station. I was a one-man-band, which meant I shot, wrote, and edited everything by myself.
The station I was at was dead last in the ratings and everyone at the station seemed fine with it. The news set looked like something you’d find in a middle school and we had nicer audio boards at my college. This was not what I had signed up for.
Every day I would try my best, but it never seemed to be enough.
My general manager questioned everything I did. The main anchors would talk about me behind my back. The one photographer we had didn’t even use a tripod. Viewers sent in emails about my voice being too high pitched, and my makeup looking terrible.
I didn’t think I was going to make it two years in this job.
When you move to a city you know nothing about to work in a business that is very critical, it’s tough. Very tough.
I didn’t have anyone I could talk to. My parents didn’t understand; they said I was over-reacting. My friends who were not in the business didn’t understand because they were working jobs with good pay and normal hours in cities close to their families.
My friends from journalism school understood, but they were also so busy and in many cases miserable that it just made the misery worse.
These are the things you don’t learn about in journalism school.
They don’t tell you that it’s going to be hard. Very hard. Not just the job, but the life that you’re trying to live, too.
As I sat on my hardwood floor crying, I realized I needed to do something about it.
No one was going to make me feel better, so I had to make myself feel better.
There were plenty of days I considered quitting. I even secretly hoped I’d be fired so that I wouldn’t have to be the one to end my contract.
SPOILER: I didn’t quit (this job at least), and I never got fired.
I started ignoring the negativity at the station and focused on myself. I stayed out of the gossip.
I worked hard, and proved that I was better than everyone in that building thought I was.
It worked. I started focusing on my writing and shooting. I found original stories that allowed me to work on my storytelling and meet more people in the community. My bosses started to notice. Competitors started to notice. I was finally happier.
You can’t let what other people do and say impact you and your dream.
You always have to push yourself to do your best. You always have to follow your dreams.
Sure, ten years later I still find myself sitting on my floor crying every once and a while. This time though, I have a better perspective… and I can (usually) pay my rent AND buy groceries!
WOW!! I needed this. It feels good to know I’m not alone.. Thank you for sharing your story!
We’re all in this together! Glad this helped you! – News Gal
Yep. Been there. First job was $20k. I had to bartend part time to make ends meet. I hated the city I was in, the station had repeated layoffs until there were only a few of us left, I had no friends, and it was such a miserable place no one wanted to come visit me except my family.
BUT as much as it sucked, I think it made me a better reporter, a better person. I learned how tough I am, if I could make it through that, any future station or city HAS to be better. I scraped and clawed to get out of there, and earned my next gig, and the one after that. I also learned not to sweat the small stuff. While people at my current station are whining, I know it could be worse. I learned to work with little to no resources, so now I embrace every opportunity, every piece of equipment, every critique from people who are better than me.
Starting in a small market, with no money is hard. But I don’t think I would have achieved what I have today if I would’ve started anywhere else.
You’re so right! The struggles of starting out definitely help you put things in perspective and make you a stronger person. So glad you’re thriving! – News Gal
Thank you so much. I was just crying about one hour ago about everything you mentioned. Sometimes I still feel sad and used at my market. The other reporter always gets less assignments than me and I’m forever working my butt off in hot Mississippi. Some days I want to quit and go somewhere else but I keep working. Thank you.
We have all been there! Don’t give up! Your hard work will pay off. – News Gal
Join the club! I started in this business in 1984, in West Palm Beah, Fla., at $13K! I worked full time as a reporter and had a second job doing an early morning paper route. Imagine the surprise of some of my customers who would greet me upon delivery of their paper and say, “don’t I see you on t.v.?”. Just one of the more amusing but no less humiliating rites of passage for young journalists. I feel your pain!
It sure is tough! – News Gal
This article is too relatable! I started out making $21K and thought that was a lot until bills came. There were times when I thought to myself, I have a degree and made more working at Dillard’s than I am here. It’s the worst feeling in the world questioning your dreams. Thank you for this article.
Thank you for reading and sharing your experience!- News Gal
Don’t feel alone. You are part of a large club with a history reaching back decades. When I graduated from the University of Missouri with a broadcast journalism degree in the 1970’s, I thought I’d already punched my ticket to the big time. But I ended up forced to travel from town to town, literally knocking on news directors’ doors to find work. I spent six years in radio news before making the transition to TV, but that first TV job paid $15K to start, a paltry amount even in those days. And yet, it led to a 36 year run in TV, most of it at a well-respected #1 NBC affiliate. Hang in there. Focus and persistence is everything.
Thank you for sharing! It’s tough, but hopefully worth it! – News Gal
This is so relatable, it’s scary. I forget how large this community is. I am struggling with my writing, I have had my probation extended due to lack of experience ( In writing/editing). I am so scared to lose this job because I really love it.
I was lucky, I got my first break in a bigger market and it’s in my hometown…. which is rare.
I need all the help I can get. My Producer just changes things with no guidance as to why…. so haw can I learn?
I’m so sorry you’re going through this! Have you thought about making the move to a smaller market where they will likely have more time to help you and you can learn more? – News Gal
Man, this was me exactly my first couple of jobs in the industry. I work in print journalism but a lot of the parallels are the same. Glad to know I wasn’t the only one sitting on my floor next to the three pieces of second-hand furniture I owned bawling.