I Went From Producing To Being
On-Air With These 5 Simple Steps

I Went From Producing To Being On-Air With These 5 Simple Steps

Written by Soul Witness
🕒 August 26, 2019

All of our newsroom ascents are different.

For example, mine and News Gal’s story couldn’t be more opposite, but it worked out for each of us because we both ended up on-air.

So here’s my story…

“Well we don’t have any on-air positions available right now, but we do have an opening for a producer.” That’s what I heard when I first got into the news business over eight years ago. Was I thrilled? Absolutely not. Did I take the job? Heck yes I did.

Fast forward to what I heard about three years later… “Oh wow, you can produce TOO? How quickly can you start?” 😏

But let’s back up.

Step one: Take the job.

Image result for I'll take the job gif

I took that part-time job as a producer while I was still in college, but would start a few days after graduation. In the interview with the News Director, I told her I wanted to be on-air and on-air only. (Bad move.)

Thankfully, she was insightful enough to see that I had the drive and willingness to work hard and learn, just poor job interview skills. (That I got better at later in life…praise Jesus.)

Miraculously, she offered me the position, and I took it right away. I had reservations in the back of my mind, and played the nervous questions game with myself the second I got called in for an interview. “Would I ever move to an on-air position? Will this limit my chances of EVER being on-air? Should I tell her I would wait for an on-air position to become available?”

I finally told myself, “Get over yourself. This gets you in the door. You’ll be in an actual newsroom. It would be a bad move to NOT take the job.”

Step two: Get your mindset in check.

I decided then and there I’d be the best producer they’d ever seen, I gave 110% every single day, and I made sure the smallest details were taken care of. Things were great! I actually LIKED being a producer. Something my post-college self never thought I’d say!

Then, our ND announced she was leaving. Enter the self-doubting thoughts all over again.

Step three: Voice your goals…again…over and over.

Something I hadn’t learned yet was that the turnover rate in a majority of newsrooms is through the roof. The new ND actually turned out to be a great guy! But, I had to start the “proving myself” process all over.

I talked with him (set up that meeting yourself if they don’t) about my goals to be on-air, and I went back to grinding every second of every day. I worked and worked…. and guess what? It paid off.

A few months later the ND says, “Hey, we’re short a reporter today and we need you to put together a package with the sound and footage the photog got from an event earlier.” This was it. My shot. (Of course, it was my first package, and it was terrible, but none the less I made slot and it made air.)

While it is GREAT advice to get things in writing, sometimes you have to prove yourself before you can get those changes made to your contract or get that email saying, “Yes, you can turn (insert number) packages a week that will air in the (insert newscast.)” The key is to keep being persistent, and keep working hard.

Step four: Say “Yes” to opportunities.

Image result for yes gif

It was then I realized, I had that chance because I was THERE. I was in the door, in the newsroom, and I said “yes” to an opportunity.

After that, even more opportunities came up. I ended up being a “jack of all trades” in the newsroom…this was before the MMJ title was invented. I produced, turned packages from the footage and interviews the photogs got (I asked and kept asking until they let me do this on a regular basis).

That lead to them teaching me how to shoot, that lead to me doing live reports in the field, that lead to me filling in on the anchor desk. What would have happened if I turned down the producer job? None of that.

Step five: Take more chances.

After spending about three years at that station, learning all I could and saying “yes” to challenges along the way, I left that position for my next, with a resume stacked with new skills I didn’t have and couldn’t get in college or as an intern.

***The more you can do, the more valuable you are to employers!*** I made it my goal to work so hard, and be able to do so many things, that I would be irreplaceable in any newsroom. While the reality is that we are all replaceable, it’s a great goal to work toward and a great challenge to issue to yourself.

Many others have a similar story, but again, each person’s story is different. It may take you longer to gain the confidence of your newsroom leaders.

Your “big break” may not happen in a matter of six months. It may take you a couple of years. That’s okay. Say “Yes” to opportunities and don’t complain if that means putting in a few extra hours.

Keep going. Keep working. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Just work on BEING THERE.

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8 Comments

  1. Thank you Soul Witness for sharing this. I have some questions for Soul Witness seen below:

    1.) Did this real-life experience genuinely, actually, and truly occurred at a starter market ?

    2.) Even if an individual does all of these things that you have done and suggested, and constantly prove themselves to newsroom management, but the individual does not become a on-air reporter (meaning the news director and other newsroom management personnel does not allow them to go on-air), newsroom management flat-out deceives a job candidate that they can be an on-air reporter even though they are a newscast producer and management says “I don’t think you can be a reporter and you wouldn’t make a good one” even though the individual is constantly providing themselves to the ND and to others, or there are no on-air jobs available (even years after being hired) while newscast producer is at the 2-year mark of their contract, or the news director or general manager simply does not let the newscast producer to be an on-air reporter at all, and try to force a newsroom management career on them, or does not consider a newscast producer for any on-air job and are constantly passed over. What should a newscast producer do?

    3.) Many news directors tell job applicants to work in a small market as an associate producer or in a hybrid role to be an on-air reporter. Is this 100 percent true?

    4.) Since both you and NewsGal shared similar experiences, who is actually and truly correct?

    Many news directors say very different things and are not telling job candidates and college graduates the real truth. And are lying to them in job hiring process and when they start employment at a TV news stations. How does one truly know if a news director will genuinely and truly let a newscast producer, a photojournalist, or any other off-air employee be an on-air reporter, especially in a starter market?!

    Thank you.

    1. 1. Yes it did. To remain anonymous I’ll give you a range of markets. The market where I had this experience was in this range. (180-200)

      2. It sounds like this producer is in a toxic environment and cannot grow there. I would recommend looking for open positions at other stations. If management has not given this person an opportunity to grow and learn, as promised, by the end of 2 years, they most likely will not deliver on their promises. If manager is telling someone ” I don’t think you can be a reporter and you wouldn’t make a good one,” and not doing something to help the person who wants to learn and grow, this is a sure sign of a poor manager. Again, this person should highly consider leaving this station.

      3. Many News Directors do say this. This is because (as mentioned in the article) the more you can do, the more valuable you are. If you have learned and can perform in multiple positions in a newsroom, this is a great thing! It truly will help you in the long run and in your future career moves.

      4. What one person experiences is totally different from what another person will experience. NewsGal’s story is true for her and mine is true for me. Each person has a different path and that’s okay!

      5. Unfortunately, there are many deceptive managers out there. They may “sell” you on the job only to let you down later. (It’s happened to me too.) Get as much as you can in writing…for example…”(your name) will have the opportunity to shadow on air personalities for one day a week after the first 90 days on the job…” or something like that. This holds everyone accountable. It may be a struggle to get a manger to put things like this in writing as far as a contract goes but keep sending emails and keep their responses. The more “proof” you have, the better. Sadly, it is a gamble with managers no matter which market you end up in but, there are always loopholes and “a way out.” If a place is toxic, and hindering your progress in your career, it is okay to move on. There are always more jobs and more opportunities out there.

      Best of luck!

      1. Hello Soul Witness,

        Thank you for taking the time to respond to this reply message. I have a follow-up question (s) to your response. Some news directors in starter-market stations have said to someone who really wants to be a reporter/multi-media journalist (MMJ), but keeps getting interviews or offers for producer jobs. Here are few statements these starter market news managers will say to a job candidate who wants to be a reporter, but the managers think they will be better off as a producer. How do I know from the following statements seen below from news directors and newsroom management people if they are going to genuinely help me with my reporting endeavors when being a newscast producer?

        Starter-Market News Director # 1: “You are in the way of the information / got in the way of the information. I called the professor you listed on your resume and told him I thought you’d make a better producer than MMJ. He agreed and said you were a strong writer and quick thinker with a solid work ethic, all qualities that would make for a good producer. If you were hired as a producer, the only time I could see you working as an MMJ would be in dire, emergency news situations when we had few people to send. In such situations, I would imagine we would be on the air with special reports, a time when a producer takes control over our stations to give people the information they need. If you want to work on your reporting schools outside of work, feel free to do so. I think you’ll find your producer duties will take up most, if not all, or your day, however. That is if you give each newscast the attention and time it deserves. More than anyone else in the newsroom, the producer would be working with the viewers’ best interests in mind.”

        Note: I never applied for a producer job at this starter-market station which will not be named. I only applied for a reporter job. And, I do not know what the journalism professor genuinely said. And, other people from the journalism school and a demo reel service were pressuring me to accept the job of a producer at a starter-market where it is the only TV news station that has all four affiliates under one roof, the starter market station was on “reality television, and the starter market is in a geographical location in a particular U.S. State that is very violence, crime-prone, and currently has high rates of poverty, is not diverse (both in the television news station and in all of the towns and cities within the geographical region), and a very rural market, and does not use or update its website and social media pages regularly. I was also told by someone who knows the news director at another starter-market that the news director is a stern, demeaning leader who is not a nice person in the world and does not show any type of appreciation. I seriously had to think about everything here. I declined the position, as he wasn’t going to let me report at all if I took the position he put in front of me, I could have jeopardized my career where I would be stuck. I have declined the position by withdrawing my application. Some two months later after that, I received a telephone call from a number I do not recognize, and I let the telephone go to voicemail. It was the news director again (who was also the general manager) who said, “Do you still want the job [producer job]? Have you gotten a job yet? Has another television news station taken you? Do you still want the position?” This was exactly two months after I was no longer interested in the position and the news director true intentions displayed to me that they were trying to “use” me in being a producer and that I came from a well-known undergraduate journalism school, but have no “real, true intentions” on helping me a multi-media journalist. I was concerned about why the news director was contacting me, especially when I have declined the position months ago. I felt that this was unusual and uncomfortable that the news director was not using common sense and reasoning. So, I did not return the voicemail message call. Since then, this news director only lasted a year on the job and left, and it took them a year and a half to find someone as a producer, however, it was made as a hybrid role [producer/reporter], and it is unknown if the person is genuinely doing news reporting, or if hybrid role is only in “name-title, aspect, and the person is simply just producing and nothing else. I do not know what could have happened to me in that particular starter market especially when you have no connections or ties whatsoever.

        Mid-Market News Director # 1: I informed the news director of my goals to be a reporter and the news director said I do not want to get in the way of dreams and that I cannot guarantee a reporter position. But, informed me that news directors will say anything to get to take a job offer and then after that, does not want to speak any more of your endeavors. Yet, the news director still attempted to send me a writing test.

        Starter-Market News Director # 2: I informed this news director of my reporting endeavors. The news director said this, “newscast producers cannot be a reporter and I do not think you will be successful in this venture.” This news director did not want me at the news station and he ended up selecting someone else but suggested a producer role at one of the starter-market sister affiliates in another state that knows them.

        Others have said, “We are a large market and we cannot help you be a reporter. Go to a smaller market.” Another larger market in my area said when I applied for a production assistant position that “A production assistant role is not a stepping stone to be a television news reporter. I suggest that you go to a small-market television news station to be a news reporter, where news reporters learned how to do everything. (Note: I saw this with another individual in the business after this who was a production assistant for 6 long years at another larger-market and left the station to pursue her reporting endeavors and got a job at smaller-market. She did not help from the larger-market station in making a demo reel). The area is a top market – top # ___ national market. Without experience, again, you must go to a small-market to be a reporter. You can learn from the reporters here (e.g. go out on shoots), but you cannot be a reporter in this national market.” “For the production assistant position, we did have someone be a producer.” I withdraw my application for one because the larger market area in my area simply said they cannot help with these endeavors.

        1b.) Where these news directors and managers genuinely going to help me?

        2.) What does one do in “associate producer” positions in markets where the job states it is to solely help people be a newscast producer. What should one do if they want to be a reporter? Can this happen for them to be an on-air reporter especially if they are an associate producer? There are some TV news stations out there that will only train associate producers or producer trainees to be solely a full-fledged newscast producer but have no intentions or interest whatsoever in helping to be an on-air reporter. This has been said in job interviews.

        3.) Many news directors say very different things and are not telling job candidates and college graduates the real truth. And are lying to them in the job hiring process and when they start employment at a local TV news station affiliate. How does one truly know if a news director will genuinely and truly let a newscast producer, a photojournalist, or any other off-air employee be an on-air reporter, especially in a starter market?!

        4.) Do production assistant positions truly lead to on-air roles and on-air reporting?

        5.) What should the journalism schools, especially the undergraduate journalism schools must do to really prepare students in the field when coming across circumstances, conflicts, and dilemma like theses? Many journalism schools across the country, including the one I went to, do not tell college graduates and college students the real-life truth about this business and what news directors are like, and how students and graduates must find the right television news affiliates and starter markets for them. I think the journalism schools are withholding information, do not wish to discuss it in courses, and do not wish to help (my school despite being “known” did not want to help me. This includes classmates and alumni). What should they really be doing? I think journalism schools know the real, honest, true, authentic, genuine truth about this business, yet they do not want to reveal anything or help the students and graduates.

        6.) What should one do if none of the TV news stations, and starter markets in all 50 U.S. States and the U.S. territories of Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, American Virgin Islands, British Cayman Islands, their hometown, the Nation’s capital, all 8 provinces of Canada, and simply all geographical markets and locations in the United States of America and North America are not giving them a chance as a producer or reporter to get their foot in the door to eventually be a news reporter / multi-media journalist?

        7.) What should college students and college graduates do if their journalism school, and journalism professors, classmates, alumni, internship connections, and journalism professionals, and journalism organizations are not really helping them as claimed or if the journalism professors are not giving them good advice and simply suggest to someone to “work for free” and “do your own MMJ news stories for free?”

        Thank you for taking the time writing this message.

        1. I understand all of your concerns. It is smart to talk to several people who are or have been employed at a station to see what the atmosphere is like. It’s important to do your research but….Please don’t take this advice or my statements as offensive. I’m simply trying to shed some light on your situation…. I feel like you are over thinking things BIG TIME. You’re never going to know unless you DO something. It seems like you’re spending way too much of your time over analyzing every word someone else says or writes. I understand that getting a first or second or even third job can be a very scary thing. Moving can be very scary. Starting over can be scary. BUT you have to do it if you want to further your career. Like my article says….you have to “be there.” If you keep turning down jobs that aren’t perfect you may miss a ton of opportunities. No job is perfect and it never will be. There will be bad days no matter which profession you choose. It sounds like you may just need to make a decision and “go with the flow.” I understand weighing all the pros and cons of a certain job and living in a certain city. It’s great to do that to narrow down where you want to live and what you want to do but you have to take some chances. Most likely you won’t retire from the first job you ever had. It’s okay to move around a little and hold various positions. You never know when those experiences will help you get your dream job!

          Some of your follow up questions are similar to the first set of questions so I’d suggest going over my responses again. I can’t tell you exactly how to live your life but I can tell you to take some chances and conquer your fears. Someone WILL hire you!!!! It seems like you’re very thorough and very intelligent! TV may not be the option for you right now but there are a lot of other media jobs besides TV. You could help shoot movies or documentaries or commercials for a company with no ties to a particular TV station, you could create content for a university or company as a staff member on their PR team, you can get your own gear, start your own company and create content for businesses, you could work for museums who create their own videos and do their own documentaries, and so on.

          If being in local news or in the news business is a dream of yours, keep working toward your goal. BUT realize you may have to take a few detours on your path. Each person’s story and journey is different! There’s no “wrong” or “right” way to do it! Keep your head up and keep on living your life and writing your own story!!

  2. Some producers just want to be producers. Being on air isn’t the end all, be all.

    1. Could you explain what you mean by your statement “being on-air isn’t the end-all, be-all?” What should newscast producers really do if they genuinely and truly want to be on-air/on-air news reporter/MMJ?

      1. Hello! I don’t mean to butt-in but I think what they mean is that not every producer wants to be on air. If that’s not your dream, that’s okay!! When I was a producer, I LOVED it! However, when I was ready to make the transition to on air, it was what I really wanted to do. I have all of the things I did to go from Producer to Reporter in the article. Those steps worked for me. If you read the article and disagree, that’s okay too! Each person’s story and journey is different! Best of luck!!

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