How To Get Your First News Job
by Ike Pigott


1. Network

Find classmates a year or two ahead of you that got jobs, and find out what kind of openings they anticipate. They ought to have a feel for who will be around, and who won't in a few months. Get them a tape. Get a tape to the news director there.

2. Be prepared to like Ramen.

Seriously. Your first job will be somewhere just above the poverty line. Don't kid yourself.

3. Get clothes now.

Hint to all of your relatives and friends that clothing (preferably professional-looking suits) would be a handy gift this year. Build your wardrobe now. (See 2 above)

4. Get a handheld organizer.

A Palm (Handspring, Handera, Sony) is so cheap these days, and so useful in your future profession, you ought to be begging for this for Christmas as well.

5. Maintain a good driving record.

Maybe it's too late for this advice, but avoiding tickets and accidents means a potential employer can hire you. In most small markets, if they can't insure you, you're SOL. (So Outta Luck)

6. Be flexible.

When I was sending out resumes and tapes, I actually sent stuff to Fairbanks, Alaska. Not because I wanted to. But you have to start somewhere.

7. Learn how to read a map.

This won't necessarily help you get your first job, but the sooner you know how to get around, the sooner you can get comfortable in a strange place.

8. Get a hobby (cheap).

Wherever you go, have a hobby or past time away from the business. You'll probably be lonely where you are, and finding something to do to ground yourself into whatever community you're in makes a big difference. If you swim, then volunteer to teach a swim class. If you play guitar, find some people and jam. Go to the Y and take a martial art. You'll feel better.

9. Be humble.

I don't care where you went to college. I mean it. Most news directors are that way too. Going to "such-and-such" prestigious journalism school means nothing. If you can't deliver the goods, you'll be delivering pizzas. By the goods, I mean good, solid stories. Accurate. Concise. Video-audio matching. Presence. Dignity. Conversational writing. All of that blossoms out of you the more you work at it. Remember - - nobody owes you a job.

10. Become a good listener.

This may help you on your interview, so pay attention. When other people's lips are moving, words might be coming out. You can learn a lot from them. Many times, you can learn more from what people *aren't* saying than what they are. (See chapter 5 of "the 7 habits of highly effective people" by Steven Covey.)

I can't tell you how many times I've seen rookie reporters going out on a story, and coming back with nothing more than they left with. More often than not, it's because they decided what the story was before they went out the door, and didn't listen out for anything that might improve it.

You have to be as comfortable talking to a homeless man as you are talking to Donald Trump. The mayor should get no more respect from you than the girl popping gum behind the check-out counter. This isn't an *attitude* that you cop when you need it. This is something you should start to develop, though. You'll know that you've arrived when you can talk high art in the museum, and then talk about pro wrestling. Don't be phony, though - - most people have better sensitivity in their BS detectors than we give them credit for.

I can't guarantee that these 10 things will get you a job. But they can't hurt. E-Mail me at

Editor's Note:

    Ike Pigott is the Senior Reporter for ABC 33/40 in Birmingham, AL. He has been in broadcasting since June 1987, in a variety of TV production and radio news jobs. Ike stepped out in front of the camera in 1992, and since moving to Birmingham, has twice been honored as Alabama AP's Best Reporter, and has started independent consulting.

    Ike is a graduate of the University of Alabama (see rule 9), is married (see rule 10), and teaches Kung Fu in his spare time (see rule 8).

    Ike no longer eats Ramen. Is this a great country or *what*!?!

Editor's Note - Update 2/12/2004:

    Ike Pigott left broadcasting after 16-1/2 years and now is the Public Affairs Administrator for the Birmingham, AL chapter of the American Red Cross.

    Before leaving he Won AP for Best Reporter 3 times and won an Emmy for News Writing.

    Ike now eats Ramen by choice, and not because he has to.

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