Rachel Wulff, a reporter and anchor, gave students a wake-up call on Monday morning. She’s a seasoned journalist and has worked for TV stations in the D.C. area, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Ohio, and Louisiana. But the road to success hasn’t been smooth, and it won’t be smooth for us either. Wulff waited tables, freelanced, got layed off, and lived on next to nothing to pursue what she loves. Are we willing to do the same?
If you really want to be in broadcasting, that facade will burst, she told the class, referring to the glamorous image of the celebrity reporter. She added, the lifestyle of a freelancer isn’t for a “cub reporter.” You have to really want it, and you have to be willing to make sacrifices.
Wulff stat: “50% is what you know. The other 50% is who you know.”
Essentially, I was assured that I would work hard for less. The only way to do such a thing is if you wake up every morning loving your job.
You have to be a niche reporter, or an expert on something, she said. What I found interesting, though, was that although the expectations have raised, the quality has decreased.
Wulff showed us a video of an in-depth investigative report that she produced herself that ran well over the typical package length. She said the station, WDSU, no longer employed an I-team producer, and that reporters are slowly writing their own material now. With more work and fewer hands, the quality diminishes, she said.
I saw the news belt tighten first hand this summer. I interned at NBC Nightly News with the investigative producers. Before I came, the station had its own “investigative unit,” that continuously worked on investigative stories. Now, the station hosts two investigative producers, one investigative correspondant, and no more than 4 minutes per package.
But rest assured, she said, there’s plenty of work to go around for eager young reporters. “The stories won’t write themselves,” she said, so we must go out there and offer our help. It’s easy to get burned out, she warned, so always have a Plan B.