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Ask Rene: I Wanna Be A Broadcaster

Hi Rene,

I’m a broadcasting major who has had a very, very difficult time balancing school and parenting. My dream career has always been to be a journalist, but have not been successful at balancing my home life (I have 3 children) and my education. My grades suffer terribly because my education seems to always take a back seat to other things in my life. I’m 28 years old and now I’m starting to feel like my dreams of becoming a journalist are beginning to fade away. Do you have any advice for me as to what it is that I should do about my dilemma? Thanks so much for taking time to read and answer my question.

Signed Dreams Deferred

Dear Dreams:

You know that I no longer work in the industry and while I could see myself going back to TV, it will never be TV news.  However, I spent quite a lot of time in the trenches before working my way up to the network so I think I can offer you a bit of perspective.  Before I go on let me say do not let anything I say or anyone else for that matter deter you; if your dream is to work in TV news then make it happen. But you’re ultimately going to have to decide if it’s worth the sacrifice you will have to make.  Let’s break this up by pros and cons.

PROS:

IT’S EXCITING: I got into TV news because I enjoyed reporting. Notice I did not say anchoring or being on TV, which is something I hear budding journalists say a lot. I had a thirst for knowledge that continues to this day. I loved to inform and educate as well as the thrill of reporting from the scene of breaking news.  I started as a general assignment reporter in Reno, Nevada making $15,000.00 a year. But it was never about the money; I loved the job so much I would have done it for a lot less.

IT’S REWARDING: Anyone who does what they love, knows this feeling. If you are jazzed by the prospects of what I just mentioned then you should absolutely stop at nothing to get there.

CONS:

LONG HOURS: When you’re starting out you will be at the bottom of the employment rotation. That means you’ll probably be working holidays and weekends as news never takes a break. In breaking news situations, you will work until they don’t need you anymore.

SALARY: The money is not great, especially when you’re starting out in smaller markets and to be honest, economic conditions in the industry now dictate that everyone do more with less, including money. I mentioned that I made $15,000.00 a year in Reno; I barely got by and I was single. You don’t say whether you’re married but if you are not, will you be able to provide for your kids on that money?

FREQUENT RELOCATION: The traditional career path is to start in small markets or cities and work your way up. That means you’ll probably be moving every couple of years for at least the first 5 or 6 years of your career.  You will have to weigh what sort of impact that will have on your family.

You don’t mention WHY you want to go into broadcasting and that might be worth a closer look. It’s long on hard work and short on glamour. Okay, so let’s say you still want to pursue this as a career path, the question is how to get it done without compromising your family life? As with any really big task it helps when you break it down into smaller, more manageable chunks. Take on only what you can manage and hit it out of the park. If that means going to school part-time, so be it because running a household and raising kids is a full-time gig. But if you cut back your school hours you won’t graduate as quickly.

Unfortunately you could have one more strike against you and that is your age. While 28 is not old, by the time you graduate and get a job you’ll be 30, a good five to seven years older than your co-workers.  If you spend three years each on the next three jobs, you’ll be 39 before you make it to the place you plan to settle. While most people don’t consider 39 to be old, you don’t see a lot of women that age just coming into those big market positions. Of course, that’s not in every case and you could certainly be the exception to that.

So, you have a lot to think about and digest. What I would recommend right now is looking into getting an internship. Get inside a newsroom and really see if this is what you want to do. You might get in there and decide you don’t have the temperament for it or you’d rather take another position within a newsroom. Your guidance counselor can help you with that.

Good luck in whatever you decide to do!

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