As a broadcast journalist, your role is rooted in communication, finding stories and making them known to the public in a fast but coherent way
Broadcast journalists research, investigate and present news and current affairs content for television, radio and the internet. Their aim is to present information in a balanced, accurate and interesting way through news bulletins, documentaries and other factual programmes.
Broadcast journalists can occupy a number of roles within the media including:
- presenter/news anchor
Although exact duties and responsibilities vary from role to role and between radio, television and the internet, as a broadcast journalist you'll be involved in many of the following duties:
- generating ideas for stories and features and following leads from news agencies, the police, the public, press conferences and other sources
- pitching ideas to editors and commissioners
- researching, verifying and collating evidence and information to support a story using relevant information sources such as the internet, archives, databases, etc.
- writing scripts for bulletins, headlines and reports
- selecting appropriate locations, pictures and sound and exercising editorial judgement on the best angle from which to approach a story
- identifying necessary resources and deploying and managing technical crews for location shoots, including sound operators and camera crew
- providing directorial input, advising crews on what to film or record
- using portable digital video (DV) cameras and other equipment to record material
- producing complete packages for broadcast
- preparing and presenting material 'on air' for both pre-recorded and live pieces
- identifying potential interviewees, briefing them, preparing interview questions and conducting both live and recorded interviews
- preparing timings for each news item and monitoring these during broadcast
- deciding on the running order for bulletins and making any necessary changes during broadcast
- collaborating with the editor to put together the completed programme or item
- developing and maintaining local contacts and assuming a public relations role
- understanding and complying with media law and industry codes of conduct.
- Starting salaries vary significantly between local and national broadcasters but can range from around £15,000 to £24,000.
- At senior level or with several years' experience, salaries may range from £30,000 to £60,000. The most experienced and high-profile journalists in television may command salaries of £80,000+.
Wages differ depending on the employer and the location.
Pay tends to be higher in television than radio. Independent local radio posts tend to offer the lowest starting salaries.
Additional allowances may be paid for shift work and unsocial hours and a London weighting may be available. Freelance reporters often have individually negotiated contracts.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
Working hours typically include regular unsocial hours. Shift work is common, starting early to cover regional news on breakfast radio and television shows or working mid-morning until late evening for afternoon and evening bulletins. Weekend work is often required and most broadcasters do not take public holidays.
On-air presenters are less likely to go out on location to cover stories and their working hours may be more predictable.
What to expect
- The media can be an uncertain industry in terms of job security, and people are often employed on short-term contracts. Many broadcast journalists work as freelancers and may have to relocate or travel according to the availability of work.
- Diversity in the media is still an issue. Working to address this imbalance are initiatives such as BBC Extend, Creative Diversity Network, Journalism Diversity Fund and the George Viner Memorial Fund.
- Job opportunities can be found across the UK. Work for network stations tend to be in London or regionally based. There are usually more opportunities at local level, through regional stations. Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) and online media have opened up many new opportunities across radio and television.
- The work can be stressful; broadcast journalists always work to strict deadlines and need to react as and when a story breaks. The work sometimes involves interacting with people at moments of crisis or tragedy, which can be emotionally challenging.
- There is frequent travel within a working day and absence from home at night. Overseas work or travel is occasional but more common for specialist correspondents.
There are three main entry routes into broadcast journalism:
- direct entry into a traineeship
- moving across from print journalism (usually for those with several years of experience)
- 'pre-entry' by completing an accredited degree or postgraduate qualification.
Although this area of work is open to all graduates, a degree in one of these subjects may increase your chances, particularly if you wish to pursue a career as a special correspondent:
The industry is divided over the value of general media studies degrees, so it is worth investigating which courses have industry recognition or recommendation and studying the success rates of their alumni.
Details of relevant courses can be obtained from the following accrediting bodies:
Postgraduate entry is the most common route to this profession. The BJTC and NCTJ also accredit postgraduate courses that offer both theoretical and practical training. Search for postgraduate courses in journalism.
Information about funding for postgraduate study is available from the BJTC.
The media has introduced a number of initiatives to encourage applications from traditionally under-represented groups, such as the Journalism Diversity Fund. Support is available for those who may not have studied in higher education. Details of many schemes are available through the Creative Diversity Network.
Two postgraduate bursaries are available from the Guardian Media Group's Scott Trust Bursary Scheme, a programme that encourages graduates from diverse social and/or ethnic backgrounds to apply.
You will need to show evidence of the following:
- an interest in people, news, current affairs and a good general knowledge
- excellent written and oral communication skills
- confidence in front of a camera and an 'on air' presence
- an understanding of appropriate technical equipment and relevant editing software
- the ability to work under pressure, both within teams and individually
- outstanding analytical skills and ability to absorb, extract and present information in a clear and understandable way
- the ability to build rapport and to handle interactions with sensitivity, empathy and diplomacy, while maintaining impartiality
- excellent interviewing and listening skills
- an eye for a story, with an ability to generate original ideas and the confidence to pitch to senior editors
- tenacity, persistence, resourcefulness and creative problem-solving skills.
Language skills may be an advantage for certain roles.
Competition for both traineeships and unpaid work placements at larger network stations is fierce.
As well as applying via recruitment departments, try contacting individual editors or producers directly at local stations. Local press, hospital radio and community media (Community Media Association) are excellent training grounds, as is any involvement in student media (largely magazine, newspaper or radio).
Applications, even for work experience, will be stronger if accompanied by demo tapes or cuttings and student media is an ideal place to start building a portfolio. Make yourself known to as many people as possible, be flexible and available at all times. Volunteer to get involved wherever you can and be proactive.
There are no age restrictions for entry. Skills, experience and qualifications are the main criteria for selection.
Employers of broadcast journalists include:
- Channel 4
- Channel 5
- Press Association
- independent production companies
- digital, cable and satellite networks.
Competition for jobs with network broadcasters is extremely tough. However, digital broadcasting has created new openings for broadcast journalists, with 24-hour news channels, niche programming and increased opportunities in ethnic broadcasting.
Employers from the radio sector include BBC national and regional stations, as well as local and national commercial radio stations. For contact details, see:
Look for job vacancies at:
- BBC Jobs
- Guardian Jobs
- Hold the Front Page
- ITV Jobs
- Media Week
- Press Gazette
A small number of recruitment agencies specialise in journalism. Some presenters may use an agent.
If you have completed an accredited course, you will be expected to have completed the necessary basic training.
For those who have not come via this route, gaining an understanding of media law and health and safety is normally considered an immediate training need.
A substantial amount of training will be informal and 'on the job'. It is usual for trainee journalists to initially be assigned basic tasks such as working autocues and fetching tapes and gaining a general insight into the whole process, before they move into more specific and responsible roles.
As budgets are stretched, multi-skilling is becoming more necessary. Many broadcast journalists find that they are now responsible for recording and editing their own footage. Acquiring knowledge and understanding of technical equipment and the relevant software is currently a key training need. Many employers will therefore require and support training in these areas.
The media is a fast-paced, evolving industry. Its professional bodies recognise the need to support journalists in their continuing professional development (CPD) in order to stay ahead of the game. Find out more from:
- Creative Skillset, the Sector Skills Council for the Creative Industries
- National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ)
- National Union of Journalists (NUJ)
Short courses include negotiating contracts, public relations, sub-editing, interviewing skills, as well as new technologies.
Broadcast journalists who start in television will often begin as newsroom assistants or researchers before moving into a reporting role.
As you gain more experience, there is scope to specialise in different areas. You may choose to focus on pursuing a senior broadcast journalist role, with responsibility for managing news staff and budgets, or you may prefer to become a studio-based news anchor or presenter.
There is the possibility of becoming a correspondent, although these positions are highly coveted and rarely become available.
Investigative journalism or documentary journalism can be suitable career-development alternatives. Those who wish to move behind the scenes may become programme editors, sub-editors or producers.
Radio differs slightly in that trainees are normally given greater responsibility earlier on. Depending on the size of the station, they may even find that they have sole responsibility for a newsroom from the outset.
You would usually progress to positions at larger commercial or network stations or across into television.