Reporter 101 – Get a Mentor….Fast!

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When I’m not reporting, I teach for Mediabistro. They are a kick-ass, forward-thinking company that’s kind of like a watercooler for media types, and they offer some amazing resources to learn, hone skills, find about jobs, and network.

I teach the basics of news reporting for TV. Many of my students have gone on to careers as reporters. I keep in touch with many of them. I’ll never turn away an email, which brings me to my point – get a mentor….fast.

You need perspective. And a cheerleader. Everyone does. I’ve had great mentors. In no particular order, I’d like to thank Alicia Vitarelli (now an anchor/reporter at WPVI) , who was instrumental in me getting my first reporting job; Dave Feuerman (Assistant ND at News 12 CT) who gave me my first big break; two amazing women who taught me, among other things, the meaning of the word gracious, Rosanna Scotto (Anchor at Fox 5) and Liz Cho (Anchor at WABC) and Matt Pitzer (now a Sr. Producer at MSNBC) who gave me the confidence to conquer NYC. (Btw, in no way is this list comprehensive)

At times, these mentors offered me advice on how to tell a better story, told me what I was wearing wasn’t working, and complimented me when I did something compliment-worthy.

I remember early on in my career I had a story about Β a man who was arrested for causing his girlfriend’s little son’s death. The police report said the toddler died due to “blunt force trauma to the head.” My live shot was something going to be something along the lines of “Police arrested 35-year-old Bob Smith for the death of his girlfriend’s child. Police say the toddler died due to blunt force trauma.” I knew this story was important and called up my mentor, Liz Cho and relayed to her what I was going to say. She told me it sounded like such a horrible, sad story, and asked me what I thought blunt force trauma meant. After a 5 minute phone call, my intro changed to, “This is such a senseless, horrible story. Police arrested 35-year-old Bob Smith today. They say he beat his girlfriend’s child so badly, the little boy died.” Seems so simple, doesn’t it? Liz Cho gave me my wings that day – and if you’ve ever watched my work, you know I took her simple advice – it’s ok to react to Β a story – translate police talk into easy-to-understand words – to heart.

Here’s a story I did recently about a topic where I feel there’s a lot of viewer fatigue – iPhone theft. Taking the lessons I learned all those years ago, I wrote it simply as if I was telling a friend. As a result, I received what I considered a high compliment from a viewer the other day – that I’m the same on TV as I am in person. Thank you to that viewer, and thank you to my mentors!

PS – I’m starting my latest Introduction to ReportingΒ class tonight.

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