What Is a TV Journalist?

Explore the career requirements for TV journalists. Get the facts about education requirements, job duties, work environment and salaries to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Journalism degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a TV Journalist?

A television journalist reports the news using on-camera interviews and on-scene footage. They can cover events at the local, national and international levels, and may research their assigned stories prior to interviewing experts in the field. They may also do follow-up stories to give the public new information or update them on a particular situation. Television journalists also help with the editing of their stories, provide voiceovers and may prepare the story for coverage on television as well as online. In today's world, these professionals typically keep up with social media and provide a presence on various outlets for their audience. The following chart gives an overview of this popular career.

Degree Required Bachelor's
Education Field of Study Broadcast journalism, mass communications
Key Responsibilities Reporting, interviewing, researching, writing, editing
Job Forecast (2014-24) -8% (reporters and correspondents)*
Mean Salary (2015) $51,430 (reporters and correspondents, television and radio broadcasting)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Does a TV Journalist Do?

As a TV journalist, you're responsible for reporting on the news to your viewers. Your main focus is to research news events in order to compile presentable stories. This may include traveling to the scene of events and interviewing those involved, like bystanders or police officers. You may also conduct research in order to provide a more accurate and complete story. When covering a scheduled event, you might spend time observing the occasion and then have the opportunity to complete interviews in a more controlled environment.

Once you have the material gathered for a story, you'll need to write your script, produce the piece and complete any necessary editing. In some cases, you'll report from a scene while incorporating pre-recorded elements into your story; this may require a mixture of live reporting and previously edited material. Throughout all of your work as a TV journalist, you'll work closely with producers, camera operators and technical crew members.

In some cases, you may work as a commentator. This is a specialized field within TV journalism in which you offer opinions on the news rather than reporting. This work typically involves much less production. Instead, you'll observe the news, write your opinions and then present them on the air.

Where Might I Work?

With the exception of commentating, which is primarily traditional, office-based work, TV journalism will require long, uneven hours in what can often be a variety of settings. You may be asked to respond to events as they occur, which may result in unexpected travel; you may not have a clear understanding of how long you'll be working on a given story.

Sometimes you'll report from events that are benign in nature, such as parades or festivals. You may also report from areas that involve threatening circumstances, such as wars, natural disasters or terrorism-related situations. While some TV journalists complete production and editing work using field equipment, you may also complete this type of work at your television studio's offices. You'll often be working under tight deadlines, so even when you're working from the relative comfort of the studio, your pace may be frenzied.

What Education Will I Need?

Most employers will prefer that you possess a bachelor's degree. While relevant training can be provided through several types of liberal arts degrees - like English or political science - the most applicable fields of study for this career are broadcast journalism and mass communications. These programs will develop your skills in writing, reporting, editing and production. Most of these programs include a mixture of lecture-based and hands-on courses; you'll gain experience with cameras, editing equipment and other tools of broadcasting.

In addition to a postsecondary education, employers will also be looking at your experience in the real world. It will be essential that you complement your studies with as much journalism experience as you can manage. This may include on-campus opportunities with a radio station or student-run newspaper. You might consider working part-time or during extended school breaks at a local television station; these stations occasionally offer aspiring TV journalists low-level opportunities, such as copyediting or research jobs.

What Salary is Possible?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), radio and TV journalists had a mean annual salary of $51,430 in May 2015 (www.bls.gov). Those working for cable and other subscription-based TV stations in 2015 had an annual mean salary of $54,780. The BLS notes that more than 11,000 out of roughly 41,000 employed reporters worked in television and radio in 2015; the majority of reporters worked in print journalism.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Editors, technical writers and public relations specialists are a few of the similar positions that require a bachelor's degree. Editors are responsible for ensuring the readability and correcting errors in different types of written works. They may prepare books, magazines, newspapers and more for publication. Technical writers prepare the written content on complex subjects, such as information one would find in a how-to-guide. They may specialize in a particular area or subject. Public relations specialists develop and conserve a positive public image for their particular organization. They may do this through social media, media releases, marketing and more.

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