No matter the platform, a journalist is a journalist. Reporters don’t have to feel defined by the label of print or broadcast, and openness to learning new skills can lead to an unexpected and fulfilling career path.
On Saturday, Rebecca Aguilar, founder of the #CallingAllJournalists Initiative, Mary Chao, Scripps news specialty reporter, Bryan Horwath, KTNV-TV reporter and Nicolle Praino, Nashville Post reporter, hosted the “Switching News Platforms to Expand Your Opportunities” panel at the Society of Professional Journalists conference at the Planet Hollywood Hotel and Casino.
“I have switched platforms multiple times,” Praino said. “I have bounced from newspapers in college and local TV for a little while producing, to CNN doing fact checking research behind the scenes, to editing a local small town newspaper in North Alabama.”
Aguilar spoke candidly on being fired after 28 years in television news. Despite receiving Emmys and over 50 awards, she built new skills while learning the intricacies of print journalism.
“Even a veteran like me, it’s never too late to learn. That’s the beauty of switching platforms,” Aguilar said.
Difficulties when switching from print to broadcast journalism include the technical skills of video editing, appearing comfortable on camera and managing tight deadlines. Television also requires a larger behind-the-scenes team than a print writer who may be working with a single editor.
But certain skill sets are transferable, such as print journalists bringing a background for in-depth research. Sentences must be shortened to be television ready, but mastering concise writing can help with crafting conversational print pieces.
Conversely, switching from broadcast to print offers the challenges of learning AP Style rules, seeking out details and InDesign layout.
“TV is three dimensional, so you don’t need as many words when you’re working in print. We have to write the descriptive details because we don’t have the aid of being visual,” Chao said.
The panel emphasized the importance of finding a mentor in the field. It may require patience to find someone willing to invest in a mentee. Reaching out to people you admire on social media could lead to important connections.
There is not one clear path on the journalism journey. Praino did not take broadcast classes in college, but instead ran cameras at a local TV station. She began staying after work to learn skills from a producer that would later become a mentor, leading Praino to receive a producer position.
“Don’t expect to learn it overnight. Switching platforms is baby steps,” Horwath said.
Tips from the panelists include setting your ego aside to receive help from younger journalists and finding an edge that can be applied to any medium, such as a specialization in fact checking and investigation.
“In the multimedia world, the more skills you have the better,” Chao said. “I believe in lifelong learning.”