What to Expect When Working in a National Newsroom

I’m thrilled to introduce a guest post from fellow former NBC Page and savvy media expert Lisa Granshaw, who has agreed to share her experiences working in a national newsroom for NBC’s Nightly News. If your dream is to work with the likes of Brian Williams and Matt Lauer, it’s important to know what to expect. Read on for a first-hand look at life behind the newsroom door. 

During college, I had five internships where I worked in radio and television for national and local news organizations. When I finally entered the working world though, I discovered even those experiences didn’t prepare me for a full-time position working in a newsroom. As an intern even at a prestigious show like ABC’s World News you’re still in the student bubble and not treated as completely part of the team.

So when I started working as a production assistant at NBC’s Nightly News, I discovered that a few things weren’t quite what I expected. If you’ve always dreamed of working in a national newsroom, here are a few things you should expect going in.

Forget 9 to 5.
It’s very true that news doesn’t sleep. This is something you see, learn about, and kind of expect if you have experience even as an intern working in news, but when that becomes your life the experience might not be as glamorous as you anticipated. While many of your other friends will have pretty set schedules, yours will be at the mercy of the news cycle. That means you might find yourself working late not just one day a week, but multiple days. Your work schedule can extend to working 12 hours a day even as you’re about to walk out the door.

You never know when something is going to happen, which is part of the fun of working in news. However after a while, the schedule can take a toll on you and your social life. Be prepared for your schedule to change at any time and to be fully at the mercy of the news.

News doesn’t take weekends or holidays off.
This is something you also get a taste of as an intern. Of course newsrooms need to be staffed on weekends as well as holidays. Most of the time it seems like people take turns and it’s not one person stuck taking those shifts, but understand that there are positions where working weekends can be your normal schedule. Your new weekend may become Tuesday and Wednesday.

Holidays are also not rotated as much as you might like, and you don’t get out of working holidays when you work your way up the ladder. Even once you’re higher up you’ll find yourself needing to work Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s Day. There’s often a feeling of camaraderie being stuck in the office during these times without your families, so it’s not all bad as you bond with your co-workers. However you need to know you might be working holidays for years to come and be okay with that time away from your family and friends.

Most work isn’t glamorous.
As an intern you may have gone out on shoots and helped producers with in-person interviews, but when you’re a production assistant and researcher a lot of your time will be taken up with less glamorous tasks. You will be sitting at your desk answering phones, running tapes back and forth between producers and editors, and typing out interviews verbatim.

You may also have opportunities to go out on shoots and become involved in stories more directly, but especially when starting out you should understand that you’ll mostly be taking on the grunt work.

A lot of your work won’t change the world.
Many people want to become journalists and get into news to make a difference. They have this idealistic view of the industry, which is perpetuated by books and TV shows like HBO’s The Newsroom. While it is possible for the stories you work on to make a difference, the majority of your work in a national TV newsroom will also revolve around what will get the show better ratings. For example, a story about the royal family in England will most likely catch more eyes than a story about poverty in Ohio.

That’s just the truth about working in TV, even in news. It’s all about the ratings. This means you may have to pick your battles when fighting to cover certain stories and understand that you won’t be working on stories that will change the world everyday.

None of these expectations are meant to deter you from pursuing your career in a national TV newsroom, however I’ve seen too many people go in with this vision of what it’s going to be like and be disappointed. Know what to expect, prepare yourself, and if you still love it then you’ll be able to have a great career in a broadcast newsroom!

Lisa Granshaw is a full-time freelance writer and career consultant based in New York City. Her work has appeared on numerous websites including TODAY.com, the Daily Dot, MSN, and The Huffington Post. Her company, Media Career Consulting LLC, offers a variety of consulting services to young professionals interested in a career in the media and communications industry.

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