In the age of the multimedia newsroom journalist, is there still a place for the professional broadcaster? And with audiences still expecting a higher calibre of reporting on their TV screen than on the internet, how easy is it for journalists to make the transition from print to broadcasting?
Adrian Warner, Olympics correspondent for BBC London TV, spent 21years as a print journalist, working at Reuters and the Evening Standard, before taking the plunge into broadcasting. He says: ‘Journalism is all about getting stories and that doesn’t change. The inevitable difference is once you have your information, how you communicate it is vastly different.”
While the core journalism skills remain the same, there are elements to broadcasting that Warner’s former Fleet Street colleagues perhaps do not appreciate, such as scriptwriting, an art that is often underestimated. ‘Viewers will watch a piece and think it was good report, but won’t necessarily realise it is because of the script,’he says.
‘It’s all about linking the sound and words and picture together so they belong. People talk about great writers in Fleet Street, but you don’t ever hear about great scriptwriters, and they are doing an equally good and challenging job.”
But while your words can always be subbed or recrafted by somebody else, in broadcasting there is one time when you really are all alone – going live. Warner adds: ‘You don’t know whether you can do a live until someone says the word ‘cue’.
‘Print journalists underestimate how difficult it is because those who do it well make it look easy. You can be a fantastic journalist but you might not be the right person to stand in front of the camera. It’s all about timing and staying calm.”
Sometimes, your personality can indicate that perhaps live broadcasting isn’t the right path for you. Being shy, panicking under pressure, and having a face that gives it all away aren’t the ideal traits. Performance and pretending everything is under control, even when you may not have a clue what you’re doing next, are key to surviving live television.
Radio is often a good way to test the waters. There is one less thing to worry about – how you look – and radio is the route taken by many future television journalists.
Just as many in the broadcast industry value journalists from a newspaper background, radio is seen as an excellent place to cut your teeth before launching yourself on to people’s television screens.
The modern journalist, however, is increasingly expected to have the skills to tell stories in print, audio, or video form.
Warner adds: ‘We are expected to have all these skills – having them is the way we’ll survive. We don’t have to be great at all of them, but we can’t afford to be good at just one or the other.”