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Broadcast Journalist - Job Profile

About the role

The majority of Broadcast Journalists working in Radio supply news content, for one or more different outlets, ranging from single local radio stations to international news organisations, and their related websites. They may be part of a small local team, or based in a regional or national newsroom, or in a foreign bureau. Some Broadcast Journalists may also work from home, utilising broadband and other technology to supply material to broadcasters or other employers.

The job title Broadcast Journalist is used widely in the BBC where it is a specific grade – as well as a job role - within the career structure for BBC journalists in local radio and for those supplying news to the national radio networks. In Commercial Radio the job titles Journalist, Broadcast Journalist and Reporter (link) may be used for fairly similar roles according to the practice of the particular station or news organisation.

What is the Job?

Radio Broadcast Journalists identify, research and present news stories for a wide range of audiences. Most are expected to broadcast on air: presenting news bulletins, recording interviews, voicing news items or longer features. Although the role can overlap with that of a Reporter, in some parts of the BBC in particular, the distinction between Broadcast Journalist and Reporter or Newsreader roles may be greater, in which case the emphasis of the Broadcast Journalist job may be more on news planning, researching, briefing reporters or presenters, writing, editing and producing material originated by others.

Broadcast Journalists may be required to work a variety of shift patterns, including night shifts, weekends and holidays. When working on news items, they must be prepared to travel, sometimes long distances, at any hour of the day or night, to gather the relevant information. They are responsible for generating ideas, researching background data, assessing the value and accuracy of ideas and information from other sources, and pitching ideas or presenting news items for consideration by Editors, Commissioners, or other decision makers.

Radio Broadcast Journalists carry out thorough research into all item ideas, including using personal contacts, and identifying relevant background articles and features, suitable interviewees and locations, and relevant audio archive material. They should know how to access, evaluate and use all relevant information sources and, in some cases, image sources including libraries, archives, the internet, and academic and other research documents. They are expected to understand and comply with media law, regulation and industry codes. They prepare questions, and where possible, brief interviewees in advance. They conduct interviews and gather suitable illustrative and background material to enable them to tell a story with sound. Increasingly Radio Broadcast Journalists may also be required to take photographs or shoot basic video footage to illustrate their story on websites.

They should be able to operate a radio studio and be able to record audio both in a studio and on location. They must also be able to identify equipment and other resource requirements so that they are properly technically equipped to record required interviews and other audio material. Once the material has been recorded onto the required format, or acquired from other sources, Broadcast Journalists edit the material - selecting relevant sections of interviews and other materials - using suitable computer editing software packages. They must ensure that they meet the timing and duration requirements of each item, segment or programme. They may also have to present precisely timed live on air links into previously edited packages. Broadcast Journalists working as news readers must be able to research, write and present news bulletins, working to precise timings and tight deadlines. In addition, some Broadcast Journalists in Radio may be required to write material for websites, blogs or other platforms, and to prepare visual images and video footage as well as audio material for online use.

Typical career routes

There are broadly three entry routes into Broadcast Journalism in Radio: traineeships offered by a few of the larger employers; moving into radio after first working as a print journalist; or completing an accredited pre-entry degree or post-graduate qualification. Employers also look for evidence of interest in, and hands-on experience of radio broadcasting, particularly skills gained through community radio, student or hospital radio.

Career progression often involves moving to a larger station, to a programme with a wider audience or from a local to a regional or national service. Broadcast Journalists may become Reporters, Specialist Correspondents, Presenters, and Bulletin or Programme Editors. They may also move into Programme Production or Management roles.

Essential knowledge and skills

Broadcast Journalists need the following:
a sense of what makes a good news story
the ability to generate original ideas and to think creatively about how to communicate them
excellent writing and story-telling skills which they can adapt for different audiences and platforms
an understanding of how to use their voice to communicate effectively with listeners
knowledge of the Radio market, different station and programme styles and audience demographics
curiosity and inquisitiveness, a willingness to ask questions but also to listen
the confidence and tenacity to pursue information, overcome obstacles and pitch ideas to senior colleagues
ability to work independently but also as part of a team
self-motivation and adaptability
ability to work effectively under pressure, react quickly and meet tight deadlines
determination, diplomacy and excellent interpersonal skills
empathy and patience, the ability to build rapport and draw information from people
ability to maintain objectivity in order to be fair and balanced in the treatment of stories
an interest in news and current affairs and good general knowledge
a thorough knowledge of the law, ethics and industry regulation as they affect radio and the practice of journalism
knowledge of when it is necessary and how to acquire the relevant clearances and licenses, including copyright and music clearances
knowledge of the requirements of the relevant Health and Safety legislation and procedures
a high level of IT skills – particularly good word-processing and data handling skills
the ability to learn how to use a variety of recording equipment and to operate different radio studios
ability to conduct effective internet research, use relevant computer software for audio editing, and, when necessary, to manipulate visual images or edit video, and upload all such material for use on websites.

Training & qualifications

Although a degree may not always be essential, the majority of Broadcast Journalists are graduates. However, Radio employers do not necessarily expect this to be in a media-related subject, and may even prefer their recruits to have degrees in other disciplines. Specialist knowledge in fields such as politics, business, science or languages may be advantageous.

There are few industry trainee schemes and they take limited numbers. A degree or equivalent is usually a requirement, places are highly sought after and the selection process is rigorous. Where Broadcast Journalists are recruited from newspapers or magazines they have usually had at least two or three years’ experience as a journalist, and have completed the journalism qualifications accredited by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ). There are a wide range of Broadcast Journalism courses on offer. Those undergraduate degree courses, postgraduate diplomas and MAs in Broadcast Journalism accredited by the Broadcast Journalism Training Council (BJTC) meet the standards expected by broadcast employers in terms of practical skills and knowledge and have a successful track record of students gaining employment in the broadcasting industry. Some employers’ direct entry trainee schemes or bursary schemes may also be targeted at those who have completed BJTC accredited courses.

Broadcast Journalists are expected to develop their skills on the job, but most employers also offer a variety of forms of training to keep their journalists’ skills and knowledge up-to-date, and to introduce new technologies. This training may be offered in-house or supplied by external providers depending on the size and structure of different Radio organizations and employers. Colleges and private training providers also offer a range of short courses which support the professional development of individual Broadcast Journalists, and may offer opportunities for them to gain promotion or to change career direction.

What can I expect to get paid?

Salaries range from around £15,000 for trainees and new entrants, to over £100,000 for the most high-profile broadcast journalists.

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