Amanda Lamb is a crime reporter for WRAL TV in Raleigh, North Carolina, who has been working in television for 26 years. She is also the author of eight books including true crimes and memoirs. To learn more about Amanda go to www.alambauthor.com or follow her on Twitter @alamb and Facebook, WRAL Amanda Lamb.
When you ask children what they want to be when they grow up, they usually choose jobs they have seen portrayed on television, in the movies or online as exciting or glamorous. Astronaut, ballerina, police officer, president, firefighter, actor, soldier, model, rock star. They don’t understand for one minute what it takes to get to the particular position they’re fantasizing about. They’re children, after all. These are just dreams.
Over the years, I have come to regard some of the up-and-coming journalists in this same way. They visit the newsroom on a tour, or as an intern, and look at me with their young, eager, starry-eyed selves and say with a completely serious face: “I want to be an anchor.”
“I want to be an astronaut or a ballerina when I grow up,” I sometimes reply. This is usually received with a very confused look, my sarcasm and wit lost on their literal young ears.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to have goals. But your goals should always be realistic and involve logical steps that allow you to achieve them with merit and hard work. If the anchor desk calls you, and I do mean calls you, because it chooses you, not the other way around, good for you. But your first goal in television news should always be to be a good journalist. Being a good journalist is the foundation of what we do, behind the anchor desk and in the field. Anchors who are good journalists are respected and can handle whatever comes their way. Anchors who are not good journalists are like wolves in sheep’s clothing-easy to spot, and frankly, not always easy to watch.
The reason that being a good journalist is so important to what we do is that a good journalist gives context to the news he or she reads on the air, whether it is in the writing, or the delivery. The alternative is an actor who reads the news with no depth or real understanding. I’m not going to say this doesn’t happen in a day and age when entertainment often trumps news on many networks because it proves to be more profitable. But in my opinion, depth and credibility are critical factors in the delivery of news to an educated audience.
So, when you meet an old-timer like me, tell them you want to be a journalist, and just maybe you will find yourself a mentor and someone who can give you a hand in a business that we’re trying to keep from going to the wolves.