My commencement speech

By: Mandy Mitchell

Since it is graduation season, I wanted to share with you some things I wish I knew while sitting in my chair at the University of Florida in 2003. Take this as a brief “commencement speech” for journalists if you will.

Ladies and gentlemen of the class of 2016….

You have likely spent your entire lives hearing about the “real world” and all that comes with that. I want to talk to you about what it means to step in to an actual TV newsroom for the first time.

For the first time in your 22 years, you won’t be working for grades. You may go days…months…a year without a manager telling you where you stand. It is up to you to do your own grading.

Seek constructive criticism from peers. Watch your stories and your newscasts after they have aired. Get better even if it feels like no one is watching and no one cares.

There is one person in your class who looks like the “sure bet.” She is the superstar student who is beautiful and has network hair. She will be working in pharmaceutical sales by 2018.

Meanwhile, there is a guy who was average at best. He spent more time drinking beer than paying attention to the news. He will be a top 25 anchor by 2018.

So much of this business is random and based on timing. Don’t get caught up in who is where and how fast they got there. I assure you, that stuff will not matter once you have spent a decade working in TV news. Learn to focus on your own journey and don’t keep score.

Your quality of life is far more important than what size market you are working in.

Don’t ever do work to win awards. Awards are nice, but they are not life-changing. Do work that makes you proud and makes a difference. If you do this, awards will follow.

The crap that happens in your first job will provide stories and funny moments for the rest of your career. Try not to let the lack of money and the awful gear get you down. You WILL laugh about it later and it will be a source of bonding with other journalists you will meet on your journey.

We have ALL been there.

No one owes you anything. This goes from the moment you enter the newsroom to the moment you leave. This is a business that literally starts over every single day. Don’t expect work you did yesterday to be remembered. What are you doing today?

Don’t be a jerk. Remember to smile often and don’t take yourself too seriously.

Good luck.


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