Simple ways to earn respect in the newsroom

By: Mandy Mitchell

I meet a lot of young people in the business who are hoping to make a good impression in a new newsroom. They are often worried about how they dress and how they perform in the specifics of the job whether that be on the air or behind the scenes. All of that is very important, but there are some simple things you can do to stand out.

1- Be early.

If the morning meeting starts at 9, don’t be out of breath trying to hold your coffee in one hand and your keys in the other while trying to dig out your phone to see the notes you made about the story ideas you have. Pretend the meeting starts at 8:50 and be in your seat with your notebook out and ready at 8:55.

I am amazed at how many people in our business are always “running late” or “a bit behind today.”

Make it a habit to show up 5 minutes early to everything you do. I promise you will stand out as a rare person who values the time of others.

2- Say thank you.

It’s still OK to write handwritten notes for people to thank them for doing something nice for you. Someone help you in your first few days in town? Maybe helped with an apartment? Maybe asked you to share a meal? Give them a note.

Maybe someone has been a mentor to you. The holidays are a great time to show appreciation. A nice card will do the trick. It’s usually unexpected and shows you are thoughtful. That’s something missing in an e-mail driven world.

3- Take responsibility for mistakes.

I’ve found young people in this business can be very very defensive if a mistake happens on air. The best in this business are willing, and eager, to step up and say “that was my fault.”

Don’t get in the habit of over-explaining a mistake. We all make errors and we all have another newscast to prepare for. Take responsibility, say you will fix it and do better in the next newscast.

This post is originally from 2016

What if it doesn’t happen?


By: Mandy Mitchell

There will be a time in your career where you really get your hopes up. You may get your hopes up about a new job. You may get excited about a promotion or a raise. You may have every reason in the world to think things are going to happen.

Your boss told you you would be in line for that next anchor opening. The news director at that station you’ve dreamed of working at says he loves your tape and you are going to get a call for an interview.

Then…all of a sudden…nothing happens.

If this hasn’t happened to you yet, I’m afraid to tell you it will. You will, in one form or another, have to deal with disappointment when it comes to this business.

So here’s some advice for preparing yourself for these moments.

  • Always take everything or are told with a grain of salt. Realize that nothing is ever final until it actually is. Someone could have the very best intentions in telling you you will be the 6pm producer when that spot opens up. Then all of a sudden the GM comes in with other ideas. A news director could really truly mean it when he says he will call next week for an interview. Then the company goes into a hiring freeze. It’s ok to be proud of your accomplishment if this kind of thing happens. Just don’t set yourself up for disappointment by thinking it’s done before it really is.


  • Hold off on telling others until it is concrete. The worst thing you can do is call your mom when you are told you may an interview in Dallas next week. Unless you have a plane ticket, I’d hold off on that phone call. Sometimes our disappointment gets worse when we feel like we are disappointing others…or we feel embarrassed by having to explain why it didn’t work it. If you must tell someone, make sure you tell them how it’s not certain yet, but you are hoping it works out.


  • Truly think about how you will act if it doesn’t work out. This is especially helpful for promotions. You don’t want to get bitter or come off the wrong way with your current boss, so you have to be prepared with your reaction if you are told you won’t actually be getting that job you thought was promised. I’m not saying you don’t have the right to be ticked. You can respectfully explain how you are disappointed and you hope you will be considered for a similar opening down the line. I’ve seen some very experienced people come out of a news director’s office crying when something like this happens. I have had to hold back tears when something like this happened to me. It’s best to fully be prepared for the disappointment so you can react accordingly.

The stories we tell ourselves



By: Mandy Mitchell

Being a good storyteller is a great trait to have if you are working in TV news. We all need to be able to tell stories to succeed in this business. The one thing we can’t do is tell stories to ourselves.

Most of us have an inner commentary about our lives that is constantly playing out in our minds. The stories can be pretty simple.

You can have a story in your head about how the news director doesn’t like you. Your story could be about how other anchors are favored and given more reads and relevant assignments. You may have a story about why you are stuck on the weekends when others keep jumping ahead of you to Monday-Friday shifts. We all do this and many of us don’t realize it.

The problem with these mental stories is they are not often backed up by actual facts and they can affect your happiness.

Does your news director really dislike you or is it just a matter of her not paying you enough attention? I’ve seen reporters go into a complete tailspin when a news director failed to compliment a story.

Do you think she didn’t like it? What if I never get another good assignment? What if I never get another good assignment and then never move to a bigger market? Is my career over?! My career is probably over!!!

The reporter is taking a story and running with it without the basic facts. I assure you, if the ND didn’t say anything about your story, that’s because it was fine and it met expectations. Or she didn’t even see it because she was stuck in a budget meeting and wasn’t watching the newscast. If you knew these facts you would likely feel foolish about the massive story you’ve been telling yourself.

The key is to recognize when you get lost in what is truly storytelling in your brain. When you recognize it you should try to identify the actual facts. You are a journalist, so presumably you can tell the difference between fact and fiction…I hope!

Once you recognize the facts, it’s easier to stop the story.


“Nothing fools you better than the lie you tell yourself.”
-Teller, Magician


Most of the time when you stop the story, you can relax. If you can’t relax then you should try to explore the facts. Ask your news director for a meeting to discuss the PKG she didn’t seem to notice. This meeting will be a lot more productive than if you start crying 4 months later and ask your ND why she “hates you.”

If you are stuck on weekends, explore the facts. Is it because your boss thinks you like weekends and you seem happy? Is it because your boss thinks you need to improve? Is it because the person who jumped to a M-F gig actually makes less money and is not as valuable? Ask questions to get facts instead of coming up with your own story about what is probably happening.

This is a hard skill to learn but it’s helpful. Try to get a better grasp of what is going on in your brain and save the storytelling for the newscast.


Become a better photographer

By: Mandy Mitchell


If you are an MMJ or a one-man-band or whatever we are calling that position in this business these days, you are going to have to shoot your own video. If you are someone who wants to be a reporter, you likely don’t really want to shoot your own video. I do understand you are  more focused on writing and how you look on camera than how good your shooting is. Problem is, you will want to have good video for your stories and you are the only source for that video. It’s best to know a few basics so you can have the best video possible.

  • Always always always always always use a tripod when shooting B-roll. It’s really easy to get lazy and just leave the tripod in the car. It’s heavy and all. I get it. But your video is going to look like crap if you don’t use the sticks. Take the extra 3 minutes. Don’t give me the “I just didn’t have time” nonsense. You will waste more time during the editing process trying to find shots that aren’t completely shaky than if you just take the time on the front end to get nice steady shots.
  • Edit in your camera to save time. The new digital cameras we shoot on are even better for this than tape. Get your wide shot and hit stop. Get your medium shot and hit stop. Get your tight shot and hit stop. You will then have a sequence of shots that is super easy to edit when you load the clips. You won’t be hunting around for what shot you need.
  • Don’t overshoot. You are not shooting a documentary. Be mindful of how long it takes your video to load into the editing computer. Be thinking about your story and what shots you need and how you will write to them. Going to a crime scene and shooting 20 minutes of video is a waste of your time.
  • Limit your camera movements. You are probably not a good enough shooter for a pan or a zoom or a tilt. Let’s be real here. I am not a good enough shooter for that and I’ve been shooting for 15 years. Focus on sequences. (Wide, medium, tight)
  • Use a tripod. Did I mention that?

Unplugging as a journalist


By: Mandy Mitchell

You can read about a zillion articles online about how to be more productive with your time. The productivity advice often starts with “limiting your phone time” and “not checking your e-mail until noon.”

I’m pretty interested in increasing my productivity, but that advice often makes me chuckle.

Can you imagine if you…TV Reporter, anchor, producer or assignment editor…didn’t check your e-mail until noon? Even if you are nightside you may miss an e-mail requesting your presence at work an hour earlier. Or you could miss someone asking you about a story from the night before. Try telling your boss that you don’t check e-mail before noon!

So this got me thinking about what we all could do to reduce our addictions to our devices. We can’t neglect our e-mail, but we probably don’t need to check it every five minutes. Raise your hand if you do that. (I used to be in that club!)

Here are a couple of things I have done that have helped:

  • If you use Outlook, make folders.  Make a folder for anything from any of your bosses. Make a folder for interview requests. Make a folder for anything else you absolutely don’t want to or can’t miss.  If you are on the clock that day, you can quickly check these folders when you get up, then you can do other things like work out or get some coffee BEFORE you dive into the 900 other e-mails.
  • Limit your e-mail during time off. If you are not on the clock that day, or you are on vacation, you should really limit  how much you check these folders. Do it each morning or each night. Take a half hour to read and reply, but that’s it! Do not, as I often do, check your e-mail on your day off while in line at the grocery store because you are bored and your fingers just seem to automatically click the e-mail app. Do you know how many days off I have ruined by reading an e-mail that did not require my attention at the time? I assume I am not alone.
  • Move all social media apps off the front page. You know how your fingers just automatically find the e-mail on your phone? They also seem to find Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. They find them and then you spend 15 minutes scrolling through the content without often paying attention to what you’re reading. We all need social media for our jobs, but we don’t need the mindless scrolling. Move all of the apps to a page that isn’t on the front of your phone so it takes effort to get there. If you think about needing to check Twitter for breaking news, or simply to know what’s going on, you will be more likely to actually read it if you have to find the Twitter app.
  • Turn off all non-essential alerts. I am a reporter at a top-25 TV station and I have very few alerts on my phone. I have to click the e-mail to get my e-mail. I don’t have sounds that randomly interrupt whatever I am doing to alert me of a new e-mail. The only things that pop up on my phone are breaking news alerts. I subscribe to my station and the competition. I also get stuff from the AP and the New York Times. I promise that’s all you need. If I get a text it just leaves a “1” in my text app. I  don’t need that popping up as I am trying to research a story or if I am on vacation.

These minor changes have really helped me to decrease my phone usage, which was a real problem for a while. The biggest piece of advice I have is to be mindful of your usage. If you pick up your phone try to notice it and have a purpose for it. Yes, we have to be more connected than our friends who are say, teachers, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a constant leash.

Thanksgiving in the newsroom

How many times have you heard “you are going to work holidays” whenever someone tells you about the bad parts of TV news?

Hearing this and actually doing it are two very different things. I always knew I was going to have to work on Thanksgiving and Christmas, but it didn’t truly sink in until my first year in the business. I thought I would be ok until I was staring at ENPS and eating cold turkey at my desk on Thanksgiving night. I can’t remember ever feeling more alone.

That’s the year when I figured something out. You HAVE to embrace your work family. If there is not a newsroom party planned, you make it happen. Get everyone to bring in a favorite dish. Do it up with lots of desserts. Bring in candy and cookies and make yourself sick eating too much good stuff.

Give hugs. Ask your coworkers to talk about Thanksgiving traditions. Talk to people about missing family or what it feels like to miss out. You are all doing it!

I can’t tell you how many great memories I have made on major holidays in a newsroom since that one pretty awful Thanksgiving.

You have to make the best of it and realize it does get better as you spend more years in the biz. I get Holidays off sometimes now! And even when I don’t, I am used to it, so it doesn’t sting as much as those first years.

I appreciate you taking the time to read the stuff we put on this blog. Have a Happy Thanksgiving and make some memories even if you happen to be spending it in a newsroom (or at a mall shooting video of the crazy people)!

A book you should read


By: Mandy Mitchell

Over the past 6 months I have become really interested in mindful meditation. I have been a sponge about the subject and have been reading and listening to everything I can about how it works and its benefits.

I also started practicing meditation. I got an app on my phone and I try to give it at least 5 to ten minutes a day. I can tell you it does make a difference. I am learning how to better control my thoughts and understand how the mind works. THAT is not what this post is about, though.

I was searching for a book to read about the subject and I came across this one. It was recommended to me in a blogpost about meditation so I had no idea it was written by news anchor Dan Harris.

This book is about how Harris broke into the business, his ego, his temper and how he became depressed after spending time in war zones. He started using drugs and then went to therapy. He writes about the anxiety of this business and the times he would worry about how it may all fall apart. (who among us hasn’t had that worry?) He even talks about what it was like to work with Peter Jennings and what it feels like to be left out of coverage of big events.

Anyway, I went into the book wanting to learn more about meditation and came away from it thinking everyone in TV news should read it. Yes, he does talk a great deal about meditation and even his time going to a retreat, but it is much more than that.

Because he is a reporter he approaches the subject as a reporter. He interviews experts and talks about his process of learning. He also notes how his opinion on things change as he continues to learn from experts. This is useful to any reporter who is diving deep on any subject.

I truly appreciate Dan for being completely open, honest and funny. I can see how the book is helpful to anyone in any profession, but it REALLY spoke to me as a TV news journalist. If you have spent time in a newsroom you will be able to relate to the many stories he tells!

Take some “you” time


By: Mandy Mitchell

TV news tends to be the kind of business that is all-consuming. You can easily go from college to your first TV station and then your second TV station without ever unpacking a box at your apartment. Those of us who really love our work (the ones who love it enough to read a blog about it) are generally pretty obsessive about it. I don’t mean obsessed in a bad way, but I mean the work is always on your mind. You want to do great work so you don’t want to let a story idea slip by. You don’t want to let a big assignment go to someone else. You are constantly checking your e-mail and your news alerts. I get it. I do that too.

In order to do that really great work over a long period of time, you have to have an outlet. You have to find a place where you don’t bring your cell phone and where you are not thinking about the news. It’s very important to find a hobby that has absolutely nothing to do with anything else you do on a daily basis.

For me, that hobby is fitness. In my first market I really didn’t see the benefit of this as a “hobby.” I would go to the gym, but I would fit that gym visit into my day between assignments. I would shoot a story in the morning and force a gym visit before shooting a minor league baseball game at night. Working out was a chore. I didn’t use it as an escape. As I have gotten more experienced I have learned to make my workouts “my time.” I can’t tell you how much this has truly helped me in my job.

For one, it is the one thing I have complete and total control of every single day. I don’t control breaking news. I don’t control my coworkers work ethic or if my boss is in a bad mood. I do control how far I run or hard I work when I am at the gym.

Having control, even if it’s for a brief period of time every day, is important.

I am a big fan of audible and I listen to audio books while working out. It allows me to completely escape the news and it helps me to focus on something and not let my brain wander into thinking about work. When I am done with my workout, whether that be a run, the gym, a bike ride or a long hike, I am much more focused and ready for my day.

If I don’t take the time to “get away” on any given day, I can tell. I am tired. I get burned out and work stops being fun.

It may not feel like you have time for a hobby. It may feel like work needs to be all- consuming in order to “get ahead.” I encourage you to make the time for yourself. Find time to read a novel (not the news). Take time to watch a episode of a show on Netflix.

A daily mental escape is very important to doing this job and doing it well for a long period of time.

This post was originally from 2016

Learn to Troubleshoot

utilities-1238686By: Mandy Mitchell

Let’s talk about problems we all see throughout our days…

Gear breaks.

We can’t find a phone number we need.

We didn’t ask that guy we interviewed for his name and spelling.

A reporter was supposed to leave a script for you and you can’t find it.

I could continue, but you get it. You will see problems on a daily basis. What I have become amazed by…let’s just say it ANNOYED WITH…is the number of people who can not simply solve the problem. Instead, the person starts panicking, starts blaming someone else and starts wasting the precious time that could be used to solve the problem before the inventible deadline.

The best in this business are often the best at troubleshooting. Often times you just have to take the few seconds to think when a problem comes up.

Cameras rarely just die. If it won’t turn on, take the time change the battery and to jiggle the battery. Is something loose? Can you fix it? Is there another way to shoot this story if it is in fact broken? Panicking and calling the assignment desk is not a good option. Can you shoot on your cell phone? A GoPro? Is there another photog/mmj within a few minutes you can call to  bail you out?

This is the process of thought you should be going through. Be the person who wants to solve the problem. Don’t be the person who wants to b*tch about the “terrible gear.”

If you don’t know the name of the person you interviewed is there a way to find out without crying into your coffee? Does anyone else you interviewed say his/her name? Can you call the person’s company? Just think. Try to solve it.

This goes for all things in the newsroom from not being able to find a script, to the teleprompter breaking 3 minutes before air, to the editor crashing, to the printer jamming.

WHAT can I do to fix it?

Learning to troubleshoot will make you better at your job. It will also make you more likable in the newsroom.