What I’ve Learned as a Multi-Media Journalist

I’ve hit my one year marker working as a Multi-Media Journalist.  The past twelve months haven’t been easy, but it’s been a rewarding journey thus far to say the least.

If someone asked me ten or even five years ago what I wanted to be, I would’ve said I was pursuing a career in sports medicine and laughed if anyone told me otherwise.  Yet, as fate would have it, life and God had other plans in store for me.  I arrived at college with intent of earning an Athletic Training degree and pursing a pre-professional track towards a Physical Therapy degree.  As I dove deeper into coursework, I quickly realized sports medicine wasn’t for me (despite how much I love sports).  In turn, I changed my degree to Communication Studies and Sports Broadcasting.

It’s crazy to think I graduated a year and half ago already…where does the time go?!  I received an Organizational and Professional Communication Studies degree from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse in May of 2015, securing and starting an internship with WXOW News 19, the local ABC affiliate prior to receiving my diploma.  After a few months of being known as the “Quintern” and developing my camera, writing, and broadcasting skills I was offered a full-time Multi-Media Journalist position with the station-which I gladly accepted. Enough about my back story, let’s be honest most of you probably know it already or don’t care to hear details about my life, I get it.  I’ll get to the main focus of this post.  The fact of the matter is, over the course of the past year as a local television reporter I’ve developed my on camera speaking skills, enhanced my ability to edit quickly on deadlines, met many incredible people in the community, heightened my knowledge of how broadcasting works, polished my interview skills, improved my writing ability, and expanded my creative eye for capturing unique video shots for stories.  However, there are also a few broader life lessons I’ve learned along the way as a Multi-Media Journalist, that are applicable to anyone no matter what profession you’re in.tv-collage1

  1. Establishing community connections is key.  The time old argument between what is more useful: education or experience is one that will continuously be debated for years to come.  One thing is for certain, no matter what you do in life or where your journey takes you-it’s all about WHO you know.  Establishing relationships is what helped me start my broadcasting career in college with a local internship with Coulee Region Sports Network.  Furthermore, creating and maintaining positive connections with local business owners, community leaders, managers, students, etc. is what helps me discover and create stories for broadcast on a daily basis.  Ask for business cards, give others your business card, think of something unique about people you meet that will help you remember them the next time you run into them, and remember that neither of you will most likely remember what was talked about, but people always remember how you make them feel.
  2. Planning is a crucial component in success.  Sure, there are days when I’m rushing around, stories pop up out of no where, and I’m not prepared in the least bit; forcing me to think quick on my feet.  However, for the most part, the extra time I spend reading up on my story, doing some research, and talking to experts to get a better understanding of what I’m reporting on not only makes me feel more comfortable with the subject matter but makes the quality of my work that much better.  This applies to many different things in life.  As the saying goes, “haste makes waste.” 
  3. Appearance plays a large role in others’ perceptions and your attitude.  Waking up an hour earlier or even a half hour earlier to get ready and ensure you like your outfit and the way you look for the day plays a factor in a lot of things.  First off, it provides you with the confidence, poise, and not to mention, feel good attitude to start the day.  Second, being a reporter comes with a self-image that needs to be maintained within the community.  Whether you expect it or not, people are going to start recognizing you at some point and it’s important to keep up that well-rounded, professional perception they view you in when they’re watching you on their TV at home or when they run into you in the community.  Even if you aren’t in the broadcast profession, maintaining your appearance and presenting a well-rounded image shows people that you take pride in yourself, possess keen organizational skills, and value time management-trust me friends, it stems a lot deeper than looks.  It gives others a glimpse into your professionalism, values, and what kind of person (and employee) you are.
  4. A firm handshake, good eye contact, and a smile go a very long way. Soft skill sets are many times overlooked in our society as people let a fast paced, technology driven lifestyle consume them.  Despite the apparent lack of strong, face-to-face communication abilities, there’s no doubt those qualities still play an instrumental role in relationships, achieving goals, and attaining success.  Remember, a first impression can never be redone.  As one of my favorite quotes says, “Your smile is your logo, your personality is your business card, how you leave others feeling after an experience with you becomes your trademark,” let your impact be a positive, memorable one. 
  5. Pour your heart, time, and energy into work, but prioritize time with family and friends too.  Finding a healthy balance between work and leisure can be difficult.  Waking up early to work 9+ hours then coming home to a never-ending to-do list is tiresome and quite frankly most of the time I end of falling asleep from pure exhaustion and waking up even more stressed than the previous day knowing everything I need to accomplish (the struggle is real friends).  It’s in those moments of chaos you remember to prioritize spending time with friends and family because it’s those precious, fleeting moments that you can’t get back.  While it’s vital that you invest in your work too, it’s even more important to embrace those that mean the most to you.
  6. Life gets lonely and work is time consuming-make time for YOU.  During the first year of my full-time career I was the “Weekend Multi-Media Journalist” for my station (the normal progression for a new reporter in the business).  This meant that I typically that Mondays were my Friday, I had Tuesdays and Wednesdays off for my “weekend,” and I worked Saturdays and Sundays.  In addition to that skewed schedule, I was on call Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights which meant that I took a camera and tripod home and needed to be ready to go with the ring of a phone call if there happened to be breaking news.  This limited my nightly plans, forced me to turn down chances to hang out with friends, and didn’t allow me to travel home or visit friends.  I would be lying if I said I wasn’t lonely or slightly depressed at times.  Constantly coming home to my tiny, one bedroom apartment and always thinking about work even when I was clocked out.   With that being said, it’s paramount to create YOU time and force yourself to develop a way to transition out of work mode.  Whether it’s a certain point at your drive home that you stop thinking about work or a ritual when you arrive home that ensures you relax a bit, keep your mental and emotional health in mind.
  7. ALWAYS say yes to new adventures.  As a reporter, I’ve had the opportunity to do things I never would’ve had the chance to do in different fields (that’s pretty neat if you ask me).  Throughout those experiences like: crawling into an old WWII plane, learning how to ski while I helped break a Guinness Book of World Records,  covering a behind-the-scenes story on EPSN’s College GameDay, and standing waist deep in a cranberry bog while reporting on harvest, I’ve learned a deeper, much more valuable lesson-say yes to adventures and never miss an opportunity to cross an item off your bucket list!
  8. Make time for exercise and healthy eating habits.  It seems like a crazy, extremely simple concept (I know).  Nonetheless, when your daily schedule is as unstable as that of a Multi-Media Journalist’s it’s helpful to plan out meals and work out times.  That may mean waking up an hour earlier in the morning to go for a run or driving to the gym after the 6 p.m. show when all you really want to do is curl up with a bowl of popcorn in your bed.  But it’s those decisions that help provide you with ample energy to put all your time and energy into your work and personal life.  It’s easy to pick up unhealthy food choices on the go, but you’ll pay for it later.  By taking charge of my consumption and choosing fruits, veggies, protein, excess water, and minimal lattes I’ve drastically noticed a positive shift in my mood, energy, and perception on tasks I need to accomplish both in the newsroom and at home.
  9. Comfortable shoe choices are always in style.  I’m a pageant girl, I’ve competed in the Miss America Organization for six years and love heels.  Yet, I’ll be the first to tell you that on the days I choose to wear heels to work, I typically have flats tucked away in my bag.  On those days, in the instance when I go to grab my camera, camera bag, tripod, purse, and microphones I typically regret my decision to rock 3 to 4 inch pumps even though they go with my outfit perfectly.  Sure they may look good, but they’ll leave your feet screaming at the end of the day.  There’s also that chance you get called to a story that’s not heel conducive, say a muddy field or construction zone.  In those situations it helps to be prepared with those flats and/or keeping a pair of rain boots under your desk (a lesson I learned the hard way this past year).
  10. Embrace successes, but always remind yourself there’s room for improvement.  I continuously save clips of myself on-air in the studio, live shots of me out in the community, and stand-ups from longer stories to my computer.  I recently looked back at clips from when I first started and couldn’t help but laugh, smile, and feel humbled all at the same time.  It helped me realize that each day is a learning opportunity and while I’m thankful I have gained so much knowledge and experience in my field over the past 12+ months, there’s always room to improve.  It’s a valuable lesson that many of us tend to forget as we get wrapped up in the moment, yet it’s one that helps keep us thankful for the past and grounded and hungry as we look toward the future.

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If you’re a reporter or have worked in the broadcasting business, there’s other trivial aspects you’re probably familiar with that most certainly teach valuable lessons.  Like learning how to continuously back up your stories so you don’t lose your work when your editing software freezes (be prepared for all possibly outcomes).  Or always bringing a spare battery out on a story just in case yours does quicker than expected or you’re called to breaking news (again, preparation is everything).

I’ve been fortunate enough to begin my career in the same city I moved to as a relatively naive 18-year-old, eager to begin college while learning more about myself and what I wanted out of my future.  This is the same city that showed me through trials and tribulations what I was meant to do with my profession and provided me with the connections and tools to make it happen.  I don’t know with certainty where my career will take me in the years to come, but I do know one thing-this city will always hold a special place in my heart.

“In La Crosse, Tianna Vanderhei WXOW News 19.”Want to follow my journey from here and stay up-to-date on my stories?

Be sure to check out WXOW-Tianna Vanderhei on Facebook, @WXOWVanderhei on Twitter, and @TiannaVanderheiTV on Instagram.

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