TV journalist offers insight on how to get job, succeed in media
Oct 17, 2017
Megan Rivers speaks to mass communications students on Sept. 28. (Panther photo)
Misuse of social media can ruin a journalist's career, a television reporter said Sept. 28 at Claflin.
Charleston's WCIV-TV channel 4 reporter and 2010 Claflin alumna Megan Rivers told mass communications students that professional use of social media is vital to today's journalists. But personal use is where problems can arise.
"I like to party, but I don't post that," Rivers said. "Personal posts can prevent you from being considered for jobs and ruin careers.”
“I love to go out and have a good time, trust me, but the world does not have to see all that," Rivers said. "There are certain things you should hold off on posting to the public for the sake of your career.”
“You’re a screenshot away from being fired," she said.
Rivers said she is a brand and represents her station’s brand. Protecting both is vital and expected.
“There is really no separation of personal and private anymore. So you have to understand that going into this business,” Rivers said. “You are always representing someone else.”
“You are easy to be replaced but the brand isn’t," Rivers said.
While what you post on social media can come back to haunt you, professional use of the platforms is part of the job, she said.
“If you are not a user of Twitter, you need to become one, but be aware of the things that you put up," Rivers said. Leave your opinions and feelings out.
"Journalists are unbiased, they state facts," Rivers said. "A commentator is more so giving opinions."
Commentary is to be avoided by news reporters, she said.
“Commentary and journalism are two very different things, and they’re getting kind of muddy right now," she said. “If you really want to be a journalist, you don’t have an opinion.”
Rivers said professional use of of social media is important in keeping people of today informed. "I need people to know what’s going on."
"Social media skills are vital," Rivers said. She is expected to do Facebook live and make live tweets.
Use of social media was a key component of the experience that led Rivers to move from producing television news to reporting.
During the historic flooding in 2015, Rivers was living in Columbia and working as a producer for WLTX-TV channel 19. When her residence was surrounded by water, she could not immediately get out to get to work.
Before the station sent a vehicle for her, Rivers shared her story on the flooding on social media.
“It's important to know the power of your phone," Rivers said. She was able to capture video and photos using her phone.
The flooding gave her an opportunity to report on television as well. In times of emergency, you have to step out of your role to get a good story, she said.
Rivers said she liked her job as a producer but the reporting experience made her hungry to do more in front of the camera.
“You have to know what you really want to be," Rivers said.
The experience led her about a year ago to the present position with Charleston TV.
“You must be able to do everything," Rivers said of today's media jobs. “If you can't handle fast pace and pressure, then media is not a field for you.”
Rivers stressed that working for the media is not a regular day-to-day job. Media jobs mean working days, nights, weekends and holidays.
"If you aren’t prepared to work, don’t consider the field.”
If you are committed to the profession, then prepare yourself and give yourself a good chance at getting into the door, River told students.
Rivers said writing skills and deadline performance are necessary.
“Writing is so important,” she said. “It’s the most important thing, that’s how you will get jobs!”
Deadlines are a fact of life, she said.
“Basically, turning in things late is not going to cut it in the media world. If deadlines are missed, producers have nasty reactions," Rivers said.
"Inability to have assignments finished on plan ruins programming designs," she said. "You can't miss due dates and keep on working.”
To get a job in media, she advised students to get experience.
"If you don't listen to anything I say, make sure you intern," Rivers said. Interning is really important as companies look for experience in the people they hire.
“Applying for jobs, they all want you to have experience," Rivers said. "Your experience should come from your internships."
“If you do not intern, it is very difficult to get into media," Rivers said.
To get jobs, Rivers encouraged the students to be persistent and to have a portfolio documenting their experience and work to show once they get the attention of the people making the decisions on positions.
“If you’re a producer or a reporter, you need a reel, especially for producers," she said. You can always go back and show people what you can do.
Even after you get a media job, keep a file of your work to show in the future, Rivers said. “Save these things so you can have a body of work.”
Make all the contacts you can, she said.
"Networking is really important," Rivers said. "Get them to know you and your skill set."
And maintain contacts, she said. “These relationships are important."
She said membership in the National Association of Black Journalists should be a must for each of the students.
"NABJ is the largest job fair for black people," Rivers said. NABJ provides excellent opportunities.
Being informed is also essential for journalists, Rivers said.
"How many people watch the news?" Rivers asked. “This generation, our generation, because I’ll still in your generation, does not watch the news anymore.”
"With so much technology, such as Facebook and Twitter, sitting down as a family and watching the news, just doesn’t happen like that nowadays,” Rivers said.
She said students should watch their local news stations and be involved in their community with the likes of attending council meetings.
“Educate yourself about beyond what you care about,” Rivers said.
Rivers recalled her own experience in becoming a media professional, beginning at Claflin.
Rivers credits Mass Communications Department instructor Mike Fairwell.
“Mr. Fairwell got me my first job in communications. The radio station was looking for students to broadcast live for homecoming and he thought I would be good for it," Rivers said.
“I continued to work with them all four years and eventually I talked myself into a job,” she said. “I also interned at WLTX and that’s how I got my job there”
"Claflin gave me so much," Rivers said.
It is important to give back to the university, Rivers said. Most recently, she assisted 2017 mass communications graduate Ardarius Stewart obtain a position at her Charleston station.
She gave students her contact information and said she is willing to provide additional advice for each student. “I would like to help you all do want you to want to do,” Rivers said.
Students participating in the news conference and contributing to the report on the Megan Rivers visit are: Travis Barnes, Alexis Bookman, Kayla Cato, Cody Dallas, Rosalee Dozier, Qui’Era Evans, Kierra Felder, Kyhree Gray, Jenell Green, Bradley Harris, Nyquasia Murray, Preston Walker and Deandre Williams.