This is an excerpt from Sports Broadcasting With HKPropel Access by Kevin Hull.
The Resume Reel
In addition to a written resume, those looking to be hired at a professional radio or television station should include a sample of their professional work. Before the digital era, for television broadcasters, that meant compiling their best work and putting it onto VHS tapes, while radio broadcasters made cassette tapes full of stories. These VHS and cassette tapes were then mailed all over the country every time there was an opening. When sportscaster Dawn Davenport was looking for her first job, those VHS tapes were a key part of the job search. “I remember going to Walmart and buying a big box of blank VHS’s, putting my reels on them, and sending them out everywhere. I would then drive to local TV stations and pass them my resume tape in person,” recalled Davenport (Privott, 2020, para. 6). While getting video and audio resumes in the hands of those doing the hiring has not changed, the process has. Thanks to technology, resume tapes have become resume reels and are now posted on online websites such as YouTube for video or SoundCloud for audio. Searching YouTube for “broadcasting reel” will result in hundreds of results for people looking for their next job. There is no one answer to the question “what should a resume reel look like?” However, most news directors and reporters would likely agree on the basics.
Television Resume Reel
For a television resume reel, the video should start with a graphic that lists the reporter’s name and contact information. Some may be nervous to put their phone number on a public website, so listing just an email address on that graphic is acceptable. The contact information graphic should be on the screen for about five seconds.
Following the opening graphic, a reporter standup montage should take place. A standup occurs when a reporter can be seen in the story reporting from an event as opposed to being in the studio. For sports reporters these standups can be at games, at practices, outside stadiums, or at any other relevant location. While there may be some debate about what a reel should look like, there is one element on which everyone can agree: reporters should put their best standups first. As harsh as it may seem, because television is a visual business many news directors will make up their minds regarding a candidate within the first 15 seconds of viewing a resume reel. They are watching for how a reporter looks and sounds. If that news director is not impressed right away, that reel will be stopped pretty quickly. Those reporters who save the best standups for later on in the reel might end up with hiring managers never even seeing it. Therefore, the best standups should go first. Approximately 6 standups can go at the beginning, with each one about 10 seconds long. These standups can be shot during internships, at student media, during class projects, or just by working with a friend and going out to shoot various standups of each other all over town. If the job involves anchoring, some anchoring clips on the set can be included in this montage.
After the reporter montage, it is time to include some packages. However, it is important to not solely include packages that are too sports-focused. While a story breaking down a defense or analyzing a big play might be excellent, sports reporters should also include stories that go beyond the traditional Xs and Os. News directors are looking for sports reporters who can reach the entire audience, not just die-hard sports fans. Therefore, a feature story about an athlete that is not heavy on sports terminology should also be included. Three solid packages should be included in this portion of the reel, but those looking for an anchor position can have two packages and one anchoring segment. However, if the job listing is for a reporter position, then a reel full of anchoring will likely not get much traction.
At the end, include the same identifying graphic that was at the beginning of the reel. If the hiring manager has made it all the way to the end, this is a good way to have a name and contact information directly in front of them. Ultimately, a completed resume reel should be less than 10 minutes long.
Andy Guerra is an executive producer at a television station in Texas and is heavily involved in the hiring process. He sees many resume reels and says that how a reporter looks and sounds in those standups at the beginning are what he’s looking for right away: “I want to see that you have compelling, interactive, creative, useful standups, live shots, that kind of thing that you can function in the outside world, not just in a studio where the lights are perfect, the mic is perfect, and you’ve got a prompter in front of you.” However, he’s also looking for variety. Even if a reporter is at one location, Guerra wants to see the reporter take advantage of the environment. “If you’re standing in front of a stadium three times, I don’t need to see that more than once. So, show me when you’re standing in front of a stadium, show me when the game was just wrapping up and you were there when they rushed the field. Show me when you were talking to the player all by himself after the game, heartbroken that they lost. Show me a cool standup in the middle of their practice. But we don’t need three or four of the same things.” For more from Guerra, including his tips for breaking into the television sports broadcasting business, check out his Pro Advice later in this chapter.
Radio Resume Reel
Those looking to enter radio journalism will be asked to submit an air check of a show in which they participated. An air check is a recording of a radio or television program. Someone hoping to host a sports talk show will be asked to send in a portion of a sports show air check that they have appeared on previously. These segments should showcase all the various skills needed to be successful in the field, including an interview with a coach or player, interactions with callers, and a solo piece that showcases how the host keeps an audience’s attention.
Radio reporters would create a reel similar to that of a television reporter, although they would instead focus on the stories. An audio reel with three or four stories back to back can be submitted to demonstrate the reporter’s voice, reporting style, and writing. It is recommended that those stories be different in order to showcase the versatility of the person applying for the job. For example, submitting three stories all previewing the same college football team’s games might make the hiring manager wonder if that is all that reporter can do.
Play-by-Play Resume Reel
Similar to radio announcers, play-by-play announcers should send air checks when applying for jobs. These air checks should not be of just the game-winning touchdown or the buzzer-beating three-pointer, however. Instead, the reel should include an entire unedited segment from a game. This demonstrates that the announcer can describe the game even during the less exciting parts and broadcast an entire game without making mistakes. For example, a baseball or softball announcer might include an unedited inning, and a hockey, football, or soccer announcer might include an entire unedited 15-minute block of action. While the goal is to showcase that the broadcaster can broadcast an entire game, that does not mean that any random segment should be chosen. Instead, broadcasters should look for a baseball inning in which a home run is hit or a soccer segment in which a goal is scored.
In addition to the actual game, many play-by-play announcers will also have to conduct a pregame and postgame interview with a coach or player that will either be live or recorded to be broadcast later. Therefore, play-by-play announcers should have an additional reel in which they can showcase the unedited recordings of these interviews. Hiring managers will want to see that the broadcaster can have a compelling conversation with a coach in which good questions are asked, the interactions are comfortable, and the audience learns something. These interviews are often sponsored (“The Bill’s Tire Shop Post Game Show”), so station managers want to make sure these interview segments go well in order to keep the advertisers happy. Broadcasters should be able to demonstrate that an interview will be compelling, no matter the result of the game.
Executive producer, KFOX/KDBC, El Paso, Texas
When a job opens up at a local television station, applicants from all over the country start putting together resume reels. At KFOX and KDBC in El Paso, Texas, executive producer Andy Guerra is typically one of the first to screen those applying for jobs. When there is an opening in the sports department, he’s even busier than usual. While a news reporter job opportunity might get around 50 applicants, he says, “I think the sports jobs probably would have 90, if not 100-plus, people apply.” With his years of experience as an executive producer and a producer in major markets such as Denver and Phoenix, Guerra has seen it all and has a good idea of what makes a promising candidate.
When you’re hiring sports broadcasters, what are you looking for?
When we look for a reporter, if somebody doesn’t have the best on-air presence, we tell ourselves, “You know, I like the way this person seems to write. We can coach them. We can teach them how to be on TV.” I think that when you’re looking for a sports person, there’s a little bit less room for that. You want somebody who brings a lot of energy and who does well at carrying a broadcast. You want someone who has the energy, who jumps off the screen, but not as part of a skit. Stand out because you have good energy, and you have good pacing, and because you’re fun to watch, not because you have some cheap gimmick.
What are some of the pitfalls you see from sports candidates?
I see a lot of guys who are trying too hard to be funny, a lot of guys who are trying to stand out for the wrong reasons because they wear unusual pants or coats or have an unusual hair style. Maybe that gets somebody’s attention in market 160, but by the time you are getting into the top 100, not even the top 100, top 120 or 130 even, we don’t have time for that. You can have fun all you want. You can have a really nice feature story with the star of the local college team or some really popular coach, but we don’t need you to be compromising who you are just to turn a few heads.
What advice would you give someone looking to try to break into the field of sports broadcasting?
You have to be willing to go all in. Kill everything you do. Maybe you didn’t want to do that particular story on that day. Kill it. Want to beat the competition for your sake. Everyone says this is a thankless job at first. I wish that we could pay more. I wish that there were enough people so you didn’t have to work holidays and all that when you’re starting, but it’s part of paying your dues. So, it’s understanding what you’re up against from the start, and being willing to go all in so that you get your reps. In the long run that’s going to benefit you, especially if you’re trying to break into the sports world. Guess what? Big-time college games are on Saturdays and the NFL is on Sundays, because sport is entertainment. Even if it’s local minor league, chances are there’s going to be a weekend series, too.
Know what you’re getting into and do it because you want to. I don’t need you to take the coach’s phone call on your off-hours for my sake. Sure, that’s a win for the station, but at the end of the day if you have those instincts, that commitment to your job that you don’t care if you’re off the clock, you’re going to take five minutes to set up an interview. Yeah, it benefits me on Saturday when we have a great story nobody else had, but when you have five, six, a dozen great stories you can show a recruiter down the line that you got because you put in five extra minutes, because you were willing to take a call on your day off, because you didn’t shy away from staying an extra hour—that’s to your benefit.