A profession not for the faint-of-heart

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They’re seen on television with their perfectly coiffed hair, glittering smiles and booming voices. However, behind their tailored suits, broadcast journalists offer much more to the professional world than just a pretty face, and BYU’s  students studying broadcast journalism in the Communications Department is doing whatever they can to prepare their students for the real world.

The broadcast journalism program, which is ranked sixth in the nation by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation, is preparing students to enter the broadcast field through hands-on experience, training and standards that push its students to their highest performing capacity. The program produces a news program broadcast every weekday at noon on KBYU, Channel 11.

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Briana Carr and Brooke Davis rehearse on set for BYU Eleven News at Noon.
Chantel Hanks, 21, a senior from Orem studying broadcast journalism, applied to the major before the application requirements recently changed. According to Hanks, the application process has not become more difficult, but longer.

“You can only apply twice to get in to the broadcast program,” Hanks said. “I applied once and I didn’t get in the first time. I went and talked to professors and asked how I could improve, and I re-did my projects. Then they let me in, but if you don’t get in that time, then that’s it, you can’t apply again.”

Along with competition to get into the Communications Department’s combined journalism sequence — which includes print, multimedia and broadcast journalism — students are required to sign a contract of professionalism, requiring them to look and act as professionals in their field. This includes having hair cut to shoulder-length for women. Christie Richmond, 20 a junior studying broadcast journalism from San Diego, Calif., has had to adjust to the program’s rules.

“We signed a contract saying we would look professional, and that includes hair, but the program has a very distinct judgment of what is professional and what is not,” Richmond said. “According to the program, ‘professional’ is about shoulder-length hair, not much longer. We knew what we were getting into, but we didn’t know it would be as strict as it was.”

Brooke Martin, 20, from Little Shasta, Calif., is a junior studying broadcast journalism, and is currently a student in Communications 325, the beginning broadcast news reporting class. The class, Martin and Richmond believe, is the most strenuous class offered in the program.

“For a three credit class, we’re here for 50 hours a week,” Martin said. “You have to be in here by 6, to even think about getting your deadlines. On lab days I’m here from about 6 a.m. until about 2 p.m., because you have to do your story, then a web story and a radio story, and that’s just on lab days. If you don’t do any work beforehand, you have no story or information to work with. The day before has to be completely dedicated to putting your story together.”

To do well in the broadcast journalism program, Martin gave some advice to future journalism students who want to pursue a traditional broadcast journalism career.

“The biggest thing I’ve learned is to be graceful under pressure,” Martin said. “There’s so much going on, when all is said and done, it’s up to us how stressed out we want to be, so just take a deep breath and just do it. Just get to work, relax and get it done.”

For three years, Chad Curtis has been teaching students about broadcasting as the broadcast news manager in the program. As a mentor and teacher, Curtis teaches students the ins and outs of broadcast journalism, as well as what life is truly like in the “real world.”

“We are preparing those students to be part of a daily, Monday-Friday newscast,” Curtis said. “We expect them right from the beginning to be active contributors to the class. From day one, they’re learning how to set up their interviews, they’re checking out their equipment, they’re going out and covering the stories that are of importance in this community and coming back here and writing them and putting them together, and sometimes even introducing them live on the Newscast at Noon.”

According to Curtis, the beginning news reporting class, as well as the other classes that broadcast students take, show students what a real job is like. Curtis’ job is to get students working on the highest professional level. For applicants, Curtis looks for students who are dedicated, knowledgeable about government and current events and those who have a natural curiosity.

“The role of a journalist is to be a watchdog on American government,” Curtis said. “We try to treat Utah County as our community of coverage. So a student who is coming into this program needs to be very well grounded on how American government works — municipal, county, state. A great characteristic to have as a journalist is a natural curiosity. It’s one thing to walk through life and think things are interesting, and it’s another thing to wonder, ‘why are things done that way?’ It’s not necessarily to question things but to understand them better.”

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