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Archive for the ‘TV News’ Category

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Noeleen McGrath provides media training to an executive
Noeleen McGrath provides executive media training.

My background is in TV news. I spent 12 years, both as a producer and a reporter, at the network and local news levels before I went into business for myself as an executive media training, executive presentation skills and executive on-camera coach.

Paying My Dues

I had to pay my dues as a network news producer before someone would give me a shot “on-camera” as a reporter and anchor. Even then, I needed to start out at a small TV news station because major local market and network news bosses told me that I would no doubt make some mistakes on-camera. In their experience, everyone does when they are starting out.

At the time, as a young 20-something with more than three years of network news field producing experience under my belt, I was outraged. Me? Make a mistake? NEVER!

Guess what? They were right. I made mistakes. Fortunately, they were rare and mostly minor. As the big bosses predicted, it was much better for me (professionally) that I made my on-camera mistakes in a small market where no one would care AND they wouldn’t impact the long-term success of my career.

Social Media Videos

Lately, I find myself thinking about those news bosses when I watch people sharing their videos on professional platforms like LinkedIn. This is not a forum for beginners. Your professional reputation is on the line, as well as the reputation of your company, products and services.

Does that mean you shouldn’t try video? No. But it does mean that you might need to work on your on-camera and video producing skills before you’re ready for prime time i.e. LinkedIn.


The fastest way to get better is to get some coaching and/or hire someone to help you produce your videos. If neither coaching nor video production assistance is in your budget, here are some suggestions.

Ask for feedback: Before you post videos anywhere, ask a friend (or two) what they think. If they didn’t know you, would they be interested in what you’re offering/selling? Would they want to do business with you? Do you come across as likable? If they don’t like something, ask them to be specific. Push them if you have to. For example, is there something about your appearance/ demeanor that is distracting or off-putting?

Keep your videos short: If you don’t have a lot of on-camera experience, limit your videos to one minute. It’s really hard to hold people’s attention for longer than that unless you are a very charismatic person with a lot of experience performing on-camera.

Limit your face time on-camera: The pressure to be good is greater when it’s just you on-camera. Reduce the time that you appear on-camera by covering yourself with video, graphics or even pictures.

Lastly, don’t expect to be great right away. I didn’t win any on-camera awards at my first small market TV station. It took me three years of being on-camera every day, multiple times a day, before I really hit my stride.

Executive On-Camera Coaching

If you would like more information about our executive on-camera coaching services, please contact us .

On-Camera Criteria

Before I went into business for myself, I was Director of Talent Development for an agency that represented TV news anchors and reporters.

One of my responsibilities was weeding through DVDs of potential clients. Unlike most people, I tried to watch a reporter or anchor’s entire demo reel. (I remembered what it was like trying to get that big break.) But truly, I could tell you within the first five seconds whether someone had a shot at being represented by us.

Today, I find myself looking for many of these same qualities when critiquing the on-camera performances of my clients, especially ones who want to be adopted by the media as experts in their field.


1. “IT” For me, it’s all in the eyes. It’s a charisma and confidence that some people possess.

2. Looks: Is the person attractive? Good looking? In good shape? It all matters. I’d by lying if I said it didn’t.

3. Voice and delivery: Did he sound conversational and natural? Did she know how to “hit” key words in a sentence? Does he have an accent that makes him tough to understand?

4. Live Interviews: Is she good at going live? Can he turn on a dime? Is she good under pressure?

5. Personality: This is especially important if you would like to be a host or want to be the go-to subject matter expert for a news program. Are you personable? Will viewers want to tune in and make you part of their family? Are you warm and welcoming? Are you goofy and funny? They can all work—depending on the job.

Bottom Line

If check all of the boxes from my list of on-camera criteria, bookers will be clamoring to get you on their shows.

If you’ve got the first three—you’ll still receive a ton of phone calls.

If you only possess the last two qualities from my on-camera criteria list, you’ll likely have a harder time getting booked because it takes a special person to celebrate your talents when you’re lacking in charisma and stunning good looks.

More Blogs

If you’re interested in more tips, check out our other on-camera blogs.


If you would like more information about working with us, please contact us. We would be delighted to customize a program that fits your exact needs.

Chicago-Based, National & Online Options

We are based in Chicago, but routinely work with clients on both coasts and everywhere in between. We also offer online coaching for those that prefer to work with us remotely.

TV News Interviews

It was my third flight of the day. I was on my way to interview at a top 30 station, which was no small feat, given that I was currently a weekend anchor/ reporter in Abilene, Texas—market #153.

The flight was one of the bumpiest I have ever experienced. As soon as I hit the terminal, I ran to a garbage can and puked my guts up. It was an omen of things to come.

Thankfully, the news director was late, so he didn’t witness my very public vomiting. He took me to dinner and proceeded to grill me for the next hour and a half. I don’t remember much of the conversation because my head was pounding. I do recall describing a gut check moment about the importance of being objective when I was a producer at CNN. I knew he didn’t like my answer. Possibly because I was too honest or earnest? Who knows?

Part Two

Day two opened with him grilling me about the 10 stories and two newscasts that I had sent him. He wanted to know who was helping me write my packages?

My eyes talk. And I am fairly certain they got me into trouble on this particular day as I said, “Whom do you imagine in market 153 is writing packages for me—a former CNN producer?”

He said, “Oh, yes. CNN. I called your references. They certainly think you’re smart.”

The subtext of all of this was that I was way too attractive to be this smart, thus someone must be helping me.

After that, I threw caution to the wind. No matter how badly I wanted out of Abilene, Texas—I vowed never to work for this jerk. So as he dropped me off at the airport that evening I asked, “So when will you make a decision?”

“Well, I have two more people to interview.”

“But what are my chances?” I pressed.

“Well, I couldn’t say.”

“Can’t or won’t,” I said.

“Well, this is ummm very forward of you,” he said.

“Good reporters are forward. And they aren’t afraid to ask tough questions.”

“Well, ummm we’ll let you know,” he said as I closed the door on him and that job.

Lesson: Sometimes jobs simply aren’t a good fit. And no matter how badly you want to move up—you should keep looking until you find someplace that values your skills.

Having said that, it is the news business. And if you wait to find a nirvana newsroom—you’ll be waiting for a long time. Newsrooms are vicious, brutal, cutthroat places to work. But if you can find at least one manager, who recognizes your talent AND is willing to nurture it, jump at the chance to work for him.

Small World Postscript

Ten years after that interview, I found myself on a panel with the aforementioned news director. We were giving advice to college journalism majors on how to succeed on interviews and land that first on-air job.

I didn’t name him–BUT with him sitting beside me– I told the highlights of the story I just told you. I said, “Things all work out the way they’re supposed to. That would have been a very bad fit—working for someone, who didn’t value my talents.”

And to be fair to him—he followed up my comments by saying, “Sometimes –as a news director—you make mistakes. I know that I misjudged one woman in particular and she went on to do very well for herself. She even won a National Edward R. Murrow for Best Feature.” (Yes, I did!)

No one else in the room made the connection. But I did. And I have to say that it put things into perspective. And I ended with this advice:

“Find the job that is a good fit for you and your skills. Don’t try to be whatever the job calls for or what you think they are looking for. Be yourself. Show them who you are – as a person and a journalist—and let the chips fall where they may. Those who value you and your work will hire you. Those who don’t—usually won’t. And you’ll find in time that the ones who didn’t hire you actually did you a favor.”


Playing Nice

It only took me about two minutes to determine that the anchors in LA hated each other.

My friend was amazed. “Really? How can you tell so quickly?”

“He never looks at her. She rarely looks at him. When she does, she looks uncomfortable. There’s no smiling or even pretense at getting along. They’re reading their copy—trying to out-do the other. My guess: he’s smarter than her with no personality. She’s all personality and not terribly bright. They each have something the other is lacking and that’s why they were thrown together.”

Putting on Your Game Face

Good anchors know how to fake it much better than these two. I’ve worked in newsrooms where anchor teams have hated each other for decades, but most viewers at home would never know it. They understand that in the TV news game- perception is reality. If you want good ratings, and by extension job security, you’ll play nice with your co-anchor.

It’s also an important lesson for you to remember when you’re being interviewed. Even if you don’t like the person who’s asking the questions, be respectful and cordial. It’s also crucial that you keep your cool–no matter what you’re asked. Remember, when you look angry, most people won’t know that you were goaded into that reaction. They won’t see the insipid or insulting question being asked. They’ll often only see your response.

So put on your game face. Listen to the question. Never react negatively. Don’t even allow yourself to think– what a so & so. (Your disgust will show on your face.) Instead, pretend that you really like the reporter and you’re genuinely interested in helping him understand your point. And when the interview is over, shake his hand and thank him for the opportunity to share your expertise with him and his viewers.

If he’s smart, your professionalism may just confound him. He’ll wonder if you’re really that bright and controlled or just impervious to his baiting. And if he’s not the brightest bulb, he’ll think you’re a really nice person and will look forward to interviewing you again.

Either way, you win.


Learn From Your Mistakes

I had been on the air in Abilene, Texas for about three months when I went live from a Friday Night football rally. A band was playing and they marched right behind me during my liveshot.

Rookie that I was, I started talking louder and louder as the band got closer and closer. As they bore down on me, I was shouting into the microphone—thinking this was the only way viewers would be able to hear me. I was wrong.

Later that evening, when I walked into the newsroom, my news director said, “McGrath—that’s a one directional microphone. It’s mostly picking up your audio. Yes, the band is behind you. But there’s no need to shout.”

Dejected, I said, “I should have just moved the mic closer to my mouth, right?”


I felt even worse when I watched the tape back. I was shouting like a fisher wife. I wanted to go crawl in a corner and lick my wounds. But I didn’t. I gave myself a swift kick in the behind and said, “Tomorrow’s another day.”

Learn From Your Mistakes

I often tell that story to new clients. For one thing– it’s pretty funny! (Although I didn’t think so at the time.) Two– it reminds people to set realistic goals for themselves.

When you’re new to doing media interviews or public speaking, you’re going to make mistakes. Everyone does. No one masters any skill the first few times they try it. It takes lots of practice.

The key is to pick yourself up, learn from your mistakes and vow to do better next time.

More Tips

If you would like to read more of our tips, check out our other media training blogs.

If you think that you would benefit from some media training, please contact us about our executive media training offerings. We would be delighted to customize a program that fits your exact needs.

Ways to Work With Us

While we are based in Chicago, we often travel to both coasts to work with executives. We also offer online coaching for those who prefer to work with us remotely.

photo credit: Editor B via photopin cc

TV News Internships

When I am hired as a media coach/trainer, I am often scheduled to go to big events with clients. Typically multiple local news stations and networks are covering these events live. I am there to make sure that everything goes smoothly.

At one event last summer, I couldn’t help noticing the TV News interns for two different television stations. One was dressed like she was going out to a club in a very short skirt that barely covered her behind. Throw in her 4-inch stilettos and big hair– well, she was hard to miss. Beyond that, she seemed to be waiting for her close-up, while never actually doing any work.

In stark contrast, the other station’s intern was dressed more appropriately for the casual outdoor event. She wore black pants and a short-sleeved blouse. She had on sporty yet stylish shoes. She took notes. She asked intelligent questions. And as a result, she was given more responsibility that day. She conducted interviews, while the inappropriately dressed intern merely watched. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

It was clear that the second intern understood the opportunity that she was being given and was making the most of it.

Here are 3 tips that I share with college interns, who want to make the most of their TV news internships.

1. Work really hard… so hard that you become invaluable to the newsroom i.e. they can’t imagine functioning without you.

2. Keep a low profile the first couple of weeks. For example, don’t interrupt people. Don’t offer your opinion unless you are asked. Watch, listen and learn all you can.

3. Dress as seriously as you want to be taken.

Remember these tips and you might just get offered a freelance gig after your TV news internships are over.

More Information

If you are a college student who is interested in more tips, check out this blog about landing your first on-air job.

And if you’re a college professor, who is interested in having Noeleen guest lecture at your school, please contact us. Noeleen lectures on a variety of topics including media strategy, crisis comms and spokesperson training.

Giving Thanks for Friends

Note: This is longer than my usual post. But with Thanksgiving fast approaching– I wanted to express my gratitude while teaching journalism students a lesson too. I hope that you’ll indulge me and read the whole thing. ~Noeleen

“TV news is a cutthroat business.”

That’s the first thing I tell the journalism students that I mentor.

“Newsrooms are filled with piranha. It’s rare to find even one person that you can trust. Rarer still– to find someone you can call a friend.”  That’s why so few people last in TV news. To survive (mentally/emotionally)– you need friends. But friends are hard to come by.

I was fortunate to find a friend at every station I worked at. But the friendships didn’t happen right away. Always– there was a painful process of elimination. And sometimes the friends came in surprising packages like my intern, Brian.

Brian was a wunderkind. He was a freshman in high school when he started interning for me. I kicked his butt on a regular basis. I told him the newsroom wasn’t a playground and if he didn’t want to work– he should stay at home.

Prodigy that he was– he wanted to come to the newsroom– even though home was a great place to be. His mother, Elaine, is a wonderful, big-hearted woman. She opened her home to a few of us on Sundays for dinner, making us feel like we had a family in Abilene.

Truly, it’s people like Elaine that make your television news experience in small markets bearable. Without her, I don’t think I could have survived the year and three months I was there. I missed my family. I was making almost no money; I qualified for food stamps. But Elaine always made me feel rich in her warm and welcoming home.

Brian and I have stayed in touch over the years. Yesterday he emailed me to tell me that his mom has stage four cancer. And I thought– No! Not this lovely woman. It’s not possible. Have I ever really told her how much her kindness meant to me? Have I properly expressed how grateful I was that she came into my life? Does she know that there were plenty of times that I thought about giving up?

But I didn’t…because her kindness and encouragement gave me the strength to keep going when most would have packed it in.

Thus why I say to my journalism students: it’s the people that you meet along the way that not only make the journey enjoyable– they make it possible.

Thank you, Elaine. For your friendship. For your warmth. For your generosity of spirit. I couldn’t have done it without you.