There’s a problem in television news: a major shortage of good, well-trained reporters. With three 24-hour South African news channels in operation, not to mention all the international broadcasters operating here, competition for good reporters is intense.
Seamus Reynolds, Johannesburg managing editor of eNCA, says the channel has decided to do something about it. They are running a six-month television news graduate programme – dubbed the eNCA Bootcamp – in June this year.
“Since the launch of the 24-hour news channel (eNews Channel) in June 2008 we have been entirely focused on staying on air, improving the quality of our product and expanding the diversity of our programming,” he says.
“In the early days we were only able to hire a handful of staff with any reasonable broadcasting experience. The rest we had to shape and mould through on-the-job training and a hefty dose of trial and error. As the only 24-hour channel in SA for five years we had nowhere to go and poach from so, inadvertently, we were already the primary training ground for young and inexperienced TV news journalists. Some now have over six years of TV news experience.”
Reynolds says the channel’s management team has paid “close attention to our foundations, as a fundamental way of ensuring the longevity of our newsroom and its staff”.
He says the key is catching the most promising graduates at the earliest stage and shaping them into the future newsroom leaders throughout their developing career. “Some of our most respected and experienced staff started their careers in an e.tv news internship, and because of their training in a wide range of departments, they are the ones who know our systems and procedures the best,” he says.
The bootcamp is a means of reviving that system. “ This sixmonth programme starting in June is the first stage in what we hope will become a full year programme starting in 2015, probably housed within the soon-to-be-launched eAcademy. The six-month version will really be an introduction to TV news, whereas the full year will be far more comprehensive experience,” Reynolds says.
The 10 candidates will be paired up into five groups that will rotate through various divisions, experiencing a whole range of functions/tasks. These include:
- Output (4 weeks): writing for bulletins – including crawlers, Voice-Overs, Packages, graphics, building rundowns, liaising with studio guests, liaising with anchors…
- Assignments (4 weeks): sourcing story ideas, researching potential stories, pitching ideas, introduction to ENG by shadowing Reporters, LIVE news production via SNG, story structure…
- Camera (2 weeks): introduction to operating ENG cameras, basics of shot composition, visualising stories…
- Edit (2 weeks): introduction to the grammar of TV news editing, basics of operating Final Cut Pro, workflows…
- Online (4 weeks): the convergence of television and online, producing multimedia content for online, social media…
- Archives (2 weeks): the fundamentals of archive content, metadata, content selection and retrieval, shots lists and logging…
- News Logistics (2 weeks): introduction to satellite and data deliveries, understanding technologies, scheduling live uplinks, organising content for transmission.
“The 10 candidates will initially go through two weeks of orientation and general lectures to get them ready for the workplace. The programme will then complete with a four-week elective block whereby the candidates can choose any of the areas of the business to spend a consolidated period. We will also offer the candidates an optional unpaid two-week block at the end of the program should they want to help out or experience other areas. The programme start date will likely be the second or third week of June,” Reynolds explains.
The ‘bootcamp’ tag is a way to catch the attention of possible graduates, Reynolds says. “But it’s also designed to show interested graduates that 24-hour television news is a demanding and relentless beast that comes with a fair dose of shouting and profanity. One thing to note though is while we will be paying a nominal stipend for transport we will not be housing our ‘recruits’ in any barracks or accommodation of any form.”
He says the aim is to produce “damn fine TV news journalists that can keep the eNCA flag flying high. We also believe it’s our duty to contribute to the advancement of quality television news in South Africa.”
Of course, the channel’s competitors could also end up benefitting from this graduate programme. “We won’t be able to employ all the candidates after the programme so it would only be natural that some of them go off to the SABC or ANN7. But we know that at some point they’d want to come back ‘home’ and would do so with a richer experience,” Reynolds says.
So, how does one qualify for the programme? Reynolds says eNews wants graduates from any field, not necessarily just journalism. “Show me a BSc graduate with a post-grad in Journalism and I’ll sit up quickly. There are some non-negotiables though that anyone who works in TV news must have – an insatiable curiosity, an exceptionally wide-ranging general knowledge, and a passion for debating South African and world affairs,” he says.
“Does it matter what you look like or sound like? No. We’re not looking for TV news anchors. We want people who are ready to roll up their sleeves and learn as much as they possibly can. I’ll bet though, that one of this class will eventually become an anchor, because all the best anchors first know how to do the job behind the camera.”
To apply, click here.