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Breaking News ... What it takes to make it as TV Correspondent with Journalist Aimee Nuzzo
Written by: Kelly Calabrese
Ever picture yourself behind an anchor desk or reporting LIVE from a bank robbery… well then, you need “not only the acting abilities, but to be a good writer,” says former news correspondent Aimee Nuzzo, “because reporters always write their own stuff, especially starting out.”
Aimee Nuzzo spent 12 years as a television news reporter, after graduating from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. For the majority of those 12 years, Aimee worked as a general assignment reporter for major network affiliates in New York City.
Having traveled from the plains of Peoria, Illinois as a reporter for WMBD-TV, to the Southern California Coast where she was a respondent for KFMB-TV… Aimee Nuzzo knows the ins and outs, as well as the ups and downs, of TV correspondence – so we asked her to share her news and views with NYCastings members…
Q&A with Aimee Nuzzo – former TV News Reporter and Co-Founder of SnapFocus Productions.
Q: How did you get started in Journalism / News Reporting?
I decided in eighth grade that I was going to be a TV reporter. I really wanted to be an actress, but I was a great writer and my parents encouraged me to take the safer, more reliable route.
Q: What kind of reporting did you do?
Most of my career I was general assignment, which means you are covering the news of the day - breaking news, the murders, earthquakes, hurricanes.
Q: Are there other types of news reporting?
There are featured news reporters, consumer news, health news.
But wherever I went, those other niches were already filled and they wanted me to cover the breaking stories. My personality is laid back and funny. I don't like to be too serious, so it was not necessarily the best fit for my personality.
If you are the kind of person who is negatively impacted from always reporting negative news, then those other niches are better for you – medical, consumer, features. They tend to be a little more boring, but they do not require you to knock on a door to get the reaction of a family whose family member just got killed.
Q: You went to Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism – how vital is it to have a degree in journalism to get started in that business?
I think it helps to give you credibility, but really the only thing that matters is how you look. By look, I do not mean your beauty. I mean, do you come across well on camera? Do you come across as authoritative? The main thing that the networks are looking at is your resume tape. They are looking for you doing stories on camera stories that you have written and edited yourself. Do you come across as a credible reporter to them? That's what matters.
Any school that gives you the opportunity to work on your writing, speaking and on camera skills will help you achieve that.
Q: How did the Journalism Degree help you, specifically?
I had a major in journalism with a focus in broadcasting and worked for my college television station. I chose to become a part of the student television station and, in doing that, I learned basic editing and I got practice putting stories together. We also had an internship where students could work at a local station and go on air, which enabled most of us to have a demo reel ready by the time we graduated so we could go right into on air jobs
Q: You traveled quite a bit to rise up the reporting ladder – is that what it takes to get ahead?
Most people find that they need to start in a small town because they are desperate for anyone. Because they pay next to nothing, they will have a college kid on air. Then, as you get experience, you move again or become anchor. There is a lot of movement, but with the advent of local cable stations some people have been able to move up in the New York market through small stations such as News 12 and NY1.
I think it is best to go to a small town because you will make really embarrassing mistakes on air and it is best to leave it behind.
Q: What kind of mistakes do new reporters make?
Like forgetting you have a mic that is turned on and hollering something to the producer and generally seeming green, when you are doing a live shot.
Q: Do you have to find your own news stories?
You are usually expected to come up with stories but most of the stories wind up being given to you because what needs to be covered has to be covered, whether it interests you or not.
Q: How many stories come up in a day?
Usually, a reporter covers one story a day. Investigative reporters will take more time to work on one story, multiple days. But news stations are doing away with their investigative units, because they are finding them to not be cost effective.
Q: Do you get a manager/agent as a TV reporter?
Yes. You typically get an agent after you get your first job on your own because no agent wants a cut of the $18,000 a year on your first job. You sign a contract and they get 10%, but you can negotiate a lower rate if you, yourself, find the job.
You definitely want an agent who specializes in new reporting, if you are interested in it. The one I used was Ken Lindner & Associates out of LA. They do primarily news reporters and hosts. William Morris also does a lot of news reporters.
Q: Are you responsible for clothing and make-up or do they provide those services?
If you are out in the field, it is your own make up. If you are on set, sitting next to the anchor, the make-up artist may do your make-up. And, sometimes when you are just starting out, in the really small stations, they will reimburse you for a small amount for clothing.
Don't curse at anyone.
One time, I was doing something that was a taped update that would air on cable and I messed up. I was anchoring and I cursed and we recorded it over, not a problem, but when they put the tape in the deck the deck malfunctioned and wound the tape back to the beginning. The one that aired was the wrong one, it aired several times before we got a call from the cable company.
Q: Did you get in trouble or fired?
I didn't get fired. The station manager laughed.
Q: How does news reporting differ from hosting a show?
There is very little similarity between those two jobs. A show host is more like an anchor in that you have to be smooth and polished on camera, but you are not spending your day news gathering. If hosting is what you are interested in, don't go into reporting. Reporting is having to pee in the woods, in 20 degree weather, at 1 in the morning during a three-hour hostage standoff.
Q: Is news reporting a stepping stone to other acting / on camera careers or a separate arena?
It is a totally separate arena and I don't recommend using it as a stepping stone. There are too many skills you need to hone as a reporter that you don't need as a host or an actor. Just work on those skills and do not get bogged down with reporting.
Q: Any advice for NYCastings actors, who may be interested in news reporting?
I would not encourage anyone interested in acting to go into news reporting because one minute of your day is spent being actually on camera. You have to be a reporter before you can anchor and most of your day is spent writing, news gathering, conducting interviews, accompanying the photographer out in the field, making phone calls and putting the story together. That is the bulk of the day, and it is extremely high pressure
Q: What are upsides of getting involved in news reporting?
The only people who should do news reporting are those who feel it is in their blood. For them, I'd say to try and get an internship in a small market where you can get on camera and get a demo reel together. Then, when you are ready to get your first job, don't just respond to open job postings. Send the reel to everyone, whether there is an opening or not, because there is always a lot of turn around and you don't want to be one in 100 submitting.
Q: Sounds like a tough job, why did you stick with it for 12 years?
By the time I was a news reporter, I invested so much time learning to be one. It was too late to change my mind.
The novelty wore off and the reality of news reporting sunk in. It is very unglamorous, terrible hours and being in unpleasant situations and having to interview people who don't want to be interviewed. But I learned a lot and it ultimately lead me to where I am now.
Q: Today, you co-own SnapFocus Productions – which offers a full array of video services for broadcast, private businesses and individuals. How did news reporting lead to starting a company?
I learned that I absolutely love to edit. Initially, I was dazzled with the idea of being on TV but found that my true passion was editing, the process of actually assembling the video and making something cool out of the clips of video. Now, I do a lot of the editing at SnapFocus Productions because it is my true passion. When I am editing at the computer, time passes at three times the normal speed. I have also learned how to produce and what makes good television.
Q: What services do you offer for actors?
At SnapFocus we do broadcast commercials and some broadcast content, as well as a lot of marketing videos and web videos. For actors, if you need a demo reel, or film, shot or edited – we could help with that. We know how to make people look good on camera. We know how to put a compelling, sales pitch together when the product is you.
If you are interested in hosting and don't have a hosting show yet, we can help with the vision. We can put you in the best situation and show your talents. We could help you create the scenario and shoot it, so others can see how you would be in an on camera situation.
Q: You recently used NYCastings to cast a broadcast commercial?
Yes. We recently used NYCastings to help us cast a commercial and found two actors. I was so impressed by the company and the caliber of actors that submitted through the website. We did not have the budget to do a formal casting call and NYCastings was ideal because within a couple of hours we got photos, resumes and demos. I will definitely use NYCastings again. It is a great service.
Thank you Aimee Nuzzo for breaking us in on the ups and downs of news reporting. For more information on SnapFocus Productions visit www.snapfocusproductions.com
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