What Is Broadcast Journalism?

Learn what is broadcast journalism, how the practice has grown and what skills you need to pursue the profession today.

Broadcast journalism is news reporting on the radio, television, and the internet. Traditionally, the term referred to reporting and distributing news stories via television and radio. However, as multimedia platforms evolve, different types of online formats now fall under the banner of broadcast journalism. Understanding these types is key to building your journalism career.

The Difference Between Broadcast Journalism And Print Journalism

What is broadcast journalism?
Print journalism refers to reporting via the written word

Broadcast journalism, also called broadcast news, differs from print journalism as it is presented via sound and sometimes visuals.

Whereas print journalism refers to reporting via the written word. Of course, print journalism is accompanied by visuals that support the story (a photo or graph, for instance).

Although print journalism can have accompanying visuals, the key difference between the two is that print news is meant to be read, and broadcast journalism is meant to be seen, heard, or both.

Hence, some online platforms that support news reporting via visuals or sound, such as podcasts and live streams, can be viewed as broadcast journalism rather than print. Whereas web versions of articles still fall under the print banner.

Skills Needed To Be A Broadcast Journalist

Like all types of journalism, there are certain skills you will need to succeed in this area of reporting. ThusBefore you decide to take that broadcast journalism major, follow a broadcast journalism bachelor’s degree out of high school, or take on that internship with your local television news station, you should consider whether or not the below sounds like you.

On-Air Communication Skills

On-air communication skills
You must be able to present your material in a natural tone when reading your material from an autocue

Even if you’re not a news anchor, chances are there will be times when you are on-air. Of course, as you become more experienced as a broadcast journalist, this process should become less difficult.

However, from the offset, you should have some capability to communicate when the recording light is on.

The career section of The Houston Chronicle’s website discussed this skill in detail. Within their article ‘What Are Five Skills You Need to Be a TV Broadcaster?’, they wrote: “You must have a clear voice and the ability to present your material calmly and professionally, particularly under the pressure of a live broadcast. You must be able to present your material in a natural tone when reading your material from an autocue.

“If you are using graphics to explain complex subjects, on a news broadcast for example, you must be able to interact with the material while continuing to speak directly to camera”.

Digital Journalism And Multimedia Expertise

With the rise of backpack journalism and the need to cut unnecessary costs, broadcast journalists are now expected to have some multimedia skills.

Some of these skills can be learned during study. However, if you want to pivot your career from print journalism, you should know that you could be expected to edit and cut a news report on your own.

Of course, the larger and more popular news and radio stations will have people who help with every element of the process.

However, if you’re working for small local media, you may be required to do more than report the news. On Cardiff University’s website, they discuss these requirements for those considering attending their acclaimed broadcast journalism course.

They state: “We know employers look for talent that is multi-skilled, familiar with the latest technology and able to work independently”.

People Skills

When working as a broadcast journalist, you will have to conduct interviews. You may also be involved in in-depth conversations when researching your stories. Those with good interpersonal skills will find this element of their journalism program and career much easier.

Of course, your communication skills should extend beyond the process of gathering the news. Broadcast journalism is a collaborative career; you will need to work with a team to deliver that news to the public effectively.

BeOnAir.com, a website representing several broadcast media schools, discussed this in an article entitled ‘7 Qualities of a Great TV Broadcaster’.

Within this article, they stated: “Naturally, any quality broadcaster is going to have excellent communication skills… Communication skills are also key in creating a newscast as a television broadcast requires a great deal of teamwork both in front of and behind the camera”.

Traditional Journalism Skills

As with all types of journalism, you should have an eye for a story, strong ethics, and excellent research skills. You enjoy writing and understand how to use the inverted pyramid.

Although you may not be writing articles, depending on what area of broadcast journalism you end up in, you may have to write scripts for news bulletins. Masterclass did a brief article where they touched upon the process of becoming a news anchor.

In it, they wrote: “Some anchors are required to write news stories themselves. Great TV news anchors… have excellent written and verbal communication skills.

“Regardless of your background, putting in the hard work and continuously focusing your craft to sharpen your writing and presentation skills will make you a valuable asset for any news channel”.

A Working Knowledge of News and Current Affairs

For the requirements for the aforementioned Cardiff University’s MA in broadcast journalism, they discuss some of the criteria for candidates.

To be accepted, they state that they expect students to be “engaged with what’s happening in the world” and “regularly watch and listen to TV and radio news programs”.

Of course, to work in this field, you should be up to date with best practices. As well as being aware of contemporary news events, you should know the latest developments in technical innovation in reporting and new media.

Although not as necessary, it is worth knowing what has come before you in the broadcast realm. Below is a brief overview of the history of broadcast journalism in the United States of America. You might also be wondering, what is balance in journalism?

A Brief History of American Broadcast Journalism

Radio And The Early Days

During the first decade of FM radio in 1936, the platform was viewed primarily as a source of entertainment rather than news.

However, that changed when CBS’ Edward Roscoe Murrow moved to Europe in the years before the USA’s involvement in WWII. For many Americans, his iconic reports from the continent gave birth to the idea that news could be received in ways other than the written word.

Morrow and his collection of reporters, known as ‘Murrow’s Boys’, and the program ‘World News Roundup’ brought the reality of the war to life for Americans. His influence proved so great that according to the New York Film Academy, a survey in 1940 showed that most Americans viewed radio as their preferred source of news.

Not only that, but by that stage, Murrow’s audience had grown to 22 million, and broadcast journalism was on the rise.

The Birth of Television

For many of us, when we think of broadcast journalism, television is the first thing that pops into our heads. The story of how that came to have its roots in the first regularly scheduled news broadcast, which was Lowell Thomas’ nightly newscast in 1940. As if to demonstrate the importance of radio at the time, this was a simulcast on both radio and TV.

Of course, over the coming years and during the war, news on television became a far more dominant feature. Illustrating this, news coverage took up around 20 percent of the US networks’ schedules by 1944.

Although the news was an integral part of the television schedule by the mid-40s, it wasn’t viewed on mass simply because not many people had their own television. This drastically changed over the years, with the number of TV sets in use in the US growing from around 6,000 in 1946 to approximately 12 million by 1951.

By 1955, around half of US homes had a television, meaning that over half the population could get their news from broadcast journalists. These journalists relished this opportunity, producing innovative reporting, some of which still stands up today.

Notable television news of the era includes the aforementioned Murrow’s ‘See It Now’, Walter Cronkite becoming a recognized news anchor for both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions and his show ‘Pick The Winner’, as well as Chet Huntley and David Brinkley’s The Huntley-Brinkley Report.

Since then, broadcast journalism has grown substantially, with television being a dominant platform and radio still having an enthusiastic audience.

In the 1960s, television became the most popular way for the American public to consume the news. This was cemented in the aftermath of the John F. Kennedy assassination in 1963. Cronkite’s discussion of the Vietnam war later in the decade was still deemed an iconic piece of broadcast journalism. In terms of iconic broadcast news moments, there was also the moon landing, which reached an estimated 650 million viewers.

In the years that followed, the list of incredible moments and stories that aired on television news is almost endless. How the news has been presented has also changed drastically. For instance, CNN (Cable News Network) became the first 24-hour news network in 1980, there has been massive growth in local tv news, and the national networks operate news divisions with regular programming. Not only that, but in 1996, both Fox News and MSNBC were launched to compete with CNN.

The Advancement Of The Internet

The advancement of the internet
Podcasts have become part of the news consumers’ diets

The popularization of the internet and social media over the past three decades has changed how newsrooms break the news. Now, broadcast journalists are not only expected to produce news for television and radio but also to have the ability to work via online platforms.

Podcasts have become part of the news consumers’ diets, with the likes of NPR News Now, The Daily from The New York Times, and Rachel Maddow Presents: Ultra from MSNBC regularly reaching a vast audience.

Since the early days of broadcast journalism, the practice has become the most high-profile type of reporting in the USA, with television being a dominant platform, radio still having an enthusiastic audience, and new online platforms offering a unique chance at innovation.

  • Cian Murray is an experienced writer and editor, who graduated from Cardiff University’s esteemed School of Journalism, Media and Culture. His work has been featured in both local and national media, and he has also produced content for multinational brands and agencies.