It’s never too early to chat about vocations with children. The topic popped up with my younger son and daughter over the last week. “I want to become a news reporter,” my daughter Jane recently revealed. I chuckled and was surprisingly excited even though journalism has as much job potential as coal mining.
“You mean just like Daddy?” I asked. “No,” Jane said. “It would be nothing like what you do. I have no intention to write about my family even though Milo is good for endless material. That’s not reporting.”
“But I write entertainment features,” I explained. “Yeah, but I want to report about important things, like politics,” Jane said. “What you write about is fun, and you get to meet cool people, but that’s not what I want to do.”
Jane, 11, isn’t kidding. When I invited my youngest daughter to meet Taylor Swift and experience the world’s most popular singer-songwriter perform on her 9th birthday, she initially declined. Jane had a change of heart and had a blast hanging out with Swift before her show.
“I want to be a reporter, but for television,” Jane declared. “Like on NBC Nightly News.” Jane is only in elementary school, but it was time to talk about her future career. When I was a journalism student at Temple University a generation ago, my sequence was broadcast.
Much has changed in broadcast journalism. I crafted a paper on Linda Ellerbee’s informative and entertaining bestseller “And So It Goes: Adventures in Television” while at Temple.
Ellerbee was an exceptional reporter/anchor, but it’s difficult to imagine the Emmy Award winner with her comparatively average looks and oversized glasses in front of the camera today. Many meteorologists and traffic reporters – female and male, to be fair – look like they’ve taken a wrong turn on the way to a modeling agency.
If it appears that contemporary anchors are beauty queens, well, some of them are. “20/20” co-anchor/”Good Morning America” Amy Robach was the fourth-runner up in the 1995 Miss Georgia contest. Fox News host Shannon Bream participated in the Miss America contest in 1991.
Yes, I’m aware that former NFL co-host Phyllis George broke a glass ceiling for female reporters during the ’70s shortly after being crowned Miss America in 1971. However, 40 years ago, bombshells broadcasting like George were the exception.
It’s not just about how ubiquitous aesthetically pleasing women are among the broadcast news ranks. There is a blandness that is pervasive. Ellerbee detailed in “And So It Goes” that it sounded and appeared as if TV journalists were born and raised in the same room. The quirky and brilliant Texan explained how bored she was by that wave of homogenous reporters.
I dropped all that information on Jane but didn’t discourage her from pursuing her dream. Jane is my most inquisitive and organized child. Sometimes, it’s as if she’s conducting an interview with yours truly as well as new friends.
Jane grilled Swift during her backstage encounter. Jane apparently has some of the skill set of a communications practitioner. When Swift signed Jane’s vinyl version of “Reputation,” the stadium headliner noted that Jane possesses uncommon poise.
“Dream big,” Swift advised Jane. “You have to go for it. Do what you love.” We all see how it turned out for Swift, who, no matter what Kanye West says, possesses extraordinary talent.
My advice for my children is to not swim upstream. Passion trumps money. My son Milo, 15, recently experienced a career seminar. I asked where his path is, and he flipped it back to me. “You know me as well as anyone, so what do you think?”
I explained that it’s his choice. Milo, who is adept at making a case for the most ridiculous, mentioned attorney as an option. If that is his career choice, it shouldn’t be for money. Half of my attorney friends had escape plans, and a quarter of the barristers left for pastures that were less green but more satisfying.
Jane reads the news online and doesn’t just watch the nightly news, she analyzes breaking stories and asks questions. Jane has inquired about news gathering and how a story is assembled. “I really think I could become a reporter,” Jane said. “Do you think I could do it?”
“Why not?” I said. The news will always be there, and someone has to dig for it and deliver it. If news is your passion, read, write and work hard. You’ll be surprised how far you’ll go if you put in the effort.
Local journalism is essential.
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