breaking away from the pack

2 Keys to Broadcast Media Careers for Students

By on April 18, 2010 in Publishing Revolution

Recently I had the chance to sit down over a cup of coffee with Henry Rubin at his neighborhood haunt, Raging Sage in Tucson Arizona, to talk about professional pathways and education for students who want to pursue a career in broadcast television and media production, two keys to success.

In a career spanning more than two decades, Henry Rubin has played a key role in the television production of several Summer and Winter Olympic Games as an Editor and Edit Supervisor, currently with NBC Olympics, and most recently at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. He is Broadcast Operations Manager at the Center for Learning Technology in Tucson. He was Vice President and Senior Editor at Video Workshop, and Senior Editor at PBS affiliate KUAT-TV, also in Tucson.

As a broadcast media consultant with RubinMedia Consulting, Henry is a regular consultant and trainer for Sony Electronics (this week he returned from another stint with Sony at NAB), and Editor-Producer-HD consultant for the City of Tucson. He is also an Edit Supervisor at NBC Sports.

With the explosion of “do it yourself” media production, there is even greater interest among young people in getting into the television and digital media industry and enjoying satisfying, fulfilling careers. The Internet opened a new world for creation, production, and distribution of content simply unavailable to us until the last several years. The last couple of years has seen an explosion of media content on the Web that has revolutionized how young people view media and their active involvement.

For those wishing to work at the apex of mainstream broadcast and digital media, the door to entry is still a competitive and elusive one, yet open to those who seek the right opportunities and are willing to work hard learning their craft.

“It’s a multiple algebraic equation,” said Henry. “A factor in student success is the internship.”

He stressed the importance of the internship experience as a key element in progressing toward professional success. “They need this experience, to get it somehow before they commit to a career path, so they know where they want to be,” he said.

“For those who want it and prepare for it, we need to place them in those situations, whether it’s a radio station, the IT world, a TV station. Hands-on experience with professionals is what these students need.”

Henry went on to describe a simple formula for success—typical of those working at the highest levels of their industry. “Individuals who have made it in the business have a love of the craft. At that level, there is a combination of being good at it and loving what you do.”

It starts with getting a good education, he said, and whether it’s secondary school or higher education, you need qualified professors.

“At most colleges and universities, you have professors who are not qualified, often those with little professional experience. They can theorize and students need a solid grasp of theory, but many professors cannot tell you how to go from A to Z—from an interest in a career to being a working professional in the industry.”

“Both theory and academics are important so you can guide individuals to where they want to be,” he said. “It’s a good start to introducing students to media.”

However, Henry thinks many students get an unrealistic perception of what careers in television really entail.

“TV is perceived to be “cool”, but it may not be the best choice for the student.”

Awhile back, Henry considered accepting a teaching position at Western Carolina University where one of his responsibilities would be to guide students into broadcast and other media careers. These students do internships with major media corporations. While he chose not to make the move, he continues to advise the University on internships and connects students with these opportunities through his network of contacts.

Students need to be serious and pursue excellence as a prelude to networking with the right people to gain access to the opportunities they need to develop careers. Henry said the world of TV sports provides a clear example.

“The professionals doing sports now, they know intimately the teams and players of the sport they are covering. The writers and producers know that particular sport,” he said. “Look at NFL Films. They have a multi-million dollar facility in New Jersey. They recruit top students from the top schools like Notre Dame. They want people working there who can think and are invested in their schooling.”

ESPN has taken on the campus mode at their headquarters in a way similar to what Microsoft did in creating their campus in Redmond, Washington.

“The ESPN campus grew up in Bristol Connecticut and their program engages college grads, interns, as well as professionals—it’s a culture.”

Like CNN, ESPN started out as a dinky cable programming company and grew into a giant, he said.
Henry emphasized the point that once college students enter the industry after graduation and become professionals, they need to stay current. Like any profession, the learning process never stops. The field is constantly changing. Henry himself is currently at work in studies in a master’s degree program.

“With technology, it’s axiomatic—the technology changes, but the stereotype is true. The Olympics – the technology completely goes through a quantum change every two years for the Winter Olympics and Summer Olympics,” said Henry.

In 2010, NBC went through another quantum change for the Winter Olympics coverage. Henry recounted the new paradigm that reflects the rapid increase in Internet TV development and penetration.

“For the Vancouver Olympics, they told us, this is going to be the “live” Olympics. True, but the programming is stored on and delivered from servers. There are multiple distribution channels including Universal Sports, NBC, CNBC, MSNBC, USA, Telemundo, and the Highlights Factory pumps out highlights for Web entities.

“The IOC designed this as the first Olympics where all the games were online and delivered throughout the world. The exception was in the U.S. where NBC had exclusive distribution rights in their contract for which they made a huge investment. But elsewhere in the world, viewers could watch all the games anytime.”

“NBC Universal paid big dollars for rights negotiated for their first two contracts for the Sydney and Salt Lake City Olympic Games and then negotiated again,” he said (NBC is reported to have paid a record US $2.2-billion in 2003 for the U.S. broadcast rights to the Beijing 2008 Summer and Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, and actually lost money on the Vancouver Games for the first time in its history of broadcasting the Olympic Games).

At Vancouver, student interns performed a variety of tasks, he said, many of them what might be considered menial but still important, whether it’s logging program content, running and fetching, getting drinks for staff, or photocopying.

“This is a farm, a nursery for college-age kids, young talent, for the most part volunteering to learn and be involved in the process by filling the need for interns. These kids are basically volunteering or getting paid little for their work–the value is in the experience,” said Henry.

“Nowadays, kids are already producing their own videos and posting them on YouTube and other social media sites,” he said. “They’re part of the DIY generation. Each development in technology brings the individual closer to communicating worldwide.”

As each new generation, more media savvy than the last, comes along, industry professionals like Henry Rubin are taking responsibility for guiding those students who are truly passionate about the work and acquire the necessary knowledge, skills and experience.

By forming a channel and continuum through education and networking into professional experiences, we lead this new generation to positions where they can create a new future for television and digital media of all kinds.

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  1. I agree with all of Henry Rubin’s sage advice for aspiring broadcast professionals, however, such students need to have a backup career in mind. I attended NAB (the National Association of Broadcasters annual tradeshow) in Las Vegas last month and it sad to see how many broadcast, journalist in general for that matter, are out of work. There were also at least a couple thousand students or recent graduates perusing NAB looking to make career connections. Frankly, it was scary.

    I have been a guest speaker at a local junior college for several years where I address what it is like to be a newspaper reporter. I always advice the students to have a backup plan because there are not enough good paying jobs available for all of the journalism majors today. And I stress good paying, because one of these days when you have a family, you may realize many journalism jobs won’t put your kids through college.