Media Day: Landing the First Journalism Job

News director Donna Bell discusses her experiences and how to get the first journalism job as the College of Communication & Information Sciences celebrates Media Day.

By Chelsea Amend
News Reporter

TUSCALOOSA — Donna Bell spoke to students at the University of Alabama’s media day about landing the first journalism job and her own experiences as a news professional.  

During her presentation, she explained that it’s important to learn all sides of the newsroom before going on air.  

Bell is a news director at NewsChannel 7 and Local 18 News in Panama City, Florida.  Before her Media Day panel, Bell was able to talk to journalism classes about her experiences as a news director, how to get the first journalism job, and any questions that journalism students asked.  

Bell touched on Hurricane Michael and how her station covered the natural disaster. 

“We weren’t able to go live on television and the only thing that worked were cell phones that had AT&T,” she said. “Our reporters would go out into the field and do live videos on Facebook.  That was a really scary time for me.  I was in charge of all of these reporters and they were covering a really dangerous storm.  I worried about them a lot.”

Among other things like sleeping at the news station for days and not being able to shower, Bell spoke highly of her news station.  She was promoted to news director in 2014 and said she loves how she still gets to anchor from time-to-time.  

Bell’s biggest advice to students applying for journalism jobs was to be open to working for any part of the news station.  She believes that an aspiring reporter or anchor should know how to produce, direct, and report before becoming on-air talent.  Small TV stations are more willing to hire a student who wants to learn all aspects of the newsroom, she said. Then they are more flexible if the student wants to practice being on air. 

“My station, and many other smaller stations, will put you all over the newsroom.  The best part about being small is we are able to put you in front of the TV much sooner than a larger, more competitive station.” 

Some students expressed concerns that they haven’t made a news reel and questioned whether it would prevent them from getting their first job.  Bell discussed the importance of a news reel and why many news directors want to see them. 

“I love to see news reels because most of the time they aren’t your best work. I like to see a young, fresh journalism student that needs more experience. My favorite part about being a news director is when I get to mold students into becoming talented anchors or reporters,” Bell said. 

Bell had one-on-one discussions with students who wanted help with their portfolios, looked over resumes and critiqued their news reels.

“I’m so impressed with the University of Alabama’s journalism program.  It’s one of the strongest I’ve seen,” said Bell.