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How to Become an ESPN Reporter
If you’re the person who lives for football season, a career as a sports reporter may seem like a dream. However, getting an on-air job with a national network like ESPN isn’t easy. Although there are many entry-level ESPN careers behind the camera, to move in front of the camera, you’ll need years of experience as a sports reporter along with a bachelor’s degree and the on-air charisma to be able to attract viewers.
TV sports reporter jobs involve covering sporting events. You will typically attend the events, interview athletes and deliver updates to viewers on various games. Due to the nature of the job, you can expect to work unconventional hours as well as travel extensively.
ESPN careers are highly competitive, as are many national on-air positions. There are many employees in the background, but the on-air talent needs to be able to connect with viewers. Most sports reporters need to be able to ad lib on a regular basis, which requires great speaking skills and the ability to think on your feet.
You’ll need a bachelor’s degree and experience in the industry to land an on-air position at a national network. ESPN internships can help give you an “in,” but if you want to be a reporter for the network, you’ll still need to get some on-air experience in smaller TV markets to qualify. Each opening receives many candidates, so working your way up to a large-market TV station will help give you an edge.
Any television broadcasting job requires that you provide a highlight reel, demonstrating your on-air experience. Applying for on-air ESPN careers will require you to have a strong demo showcasing your career in the business.
Sports reporter jobs can be found in a variety of media, from newspapers to magazines to local TV and radio stations. You’ll also find many online sports reporting jobs. ESPN is a national network with a full slate of sports journalists and commentators, many of whom have impressive histories in the industry.
ESPN internships can be a great way to break into the field. Internships will be performed while you’re pursuing a degree, and you can choose between fall, spring or summer semesters. The good news is that you don’t have to be located near ESPN’s Bristol, Connecticut headquarters in order to participate. Internships are offered in Bristol, New York City, Austin, Charlotte and Los Angeles, with limited opportunities in other locations.
Years of Experience and Salary
Although there are some broadcasters across all verticals who hire agents who command top-dollar salaries, the vast majority of on-air talent earns surprisingly low salaries. ESPN’s big names are top earners, though, and they are considered celebrities in the field. Stephen A. Smith reportedly earns just over $3.1 million per year, while sidelines reporter Suzy Kolber earns an estimated salary of $18 million.
Unless you make it to the big leagues, though, your salary will be more in line with what other broadcasters make. The median annual pay for reporters, correspondents and broadcast news analysts is $43,490, and the median for radio and television announcers is $51,630. If you put in your time at local stations and can win one of the coveted positions as an ESPN personality, you’ll be able to negotiate a salary based on your popularity, on-air presence and experience.
Job Growth Trend
Although there will always be sports reporter jobs, the outlook for careers in broadcasting isn’t a good one. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 9-percent overall decline in careers for reporters, correspondents and broadcast news analysts through 2026. Specifically, reporters and correspondents will see a 10-percent decline, with broadcast news analysts showing little to no change.
One thing affecting work at ESPN is that even its entry-level production program is highly competitive. Participating in ESPN internships can help give you an edge, but if you want to be an on-air personality at the network, you’ll need a solid demo reel and demonstrated experience in the field. That won’t change in the coming years as more graduates crowd the applicant pool for the few available entry-level sports reporter positions in the field.
- Headquarters Info: ESPN Headquarters Information
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Reporters, Correspondents, and Broadcast News Analysts
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Radio and Television Announcers
- Sports Management Degree Guide: How is the Job Outlook for Sports Broadcasting?
- Sportscasters Talent Agency of America: Critical Components of a TV Sports Anchor/Reporter Demo
- Work in Entertainment: The Secret to Landing TV Reporter Jobs
Stephanie Faris is a novelist and business writer whose work has appeared on numerous small business blogs, including Zappos, GoDaddy, 99Designs, and the Intuit Small Business Blog. She worked for the State of Tennessee for 19 years, the latter six of which were spent as a supervisor. She has written about business for entrepreneurs and marketing firms since 2011.