By Jack Karson
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio– The Pew Research Center reports that in 2018, most Americans still get their news from their local TV stations. And the research also shows roughly local TV news employs roughly 29,000 people. College students looking to break into the TV news are learning they must be diverse in skills that include reporting, producing, shooting and editing video, and managing social media. Reporter Jack Karson checks out how social media and the internet have even changed the jobs news managers like a TV news chief photographer.
John Mikulas graduated from Westminster in 1996. He is finding success today in the television news industry. Reporter Jack Karson takes us to WFMJ TV in Youngstown where Mikulas serves as Chief Videographer.
You may think that working in TV news only requires you to hold a camera or a microphone, but at 21 News in Youngstown, you can see there’s a lot more to it — and a lot more equipment. When I arrive to talk with Chief Videographer, John Mikulas, and I am astounded at what I see outside his office.
“My equipment standard usually lights, I usually take one or two types of microphones, whether it’s a stick mic or lavalier, both wireless, and of course you always need that wire for when your batteries die. Extra batteries, a tripod which is in every car, and I am good to go.”
The duties of chief videographer include overseeing the department’s bounty of equipment, and that is just one of Mikulas’s many responsibilities. He also goes into the field to shoot video each day. Once he is on-location to shoot a story, Mikulas is responsible for more than merely getting some audio and video.
“When I started, I was a videographer. I shot a video. Now I’m a video journalist. I have to go and get the story. I have to interview people now.“
He then has to edit all of the content that he records in time for the day’s newscast.
“Last night, my interview for my story was at 3:00 in Lordstown which is half an hour away. So we got back here at 4:00, and that story had to be on at six.”
If that sounds like a lot, imagine having to do all of that while also overseeing the videography department’s other 12 employees.
“I’m mentor, trainer, counselor, I mean I have to be so many different things being the head of the department. It’s not just the nuts and bolts.”
This makes Mikulas’s job even more challenging when things don’t go according to plan.
“We had a photographer on sight, his car battery died. Well, I’m in charge of vehicles, I’m in charge of him really when he’s on staff. So how do we get him back? Do I gotta call the tow truck? Well, I’m in Warren trying to cover my own story, so I really have to be a pretty good multitasker.”
WFMJ’s work hours are shift-based, so there is no “John Mikulas dispatch service” when a story needs covered. He does, however, recall some difficulty in his schedule early in his career.
“I had to work holidays, Christmases. My first Christmas Eve, I had to go out on a fire. I didn’t get back till one in the morning.”
Mikulas repeatedly echoed the importance of versatility at WFMJ; discussing how the industry has evolved and now requires multitalented workers. Social media and digital literacy are now musts for T-V personnel.
This was an adjustment for many people.
“The people coming into the business have done social media their entire lives or worked with digital or HD. We all needed to be taught that on the job.”
Each day presents new challenges for John Mikulas and his staff, but the hard work pays off with some unique opportunities.
“I’ve been to Washington D.C., Florida uh, up to Canada, all the way over to the West Coast, Las Vegas. Spokane, Washington covering various stories, I’ve been to the World Series, the Super Bowl, the NBA All-Star Game, MLB All-Star Game, Fashion Week in New York City, Daytona 500, so many NASCAR races.”
He even got to sit and chat with Cleveland baseball legend Bob Feller at two World Series games in 1997.