Tammy Phillips has served as Nexstar Media Group’s vice president of talent acquisition since 2022. Phillips focuses primarily on recruiting general managers, news directors, digital directors, creative service directors, and other media roles for Nexstar. Phillips spoke with University of Mississippi journalism graduate student Allie Watson about the hiring challenges faced by local TV news stations.
Watson: Are there any key skills and attributes that a potential candidate looking to be hired by Nexstar should have?
Phillips: For me, whenever I talk with someone, no matter what division they may work in, curiosity is the number one thing I want for them to have. If you are curious about something, you are going to dig in and make it work. You are always going to ask questions. You are always going to strive to make the story better. Curiosity leads to a passion that leads to a product that other people consume and enjoy and love and feel great about. Curiosity is the number one thing.
Work ethic is another thing. I can help teach you AP ENPS. I can teach you Final Cut Pro and how to use WideOrbit and sales. I can teach you that. I cannot teach you to have a work ethic, curiosity or passion. You can be introverted and have all those things. I do not need you to be extroverted. I just need you to really want to do what you are doing.
This is not a job where you are necessarily going to become rich. This is a job where you have the largest megaphone in the community and can make a change. You can get a kid’s bicycle back that was stolen. Or you can change a law. You can help hold somebody accountable. Or you can just celebrate the local crawfish festival. This is a career that is amazing.
Watson: If you do not have a degree in broadcast journalism, but you want to learn to work for local a local TV station, do you have any advice?
Phillips: It does not matter what you major in. I have had pre-law and even a chemistry major [apply]. The thing is if you can make good decisions if you can read the room and if you are curious about things. And you know, there are students who are really good at writing, but you also have the technology kids. And they bring progress to the stations in different ways. So I do not think it matters what your degree is, as long as you are invested.
Watson: What are some of the biggest challenges facing local TV news when it comes to hiring?
Phillips: I crave watching the news. I love that I can do that. But young adults today have so many platforms and avenues. I think the hardest thing about your question is getting people to understand that local television news is really not only relevant but impactful. And with the pandemic, you know, people went local. We have to be there to give them vital information that will ultimately save their lives.
Watson: What are some key initiatives Nexstar is using to overcome hiring challenges?
Phillips: I will tell you this. A lot of things have changed. And we have had to kind of adjust overall. So we have added a few things. My company offers a 12-month training program for every single producer that is hired. You do not have to be this special kid. You do not have to be a student that went to the Ivy League. You are not at a fellowship. Every single student or early-career professional that chooses to come to us as a producer gets the 12-month structured class on producing. So we will teach you how to do some of the things that you are maybe a little unsure about.
We have offered employee resource groups to our teams. We have LGBTQ groups. We have African-American groups, women groups, and veterans groups, and they are not run by our company. They are run by employees.
In conclusion, journalism is a challenging and rewarding career that offers an opportunity to make a difference in the world. As the media landscape continues to evolve, it is more important than ever to have skilled and dedicated journalists who can uncover the truth, hold those in power accountable, and tell the stories that need to be told. Whether you are just starting out or looking to take the next step in your career, there are many exciting opportunities in the field of journalism. So if you have a passion for storytelling and a commitment to the principles of good journalism, consider pursuing a career in this dynamic and essential profession.