Career Spotlight: Multimedia journalists (MMJs)

NBCU Academy 101

Tim Furlong, a multimedia journalist for NBC10 Philadelphia, takes NBCU Academy behind the scenes to learn what it takes to do the job.

MMJ stands for multimedia journalist, and that’s what we have to be — working in hard news, features, sports, community news, social media and digital projects. MMJs wear the hats of reporters, producers, photographers and editors all at once. We do it all and we do it by ourselves. Well, not totally. We have the whole news team behind us, but I generally do my stories and projects, start to finish, alone. 

That doesn’t mean I’m at a disadvantage. What it means is MMJs get to craft their story from start to finish themselves. To be successful, you should focus on three things: the right gear, the journalism and the drive.  

Speaking of drive, I drive a cool news Jeep that has everything I need — my cameras, my laptop for editing, my microphones (crisp audio is an absolute must). I also always bring a drone on shoots. Yep, I’m a licensed drone pilot.  

I shoot most of my work on a tiny Gimbal camera that keeps everything sharp, steady and cinematic. It’s really important to make the sun or other light sources hit your subjects to really make them pop.  

I also use GoPro cameras a lot. Stick it to the side of a race car, dunk it in a pool, take the viewer along with you — that’s the name of the game. Once I shot a standup while riding a bike. I used a bungee cord to strap a camera to my daughter and I asked her to ride down the street in front of me. It turned out pretty cool.

A good MMJ will use any and all tools available to tell the best story possible. Whatever kind of work you’re doing, on whatever platform you’re working with — TV, YouTube, social media — know your viewers and their habits and make relatable content for them. Make your viewers feel they are part of the story. Catch their attention.

The “J” in MMJ — journalism — is still boss here. You have to get it right, you have to be fair, you have to make sure different viewpoints are included in your stories. The W’s are super important — who, what, where, when, why — and you have to answer all those questions for your viewers.

I teach at a college and tell my students to write a news story the way you’d tell it to your mom or a friend. They’d want to know the biggest, most important details first and then work down to the smaller questions. Let your viewers know how the story could affect them and find and interview the people who are affected. All the visual razzle dazzle doesn’t mean much if the story is no good.

A good MMJ is like a combination ninja and Swiss Army knife, with many skills and abilities. You have to come at this from the right mindset — this isn’t a career that falls into your lap. You need to be self-motivated and always hustle, improve your writing, be good with people, and be enthusiastic, creative and curious. You are the eyes and ears of the viewer and you need to look around every corner and under every rock to get them answers and good visuals.  

This is a super rewarding career that has taken me to some cool places on Earth. I think you’d really enjoy it, too, and whatever you look like, wherever you came from, trust me, there’s room for you in this world. Your voice is needed. Stories are everywhere — go find one.