Award-Winning TV Reporter Jeff Tang
Many people think that TV reporters just stand in front of the camera and talk. However, crafting a polished, compelling story that lets viewers not just watch the story, but experience it, requires tremendous preparation and behind-the-scenes work — all while under strict deadline. TV Reporter Jeff Tang, 25, of Newschannel 5, CBS’s affiliate in Nashville, TN, has a keen grasp of the art of reporting, and he has already won two regional Emmy Awards to prove it. He looks for story ideas, identifies people to interview, goes out and interviews them, reviews the video, writes the stories for three separate newscasts, edits them, and then finally speaks in front of the camera. Jeff is passionate about his work of finding people and telling their stories, and as a general assignment reporter, he enjoys being able to cover something different each day. To learn more about award-winning TV reporter Jeff Tang, dive into this week’s Young & Professional Profile.
Newschannel 5 (WTVF)
Newschannel 5 (WTVF) in Nashville, TN
WAVE-TV in Louisville, KY
Chinese (my parents came to the states from Taiwan)
About the company
Newschannel 5 (WTVF) is the CBS affiliate in Nashville, TN. It’s owned by Landmark Communications. We are currently the top news station in the city, having recently won the May ratings period during every single one of our news timeslots. WTVF has also claimed the news excellence award for the past three years at the Midsouth Regional Emmy Awards. Our photojournalism staff was named the best in the country in 2004 by the National Press Photographer’s Association.
But beyond all that, I believe it is the best local news station to work for, bar none. TV news can be a hectic and divisive business, but you’ll find that for the most part people here enjoy their jobs, and who they’re working for.
What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
I’m a general assignment reporter. That means I get to cover something different every day, and that is such a joy!
Often times, people think the reporter simply gets up in front of a camera and talks. The truth is, we’re looking for stories the second we walk into the newsroom. We track down the people we need to talk to, get the interviews, look through the video, and write the stories for three different newscasts…
…then we get in front of the camera and talk.
More than anything, it’s a people-oriented job. We meet remarkable people on each story, and it’s the people that make stories great.
Most notable milestones
I’ve won two Regional Emmy Awards, both for sports feature stories. One was about Cowboy Jones, a 63 year old jockey. The other was on Landon Shuffett, a 12 year old professional billiards player.
What’s the niche?
I love a good breaking news story as much as any reporter, but my niche is feature reporting.
We have so many amazing tools in television news that other mediums don’t have, and all too often we squander those things. We can capture living, breathing moments. There’s no need for quotation marks in our stories because you see and hear from the characters themselves. Most importantly, we can make our viewers feel emotions.
My writing style is hands off. I stay out of the story’s way as much as possible. I look for interesting characters (not just the “talkers,” sometimes it’s the kid hiding in the corner reading a book, or the grandpa sitting on the porch swing). Then, I let the characters drive the story with their words. I’m always looking for the ambient sights and sounds that can help bring the viewer into the story, into the environment. I make sure the story has a beginning, middle and an end. Most of all, the story has to have a thread and a focus. I want the viewer to experience the story, not watch it.
What’s the biggest challenge?
We start each morning looking for stories, then talking about their viability. Then we have to find characters, coordinate interviews, gather facts, review video, write the story, and edit it. Things sometimes break. Schedules sometimes clash. Stories sometimes don’t pan out.
But no matter what, the news comes at 4:00 p.m. no matter what. It can be hard to lovingly craft a story when the clock is constantly ticking.
What’s in store for the future?
I’m blessed to be where I am at 24. I’m passionate about my job, and I still love meeting people and telling their stories. Hopefully, I will be able continue to do so for as long as I can.
Best way to keep a competitive edge
There are three other TV stations in town, but I want viewers to turn to Newschannel 5 because they know our stories will be the most interesting, the easiest to understand, and the most memorable.
It’s that fear of not being the best that keeps me competitive every day.
Guiding principle in life
Don’t compare yourself to others. You are who you are.
My parents taught me this many years ago. I was jealous of a friend whose mom and dad spoiled him as a kid. I kept comparing his good fortune to mine, but my parents told me that I should hold myself only to my own standard – I would never be him, no matter how much I tried.
That holds true to this day. I don’t compare myself to other reporters. I don’t compare myself to other 24 year olds. I know what my best is, and I know when I’m doing well and when I need to pick it up. That’s all that matters.
Goal yet to be achieved
One day, I’d like to have a family.
Supportive words from a family member or friend on your venture
Work means so much to me – I truly can’t imagine enjoying any job more – but it’s just as important to have a life outside of work.
I love turning great stories, but I’d be sick and tired of the business if it weren’t for long rollerblades with my dog, good sushi, writing music, and weekend weightlifting sessions.
People often ask me about my education at Northwestern. All in all, it was great. I learned a lot. But the truth is, I’ve learned more from my photographers than anyone.
They’ve taught me the importance of incorporating beautiful images, natural sound, and natural moments into every part of the story. The bottom line is, no one will care about the story and the facts if they don’t care about the people in the story.
Like best about what you do?
People. Television cameras often bring out the best in people, and time after time I’ve seen folks step up and do amazing things to help each other.
At age 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A marine biologist.
But I soon found out that I didn’t like science all that much, and I was a bad swimmer.
All of a sudden marine biology didn’t look like the right career field.
What was your first job?
Busing tables at a restaurant in downtown Painesville when I was 14. I worked in restaurants all through high school, and I’m thankful for the perspective those jobs offered me. It’s hard work. My mom, who came to the states from Taiwan, worked in restaurants for years when she first got here. She worked so hard. Her wrinkled, worn hands are proof of that. It’s no wonder that first jobs help keep us humble.
Biggest pastime outside of work
Much of my childhood was spent on the piano, but I never knew how important those lessons would be to me years down the road. These days, I’m on the piano writing and playing music just about every day. For now, I’m a singer-songwriter, but I’ve got hopes to start a Newschannel 5 band with some co-workers who also double as outstanding musicians.
Three characteristics that describe you
“A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” by Dave Eggers. It’s such a great example of storytelling and how the most amazing stories are the ones told by real people about their real lives.
Improving the public education system. My brother, Aaron, has a non-profit organization that hopes to act as the voice of young people across the country who believe that all American children should have access to high quality education.
Who would you like to be contacted by?
I’d love to hear from any and everyone.
Interview by Vanessa Chan
Introduction by Preeti Aroon
Edited by Valerie Enriquez