By Bill Natale
Executive Director, Chicago Campus
Illinois Center for Broadcasting
Broadcasting is often thought of as a fun, glamorous and fast-paced industry. As an almost 40 year veteran I know that broadcasting truly does encompass all of these things, but it is also much more. Broadcasters record history as it happens, shape ideas and catalogue events. The broadcast industry has given me some of the most rewarding experiences in my life, and it has taught me something new every day of my career.
I developed a passion for broadcasting at a young age after I laid eyes on a professional camera for the first time. It was at that moment when I knew exactly where I belonged: in the world of broadcasting.
The year before I attended St. Patrick High School in Chicago, the school received a switcher, audio console, lighting equipment, a film/slide chain and two cameras from WGN-TV as a way to connect the three buildings within our campus.
The staff cleared out a storage space above the stage in the athletic building. An alumnus along with a couple of his WGN colleagues donated their time and skill to wire up a TV studio and a closed circuit system for our school. Everything was in place by the time I became a freshman.
As a founding member of the St. Pat’s TV Club, I learned how to use this equipment. I was fascinated by the electronics and the protocol required for producing a program and worked hard with our crew of 7 to broadcast from the school studio. This was the start of my broadcasting career.
Before long, the TV Club was broadcasting sold out basketball games. During my four years at St. Pat’s, the team went on to high school regional playoffs and even competed one year at the state championship level, giving us great fan support eager to view our broadcasts. For me, being a camera operator covering a live sporting event was exhilarating. I realized then that I had to be a broadcaster.
Now as a camera operator, a member of the National Association of Broadcast Employees, Technicians and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Directors Guild of America, and as the Executive Director of a broadcasting college, I have had a career that has been exciting, challenging and lucrative. I have had a chance to travel on assignments throughout the U.S. and also to cities in Europe, Asia and Africa on someone else’s dime while being paid for my services as a camera operator, TV producer or director. I’ve also had the fun and fortune to work NBA play-off games, the NBC Michael Jordan golf tournament, NHL and IHL hockey and MLB games.
In thirty-eight years in the business, I have never once regretted getting up and going to work. Isn’t that the kind of career you ultimately want?
If you’re interested in seeing the fun and exciting places broadcasting can take you, it’s important to learn more about the industry, gain an education and get some internship experience. Many educational and experiential programs take only a year to complete, so with a little hard work and a lot of passion, you can be on your way to a successful career in no time!