Media Training Worldwide

How to be a Pundit or News Analyst – Part 1

If you want to be a pundit, you first need to understand the term. A pundit is someone who gives opinions and analyses about the news. Pundits are not reporters or interviewers, but someone who gives their own opinion or perspective on some field or topic they are expert in.

If you are someone who wants to become a pundit, this article will help. We’ll walk you through how to leverage your expertise and share it with a mass audience on television.

History of Pundit

The history of pundit dates back to the origin of cable Tv when Pat Buchanan first appeared as a pundit. He left his job as a communication spokesperson and speechwriter for President Nixon and became a syndicated columnist and started doing talk shows on radio. When CNN started, he joined Crossfire CNN and later McLaughlin Group in 1982. Robert Novak is another early commentator in the world of pundit business. He was a reporter, a pundit, and fixture on Crossfire CNN, his own shows on CNN, and Meet the Press.

The old and traditional way of becoming a pundit was to work for someone who becomes a president and get high-level political contacts. Another way was to just become famous through something else and then leverage that fame onto gigs as a free pundit, a free expert, or a guest on TV talk shows. Then as a paid pundit and in some cases doing it to the point where you get your own show.

Now, however, most hosts of shows aren’t pundits as they don’t give many opinions, but some are. For instance, Bill O’Reilly is a talk show host but also a pundit, as he gives his own opinions in the show. He started as a traditional reporter, then made his way to CBS and a few entertainment shows, and finally got into his current incarnation as a political talk show host and pundit.

The Most Common Way of Starting as a Pundit

The most common way of starting as a pundit is to become famous at something. It could be through a bestselling book or a political campaign (even a failed political campaign, as in the case of Crystal Ball of MSNBC).

However, only being famous or having worked with the president is not enough now because a lot of new and young faces are entering the entertainment industry and the competition is becoming stiff. So, you have to explore different avenues to make your name there.

Core Principles of Becoming a Pundit

If you want to be a successful pundit, you need to have an identifiable, consistent set of core principles. It doesn’t mean you have to follow a particular set of lines or can never have surprising opinions, but people want to know what you stand for. For instance, if you talk about politics on a news network, that typically means you have a consistent set of liberal principles, conservative principles, or libertarian principles. If you are a moderator, you’ve to moderate in a way that’s interesting and doesn’t just seem like you’re putting your finger in the wind.

You should be clear on your concepts and what you are going to express. It doesn’t mean that you should know everything you’re going to say but you should have a wide range of opinions and issues to talk about so that you can create a balance. That’s the beauty of having principles- it allows you to look at news through the lens of certain core principles. You can then provide an analysis.

However, if you are purely academic and you can’t even imagine giving an opinion unless you’ve studied the topic for six months, then television punditry may not be for you. It doesn’t mean you can’t create videos or even have an in-depth reporting show. But that’s not what TV punditry is about.

So, let’s do a small activity here. Identify how you would be described if you’re pitching yourself to a TV producer. What are your core principles? Are you a conservative, a liberal, a libertarian? What are your views? It’s OK if it’s not 100 percent mainstream, as long as it’s identifiable and isn’t some sort of pariah class. Just write down exactly what your core set of principles are in just a sentence or two.

Create Opinions Related to Your Issues

If you want to become a pundit, you have to create a lot of opinions on issues that relate to your area of expertise. Your expertise doesn’t necessarily have to be correct or verifiable because it’s a harsh truth that you can’t be correct all the time. You just have to create interesting and provocative opinions in order to get heard and invited back.

Your opinions are ideally the talking points of something that’s already been discussed by political parties. Although there are exceptions to that, for example, Sean Hannity who is considered the second most successful pundit talk show host does give opinions that seem as if they’re right off press releases from the Republican Party.

You are going to be more successful as a pundit if your ideas are seen as fresh, original, and creative. You may leave people at the same perspective as the others do but if you can come up with interesting opinions, a novel take, an interesting perspective, that is going to be highly valuable. The other huge asset of a pundit is the ability to take a lot of different facts going on, synthesize them, summarize what’s truly important, and then give analysis.

Now what you have to do is look at the news right now, find three topics that you want to comment on, and write down three to four sentences on each topic. Then analyze what’s right or wrong, what could be or should be on this topic. This exercise will give you better clarity and more ideas for your opinions.

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