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From the Field
Hiring the Right Agent
I need an agent, but who can best service my need?
By Mat Sheen

Once an anchor or reporter decides to get an agent they must find the best
agent to fill their needs. Over the past decade there has been a large
growth of the number of agencies that represent newscasters. With so many
agents and firms it can be extremely difficult to determine who can help you
achieve your goals. Agents provide a service for their clients. It is
important to remember that you are choosing to hire the agent and that the
agent is choosing to sign you as a client. Having the right agent who can
provide strong guidance can give a talent the ability to map a career path
and not just move them from job to job. An agent and client have an
extremely close business relationship so it is essential that a client can
trust his representative and feel extremely comfortable discussing all career
related issues with him.

Finding the right agent requires that a newscaster research his options. You
may start by asking your friends in the business and co-workers about their
agents and experiences. This may seem basic, but it can be extremely useful
because a newscaster will quickly recommend his agent if the agent provided
good service or explain why the agent did not. Another step a newscaster can
do is to contact an agency directly. The most effective way to do this is to
submit a tape to a specific agent or agency and follow up by an e-mail.
Almost every agent wants to see a tape before he will consider representing a
client. If the agent likes your work he will often contact you before you can
follow up. A great place to meet agents is at journalism conventions.
Agents come to the conventions specifically to network with news directors
and to cultivate new talent.

Newscasters seeking representation are looking for personal attention from
their agents. Many people often stay away from the larger agencies because
they fear that they will not receive the attention for which they are
looking. In other cases individuals stay away from smaller firms or
independent agents because they fear they will not have access to the
information and networking base that larger agencies have. In these cases I
would advise focus on the individual agent and not necessarily the firm.
Although a strong firm name can be of great assistance, the individual agent
will be responsible serving the day to day needs of the client. Before
signing with any agent a newscaster should ask how many clients the agent is
responsible. It is important to remember that an agency is a business and
each agent must sustain a certain volume of clients to remain profitable.
Most agents understand the importance of personal attention and they will
strive to meet the client's expectations.

The number of on-air positions has declined over the past few years, but the
pool of talent available is growing. With so much competition from the
outside you want ask potential agents if they have clients with similar
profiles as yourself. You want to take steps to insure that the agent can
vigorously represent you with minimal conflict. As most of you know, an
agent will present their clients to stations using videotape. It is
important to ask the agent how tapes are submitted. Some agencies use co
mposite tapes that have several anchors on one cassette. This can often
put clients at a disadvantage. It is much more effective to present each
client on individual cassettes. Another related issue is the number of
clients that the agent submits for an opening. If the agent submits every
available client for an opening the impact of your tape will be greatly

Traditionally an Agency and Management Company provide different services.
The following is the California Labor Code § 1700.4 definition of a talent
(a) "Talent agency" means a person or corporation who engages in the
occupation of procuring, offering, promising, or attempting to procure
employment or engagements for an artist or artists…. Talent agencies
may in addition, counsel or direct artists in the development if their
professional careers. (California Labor Code § 1700.4, West 1999.)
Management companies traditionally provided services to clients such as
career guidance and professional development. The big difference is
traditionally talent agencies can procure employment and negotiate contracts.
In practice an agent and a management company often serve the same
functions, but by law, in many states a management company should not procure
employment. The regulations different from state to state. Generally, a
talent agent must follow state-imposed guidelines and register with the
state. Before signing with any company ask if they are a registered talent
agency or a manager and understand the specific services that will be

In closing, choosing the right agent can be a difficult process. You want to
find an agent who is extremely passionate about you and your work. In many
cases, if you are a strong anchor or reporter, an agent will call you
directly. Before making any decisions talk to a few different agents and
understand what options are available. Don't be afraid to ask the tough

About the Author
Mathew Sheen is currently preparing for the Florida Bar Exam and plans to
enter private law practice. Mathew was an agent at Ken Lindner and
Associates in Los Angeles. He specialized in the representation of news
anchors, reporters, and weathercasters. Prior to becoming an agent Mathew
worked in E.N.G. at WHDH-TV in Boston and as an assistant editor for NBC's
"Real Life." He holds a B.S. in Broadcasting and Film from Boston University
and a J.D. from Pepperdine School of Law. Mathew can be reached by e-mail at