One of the newest faces in Philadelphia TV news started his journey to the anchor seat at Delaware County Community College.
Johnny Archer, anchor/reporter for NBC10, spoke to journalism and communication students in person and virtually on April 21 when he returned to the Marple Campus.
During an hour-long interview, Adjunct Journalism Professor Lauren Keatley asked the affable Archer questions to give students real-world images of what it takes to get a broadcast journalism job in Philadelphia, the fifth largest TV market in the country.
Archer told students he initially wanted to work in radio and played CDs in the old radio station in Student Life in 2004. He said, “I played songs people heard in the lobby [of the Academic Building] but, I didn’t speak.” He also interned for a Chester County radio station while attending DCCC.
When Archer transferred to Temple University, he started pursuing a career in television—inside and outside of the classroom.
“I needed to be outside. Explore. Feeling, seeing, and learning things,” he said. So, he decided working in TV news would fit his personality better than “sitting in a cubicle all day talking on the radio.”
He grabbed many unpaid opportunities to gain experience and become an attractive candidate for internships and full-time work. Archer hosted a radio show for two years on WHIP, anchored and reported for Temple’s two TV stations, and interned for CBS 3 and WRDW-FM.
Even though Archer was not interested in sports reporting, he announced for the Philadelphia Wings, an indoor lacrosse team in the National Lacrosse League. Doing play-by-play was a chance to work on ad-libbing, an essential broadcast reporting skill.
In addition to his coursework in Broadcasting, Telecommunications, and Mass Media, Archer read daily newspapers, and books on the history of news and journalists.
He also drove his roommate crazy reading news stories aloud to improve his delivery, inflection, and intonation.
“I plugged cables into the back of my television and used a microphone to keep saying two sentences over and over.” Archer added, “My roommate would get sick of it and say, ‘Dude, shut up!’”
But he persisted, and his attention to detail paid off. Today, when Archer speaks, the rich tone of his voice sounds credible and commands attention.
He told DCCC students he started his job search before graduation from Temple. His vetting process for investigating smaller cities where he might land a job sounded like he wrote an algorithm for it.
He took notes on each TV station in a city, including its ratings, news director, employee comments, and employee biographies for a connection to Philadelphia, Temple, DCCC, or one of the city’s sports teams. Archer used any local connection to network with a station employee, rather than write a “cold” email, to learn more about a station.
The hard work paid off. Archer was hired as an overnight bureau chief for KPVI in eastern Idaho, the 157th TV market.
Keatley asked, “How would you rate the pay? Fantastic; I’ve got money in the bank. So-so; I can take a date to Idaho’s equivalent of Wawa. Or not-so-great; I was able to pay the electric bill.”
Archer leaped forward in his chair and exclaimed, “I was on heating assistance!” He laughed. “I made $19,500 a year.” He said it was hard, but he stayed focused on his goal of working in Philadelphia someday.
Over time, Archer advanced to larger TV markets and challenges. His second stop, Louisville, worried him.
“How am I as a Black guy going to do in this city?” He told DCCC students, “Don’t judge a book by its cover!” He said the people of the city welcomed him.
Archer moved on to Dallas and Miami before coming home to Philadelphia in December 2021.
He told students that while no two journalists have the same career path, most do not start at the top. “Some do. But that’s rare,” he said. “Make your mistakes in small markets. In larger markets, you may get fired for a mistake.”
Archer shared a secret with students for deciding who to talk to when covering a disaster, like the 2021 Surfside condominium collapse in Miami.
“I learned to read people’s faces as a restaurant server. I knew when people were impatient, frustrated, or needed something.” At Surfside, he knew which people wanted to be left alone.
When asked what the top technical skill is that students must develop to be a broadcast journalist, Archer said, “Writing.” Throughout the interview, he talked about working on his writing. “You never arrive. You always can improve your writing,” he said.
Telling “truthful” stories is important to Archer. “Stories should tell as many viewpoints as possible to be fair and well…balanced.” He added most, not all, journalists seek to tell the truth in their reporting.
Keatley asked Archer to explain the ethics he considers when assigned to cover a “sticky or sensitive situation.”
“I try to treat people the way I would want to be treated,” he said.
Be inspired. Watch the full interview with Johnny Archer. (01:17:00)
By Lauren Keatley