Television newsreaders need to communicate with authority, comfort and clarity when delivering breaking news to millions of viewers.

But presenting live on air is more than simply looking the part – it's about being able to think critically, process a constant stream of information and ask the right questions when the auto cue is off, explained freelance journalist Eric Johnson.

"You're paid not for when it goes right, but for when it goes wrong," he said. "Quite a lot of technology is involved – nothing can go wrong, one thing can go wrong or everything can go wrong."

Johnson, who has anchored breaking news for organisations such as Bloomberg and Sky News, told that a strong knowledge base is key to staying cool and collected under pressure, so that you're able to handle any situation thrown at you.

"I don't classify myself as a presenter, I am a journalist that happens to read the news.

"Learn your craft – it doesn't matter what you're doing, whether you're on-screen, on the radio, working online or shooting video, you're first and foremost a journalist. You must be prepared, knowing where the story has happened, who is involved, how it's taken place and why."

As a freelancer, Johnson explained that life is unpredictable, often getting a week off at a time after a run of shifts, but has previously worked four jobs at different news organisations at the same time, as either a video editor or television producer - sometimes with no sleep in between shifts.

"My record is working 35 days in a row with no break. It was a really good month but I was knackered at the end of it.

"You just have to work really hard and enjoy the quiet periods when you have them. But use your spare time wisely, look after your well-being and keep rested – you won't get paid for the days you wake up with the flu."

Check out our video with Eric for more of his advice to aspiring newsreaders, and to find out what a day in the life looks like for him behind the news desk.

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