Thursday, May 29, 2008

"It's summer. Nobody's watching."

I've heard that phrase over the years from numerous management and sales types, and even a few News Directors. Naturally feelings such as this can often "trickle down" to the newsroom and become part of your routine. You're out of sweeps, it's hot, half the staff is on vacation. So you fall into the trap with everyone else and phone it in.

In reality you're missing a great opportunity to find a new job.

Two reasons: News Directors take vacations and the people at the network feed desk get desperate in the summer.

When I'm on vacation, I'm like most people in the business. I check out the news product of the market I'm visiting. There are many, many stories of reporters who have been "discovered" by a ND who happened to flip on the tube while passing through.

Meanwhile, there's the network feed. Years ago (this will make you all mad) we used to get paid $210 and up if we got a package on the feed. You'd actually have to call the desk and pitch the story, then put a copy on a plane. Then they stopped paying and veterans stopped worrying about it. Hence, you are left with a bunch of daily network feeds that often feature packages by young people who are still giddy over the fact that their work is available nationally.

But more important than than, it is a chance for NDs everywhere to see your work.

Talented people get a reputation on the feed. On slow news days many a producer scours the feed looking for packages to fill holes, and if a reporter is known to deliver quality work, the producer will "trust" that person to provide a good story. I've heard many a producer say something like, "Hey, there's a Jane Jones package on the feed later. I can use that for the second block at eleven." And they'll plug in the story without watching because they know it will be good. And since NDs watch most of their own newscasts, this is a chance for you to make an impression without even sending a tape.

Do people get hired this way very often? Not a lot, but often enough to make you avoid "phoning it in" during the summer.

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