Monday, June 2, 2008

Mailbag: Is my phone out of order?


I'm looking for my second job, and I haven't heard back from the vast majority of the tapes I've sent out. I know to expect this, but my question is, when is it appropriate to follow up on a tape? I know most news directors don't like to be bothered with phone calls and e-mails, but I feel like I'm not doing enough just sending a tape and then sitting back and waiting. Is it appropriate to e-mail a news director, or do I just play the waiting game?


Ready to move

Dear Ready,

We've touched on the phone call question numerous times, and the general rule is that you shouldn't do it. So let me make an analogy a young person can relate to.

Let's say you go to a party or a bar with lots of people around. The next day I ask you to describe in detail the people who weren't interesting to you. Could you do it?

By the same token, a News Director is unlikely to remember a tape that didn't make an impression after viewing hundreds, especially if that tape is like many that were ejected after ten seconds. If you didn't make the short list, a News Director is not going to remember you and won't be able to give you feedback anyway.

But I'll give you a little trick you can try that I used to use. Include a stamped, self addressed postcard with your tape, politely asking for feedback. You're bound to get some response. I did when I was a reporter. NDs that do this are generally nice people.

Bottom line, though, there is probably something wrong with your tape which may only require a simple fix. People are the worst judges of their own work. You need another pair of eyes, preferably belonging to someone with experience, to give you an honest critique.

The biggest problem I see with young people is that many of you do not know the difference between a lead story and a resume tape story. You may have covered the biggest story of the year, but if it has limited video and takes little reporting skills (spot news) that story is not going to make an impression. Courtroom stories are another example of stories that do not translate well to video. Resume tape stories must show enterprise skills, digging, great writing, editing, use of nat sound, a clever standup. And the story must be memorable for a ND to take notice.

When a new client sends me a tape, I have often noticed that the person had not been putting their best work at the beginning of the tape. I remember one young lady whose tape was backwards. The first story wasn't very good. The next was better. The next was very good, and the last was fantastic. I told her to ditch the first story and reverse the order. She got a job shortly thereafter.

Remember the ten second rule: you have to make an impression quickly in order for the ND to continue watching.

Click on "resume tape tips" on the right side of this page and scroll down to "What's wrong with my resume tape?"

Hang in there and good luck.


What's your take on a reporter having a personal page on the net?

-Internet fanatic

Dear Net Fan,

Blogs are one thing and are okay if you keep them professional and objective, but you must have the approval of the ND. But creating a page with photos and stuff that is way too personal is a bad idea, and, to be honest, labels you as immature.

I saw one a while back that featured some revealing photos of a female reporter. Not exactly someone I'd want to hire.


I've heard some people send gimmicky stuff with their tapes to make an impression. What do you think, and what sort of things have you gotten in the mail?

-Looking for an edge

Dear Looking,

We'll, I've gotten microwave popcorn several times. Someone sent me a giant poster with their picture on it. Models often send their portfolios. But these things had no effect on my opinion of the tape. I never hired anyone who sent something with their tape.

Though I always ate the popcorn.

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