Saturday, March 29, 2008

Best job in broadcasting?


Sounds like you've worn many hats in your career. In your opinion, what's the best gig you ever had? And could you rank broadcasting jobs according to which is the most fun?

Wow, what a great question. Yes, I've done just about every job in TV news except the one I consider the worst (Assignment Editor) and even worked in radio for awhile. (Talk shows are fun.) In my opinion the job that is the absolute most fun is the one that's hardest to get.

Doing play-by-play. Hands down, not even close, this is the absolute best gig you'll ever find in radio or TV. I was fortunate enough to do a few years of minor league baseball and four years of college basketball, and there is no greater "rush" in the business. Live shots and big stories don't even compare. When you've got a down-to-the-wire game and a great broadcast partner in the booth (and I've had a few), your heart tries to escape your chest. You're basically getting paid to do what you do on the couch with your friends watching games at home. And, to make things even better, some PR person for the team brings you food. The problem with getting these jobs is that most of them are handled by former jocks or sons of former broadcasters. (see Buck, Joe; Schaap, Jeremy; and a hundred others.)

Next on the list, feature reporter. I did this for a long time and it was always something new. Photogs enjoy shooting features cause they can take their time and get creative as well. The problem is that most stations don't have this franchise anymore. Very low stress, and you don't have to worry about silly things like facts too much. Plus, you don't have to chase the scanner.

And after those...

-Network field producer (What I do now on a freelance basis. Always a big story, the network people are extremely nice and professional, and, what a concept, the equipment ALWAYS works.)

-Sports Anchor/ Reporter

-News Anchor

-Franchise Reporter (consumer, troubleshooter, health, etc.)

-General Assignment Reporter

-Weather Anchor (This can get old and boring... let's face it, you've either got severe weather or not much to talk about.)

Jobs that are no fun at all...

-Anything to do with a morning show. (Unless you're a vampire, you'll have no life and your whole existence revolves around trying to fall asleep.)

-News Director / Assistant ND /Executive Producer (You could be Ghandi and half the staff will still hate you.)

-One Man Band (Don't get me started)

-Assignment Editor (Like having homework all the time. I'd rather sit through a Celine Dion concert than do this for even one day.)

Friday, March 28, 2008



You have great information on putting together a reporter or an anchor resume tape. Would you be able to post some information on how to build a reporter/anchor tape? Do you mix anchoring and reporting in the opening montage? Do you put packages then anchoring or the other way around?


That's an excellent question, but before answering it I have one for you. Do you want to be an anchor, reporter, or both?

If you're going to be applying for both anchoring and reporting jobs, it actually makes sense to have two tapes. For an anchor tape, you'd start with the montage, then some anchoring, followed by a few packages. If you're applying for a reporting job, follow the montage with packages then anchoring. For things like weekend anchor jobs, the anchoring should be first as that is the primary talent the ND is looking for.

Regardless of the job for which you're applying, your montage should show you in a variety of situations. Regular standups, live shots, anchoring, newsroom lives, keywall stuff. Always put your very best work first because you only have ten or fifteen seconds to make a great first impression.

One common mistake made by anchors is to have several anchoring clips wearing different outfits. This can send a signal that you can't get through one newscast without stumbling. Take one great show and chop it up. Make sure a News Director can see you reading different types of stories, and one of those should be a feature so we can see your smile. You should also have a bit of crosstalk with a weather or sports person that shows your personality.

For what it's worth, I've always thought a weekend anchor gig is a great deal for a young person. You get experience on the desk and in the field. Best of luck.

Yo Grapevine,

Is there any way for me to get some experience on the anchor desk when there are a bunch of people ahead of me in seniority? About four people would have to call in sick for me to get a shot, and I really want to give it a try.

-Fifth stringer

Dear fifth stringer,

Years ago they broke us all in on the anchor desk by having us take turns doing a week of morning cut-ins. You only have to read about two minutes of copy and the viewers are half asleep, so there's not much risk for a News Director. Not many stations do that anymore, but it is an excellent tactic that needs to be revived.

Approach your ND with this idea. Your morning anchor would certainly appreciate the break.

Honorable Grape,

I'm about to graduate from college. Is it worth a trip to RTNDA?

-Class of '08

Every time I've been to one of those there have always been lots of young people looking for work. It is a nice way to meet people face to face and make an impression. The problem is the cost of travel and admission.

I don't know if they do this anymore, but years ago they used college students as volunteers for various things. You might check with the people that run the convention.


I'm a brunette. Do I have any chance of getting hired by Fox News?


Dear J.L.

Sure, if you're a guy.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Thursday's story ideas

What's with all the cancelled flights? This should make summer travel really interesting. How are travel agents dealing with this nightmare?

And along those lines, is traveling by train and bus becoming more popular?

It is now estimated that raising a child to the age of eighteen costs more than $200,000. And then there's college. Are smaller families becoming in vogue?

Motorcycle death rates are rising and can be tied directly to lax helmet laws in some states.

Having a big belly raises your chances of getting Alzheimer's.

Populations in the sunbelt continue to rise as Northerners migrate away from the cold. High heating bills don't help.

Organic milk is getting a lot of buzz... is it really healthier for you and the environment?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Wednesday's story ideas

Cost of cancer treatments. There are many options, and sometimes the best isn't affordable, or covered by insurance.

Dangers of plastic surgery. Anybody seen Priscilla Presley lately?

Copper thieves. Many recycling places are now requiring ID when you sell scrap metal.

Gold rush. How do you shop around for the best price when selling your unwanted jewelry? And how can you avoid getting ripped off?

Laptop battery shortage. Will prices increase, and should you buy an extra one now?

Global warming has increased the population of yellow jackets in northern areas. Since many people are allergic, this could pose a serious problem. And it is now being reported that people can be allergic to caterpillars.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Mostly sunny, falling skies

I had to laugh the other day. It had been a spectacular day; warm spring temperatures, not a cloud in the sky. Then I watched a weatherguy talk about the fact that there hadn't been any clouds all day. Then he proceeded to show an hour by hour satellite photo loop, which, of course, showed absolutely nothing for thirty seconds.

But being obsessive about weather is nothing new, thanks to consultants. Years ago they did surveys which showed most people cared about the weather, and took it to the extreme. Now instead of one forecast each half hour, we get three. (The last one being a crutch for producers who can't time a show, even with computers.) Yes, people are interested in the weather, but that doesn't mean they need to see the same thing three times in thirty minutes.

But that's not the problem. The problem is that every market seems to have one or more "sky is falling" weathercasters who can take a thunderstorm watch and turn it into Armageddon or Noah's flood.

Run for your lives.

Yes, severe weather is important. (I used to do weather and even went thru Mississippi State's program.) But there's a fine line between informing the public and being an alarmist. For most weathercasters, it's time to tone it down a notch. You know who you are.

Then there are the stations that do constant squeezebacks if there's one dark cloud in the market, making regular programming unwatchable. Just run the crawl. We can read.

Years ago when we reporters needed extra time for stories, we'd always ask the producer if we could "take it out of weather." If it was a day without anything severe, no problem.

Perish the thought today.

Here's a tip for producers. When there's nothing going on weather wise, shorten the weather segment and use that time for news.

And for you weather people who enjoy playing chicken little, just remember that crying wolf too often can make people ignore you when the weather really is severe.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Tuesday's story ideas

Satellite radio merger between XM & Sirius. Will this make your satellite radio obsolete? Will service be cheaper? And will you be able to buy stations a la carte? And what about cars factory equipped with one or the other? You might also check with a local radio station to get their take on it.

Is there a connection between health and wealth? Studies indicate poor people suffer from more illnesses. The high cost of health care is undoubtedly a factor.

Parents who aren't getting their kids vaccinated. Is this posing a risk to others who come in contact?

Home sales were up in February. Have home prices dropped so low that bargain hunters are finally spending?

Surveys say people are cutting back on dining out, which means cooking is back "in" again. Visit a cooking class.

Fed rate cuts doesn't necessarily mean your credit card rates will drop. Show how to shop around and negotiate a better rate by threatening to cancel your card.

Wireless headsets are hot since you don't have to look like Lieutenant Uhura from Star Trek anymore.

Book smart vs. street smart

Many of you in college are getting close to graduation. And that means you'll have to head out into the cold cruel world where you don't get a spring break and mom doesn't do your laundry.

As Bruce Willis would say, "Welcome to the party, pal."

I'm always tickled that young people put their grade point averages on their resume. While it is nice to have a transcript filled with A's & B's, in the world of television news this piece of paper will never be seen. You could be the valedictorian of your class, but if you don't have a decent tape you won't find a job. News Directors will always hire someone who has an internship and some street experience at a college station than someone who has been a student of "television news theory" and doesn't know one end of a camera from the other.

If you have a few months left before doing the cap & gown thing and still don't have anything on tape, now's the time to get cracking. If your college facility can't produce a decent tape, contact the Chief Photographers at the local stations and ask to hire a photog to help you put a resume tape together. (Trust me, it will look a lot better when you use a real photog.)

Don't wait till you hear "Pomp & Circumstance" to start your job hunt. The time is now.

Monday's story ideas

Interest rates are going down and the stock market is shaky. Where is a safe place to place your money if you want something secure?

Spring break. Are families not traveling or staying closer to home due to gas prices?

Discount store profits are up. People who never shop for bargains are now turning to discount stores because of the economy?

Vitamin waters. Are they really healthy, and what about all the calories?

Check the car lot. I'm seeing long rows of SUVs at dealerships. Who gets stuck with these gas guzzlers?

Reverse mortgages. With home values dropping, is this a deal to consider now, or should you wait for a market turnaround?

The IRS letters are out. Many seniors who no longer have to file can suddenly get $300 by filing.

And it's a chocoholic holiday. Half price Easter candy. (Not really a story idea, but an alert for those of you who are addicted.)