Saturday, April 12, 2008

Journalism alfresco

In Italian, that means "It's time for managers who have never worked a day on the street to get away from their computers and find out what reporters and photogs do all day."

In other words, stop telling field crews how to do stories, how long it will take to shoot a story, and what constitutes a story unless you've actually participated in the news gathering process.

Hardly a day goes by that I don't hear from a reporter complaining about a News Director, EP, or Producer who seems to know thru astral projection what is going on out in the field. Bottom line, you can't tell a reporter or photog how to do a job unless you've seen what goes into it. (To be fair, you can't do the same to a producer unless you've spent a day in the control room during a newscast.)

I'll never forget the crew sent to cover what was supposed to be a huge demonstration, only to arrive and find exactly three people holding protest signs. When they called in on the two-way to tell the desk the story was a bust, (this was before cell phones existed) the assignment editor, who had never been out of the building, said, "Shoot it tight." The reporters and photogs in the room just rolled their eyes.

Every wonder why photogs make the best assignment editors? Because they know logistics, how long it takes to shoot something, and whether or not a crew will have to make chicken salad out of chicken droppings.

Years ago most News Directors came up thru the reporting ranks, pretty much because it a: made sense, and b: most newsrooms weren't overpopulated with producers. These days chances are good your boss has never shot or covered a story. And that's pretty sad for someone in the journalism business.

Can a manager who has never been a true journalist be a good manager? Sure. But too many need to be shot with the clue gun when it comes to what really goes into story coverage, live shots, and everything else that goes on in the field.

Time to job swap. Managers need to do a ride along with a crew every so often, just to see the real process. Reporters and photogs who are done early might pop in the control room and hug the back wall, just to see how things work behind the scenes.

The real stories, the ones viewers want to see, are out of the building. Only by seeing them with your own eyes can you truly know what's going on.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Friday's story ideas

Lots of people are watching their favorites shows online, but doing so on a small screen is annoying when you've got a fifty something inch giant in your living room. How can you get what's on the net played on your TV? Talk to some techies.

Banks, despite their mortgage woes, continue to nickel and dime their customers with all sorts of fees. Though the fees aren't nickels and dimes anymore. Meanwhile, credit card grace periods are getting shorter. Show how you can make sure you don't get hit with bogus charges.

Turn off the texting feature on your cell phone. (Personally, I've never texted anyone. I'm old and don't even know how to do it. Since I have this device that allows you to talk to someone, I like to make an actual call. But every once in awhile someone was texting me by mistake and it was ending up on my bill. I finally had the cell company block the feature.) Show consumers all the hidden charges that could show up if they don't block what they never use.

What are your rights if your flight is cancelled? Are you truly stuck or can you get them to put you on another airline? And what is the mysterious "Rule 240?"

Retailers are being fined by the FCC for selling television sets that will not work next year. Show shoppers how to be careful.

Yoga is found to help older people avoid falls and actually gain back a little of their height. (You tend to get shorter as you get older.)

Prices of Chinese imports are rising. Will people pay a little extra for products made in the USA?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Thursday's story ideas

More canceled flights. Are the safety regulations just a little bit much? Find an old maintenance guy and ask.

Hard times for charities. As money gets tight, people cut back on their benevolence. An interesting sidebar... people aren't checking off those "donation boxes" on their tax returns as much.

Private school enrollments are down. Yet another way to save cash... send the little darlings to public school. Which of course leads to... overcrowding at public schools.

Flu shots for next winter. Some states don't have enough in the budget to pay for the drugs.

Cases of mumps are on the rise. Apparently many countries don't vaccinate for it, so visitors and immigrants are transmitting it here.

Middle aged guys who eat more than seven eggs a week have a higher risk of early death. (He says, as he eats his oatmeal.)

You know that government program that pays farmers not to grow stuff? Well, looks like they can make even more money by actually using the land. Check out this article...

Migrant workers may be in short supply this year as the country cracks down on immigration.

Got story ideas for the grapevine? Share 'em with the rest of the class (after you've done them yourself, of course.) Send them to

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Wednesday's story ideas

Government forecasts $4 gasoline this summer. What will this do to the travel industry? And NOW will people cut back on driving?

Egg prices are skyrocketing, and so is everything that takes eggs in a recipe. (Cakes, bread, etc.)

Cavity fighting candy tests prove successful with children. Now you can have your sweet tooth and not have it fall out.

Virtual movie rentals. Now you can download movies directly to your TV. (Apple TV)

One week till the tax deadline. You still have time to put money in an IRA.

Meanwhile, identity thieves will steal your social security number to actually file a tax return and then steal your refund or this summer's rebate check. Talk to an IRS agent.

Federal audit shows government employees often use their company credit cards for personal stuff. You might check the policies of the people at the trough in your market. And you might check the bills as well.

With all these airlines going under, what happens to your frequent flier miles? And should you use the ones you've got for the airlines that are still flying instead of hoarding them?

Monday, April 7, 2008

Tuesday's story ideas

The new DVD player "Clearplay" is being advertised heavily. It blocks violence, profanity, etc.... and let's you watch with your family without fear of children being exposed to whatever it is children don't need to see by editing out the bad stuff. (In theory it knocks "Scarface" down to about three minutes.) How is this selling and will this become the hot product with families?

Chronic stress and depression can make you more susceptible to Alzheimer's.

Go to bed! Kids who don't get enough sleep are more likely to be overweight when they grow up.

Overfishing. There's a possibility that they may shut down salmon fishing in some parts of the country. If you're in a coastal market, what are local fishermen doing to make sure they manage the resources?

Baggage shipping services. People sick of the long lines at airports are now shipping their luggage with services that specialize.

Online sales of everything are skyrocketing. Why waste gas to go shopping when you can get the same items online, many times without paying sales tax or shipping?

Various state legislatures are going the electronic route when considering bills, since printing them uses massive amounts of paper.

Olympic sponsors. Are major companies having second thoughts with all the protests over the upcoming China Olympics?

Monday's story ideas

Olympic protests are heating up. Will there be a boycott of Chinese products? (Of course if your station is carrying the Olympics, you might not want to suggest this story.)

New study shows teenagers who have a TV in their bedroom have lower grades than those who don't. (We needed a study for this?)

Rubber prices are rising, and this means tires are more expensive. How can you make yours last longer?

Airline passenger complaints went way up in 2007.

Some airlines introduce cell phone service in Europe. Could it happen here, and what would be the fallout?

Some states are "recycling" prescription drugs to help the poor. How does this work?

The Army is having trouble recruiting people, because it turns out many who want to join have a criminal record. A recruit needs a "waiver" if there is a felony or misdemeanor on his or her record.

Luxury car sales off 13 percent this year.

Colleges using perks to attract students. Laundry services, gourmet food in the cafeteria... all this stuff adds to the tuition. Will schools get back to basics?