Friday, May 2, 2008

Friday's story ideas

Wal-Mart promoting those Wii games as Mother's Day fitness gifts.

Congress bans genetic discrimination, which should have huge repercussions with the health insurance industry. That means insurance companies must insure people who have a predisposition for certain illnesses.

Maybe ethanol isn't such a good idea considering its effect on food prices. Some legislators want to freeze the current levels of corn used for biofuel.

Airlines are slowing down flights to save gas.

We all hear that jobless claims are up, so what is your market doing to help people? Show viewers the resources at their disposal for finding a new job.

Proposed gas tax holiday... would it change your decision about a summer vacation?

Many states boost funding for early child care and pre-kindergarten education.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Thursday's story ideas

Best gas story of the week... should we go to a four day work week to cut 20 percent of our commuting? Great idea... find some local employers who might actually go for it.

Meanwhile, sales of locking gas caps are skyrocketing as people start stealing it more.

New survey says soldiers who may seek help for any mental problems feel there's a stigma attached and might hurt their careers.

Donating your body to science... and save your family a small fortune in funeral costs. But how do you do it?

New York City requires restaurants to post calorie counts on menu boards. Might be interesting to show your viewers how many calories are in the most popular items from the drive-thru.

Garage sales are booming. The weather is getting nice and people are looking for a few extra bucks, while parents are looking for bargains for their kids, especially in clothes.

New survey shows that breast feeding is more popular than ever.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Mailbag: Burn, baby, burn...

I just got back from the beach this weekend, and looking like a lobster from all the sunburn I got on my face and neck. What happens if that happens or, say, I get hit in the eye with a foul baseball, while I'm an on-air reporter? Or is that just one more reason to wear sun block and sit in the upper decks?

-Red Lobster

Dear Lobster,

Well, one should always wear sunblock. As someone who is so fair skinned I once got burned in Sweden, I've been wearing the stuff since it came out. (I may as well be living on the planet Mercury.) The sun is not your friend, and protecting your skin when you're young will extend your career. High def is unforgiving, and in ten years they'll have super duper high def which will no doubt reveal wrinkles down to the molecular level.

I've seen a few people I used to work with who were sun worshipers and their faces looked like my old baseball glove.

You know what else ages your skin as much as the sun? Smoking.

As for baseball, I've attended hundreds of Mets games and called two years of minor league play by play, and never came close to catching a foul. Worth the risk.

Dear Grapevine,

I've noticed you've had a few clients who made some really big market jumps. What's the common denominator?


Dear Jealous,

Well, they've all been very talented. All could write very well. But I think the biggest thing was that they were all open to suggestion and willing to learn. Too many young people think they know everything coming out of college and look at veterans as people whose time has passed. We're old, but we know lots of stuff. And we can tell you how to avoid the mistakes we made. Sometimes one piece of advice can save you years of headaches.

Be the sponge. Soak up every piece of advice you can. Not all of it will be good advice, but you'll learn as you go along.

Finally, none were afraid to send their tapes to top markets. When one young lady moves from Gainesville, Florida to Detroit (151 market jump), and another goes from Lincoln, Nebraska to Denver (86 markets) that should tell you anything is possible.

Neither had an agent, by the way.


How does an agent actually get a commission? Does it come right out of your paycheck?


Dear Curious,

Well, in the case of my agent, I just sent her a check.

The one thing you have to keep in mind is that the agent's commission is based on your gross salary, not your take home pay. Just to make things easy, let's say your agent gets six percent and you make $100k. You owe the agent six thousand dollars, not six percent of your net paycheck. That little fact is a surprise to some people.


Why so many women in the business? We hardly have any guys in the newsroom, and none ever seem to apply.


Dear Kate,

Funny, when I got into the business there weren't any women in the newsroom. When we finally got one other reporters would ask me, "What's that like?" I'd tell them she was fine but we had to tone down the language. (Then we got to know her and realized she could be as foul-mouthed as any of us.)

I have this theory that things changed when the show Murphy Brown got real popular. All of a sudden women seemed to flood the J-Schools.

Will it cycle back? Don't think so. Sports jobs are disappearing and the big salaries are as well.

If nothing else, it cuts down on newsroom romances.


What's the most bizarre mistake you ever saw in a newsroom?


Dear J.J.,

We killed someone who wasn't dead. We got an obit about a guy who had passed on and it said that he had been the Grand Marshal of some parade. We had video of the parade, so someone pulled a clip with a guy riding in a car with a sign that read "Grand Marshal." Turned out there were two that year, and we chose the wrong one.

The guy who was still alive got flooded with calls and was a good sport about it, saying "I never knew so many people cared."

Wednesday's story ideas

Summer vacations that are affordable. As families look for cheap deals, resorts and cruises are cutting prices.

Day three of the tax rebates... how are sales of those retailer bonus gift cards going?

Will the Fed cut rates again? Some economists think this is a bad idea, that it weakens the dollar and makes oil prices go up.

Hannah Montana products. Anybody buying them? Are they now on sale?

Survey shows that people often share prescription medicine. Why is this a bad idea?

"Win for life" lottery tickets. Well, these aren't things you can put in your will. If you win five grand a week for life and drop dead next week, the payments stop. Some winners are giving their tickets to the younger members of the family before cashing them in.

Finally, today's evidence that parents have gone beyond being overprotective. The Little League now has a "pitch count." (When I was a kid we played till the sun went down.) Does it make sense to limit kids' exercise?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Congrats, nice jump

A little shout out to one of my clients, Audra Ensign, a reporter who jumped from Lincoln, Nebraska all the way to Denver. That's a whopping 86 markets, for those of you scoring at home.

Audra is a very talented young lady and I know she'll do well in her new position. The quality of her work has been growing by leaps and bounds and someone obviously noticed. And talk about the stars aligning... Denver is her hometown.

So congratulations and best wishes.

As for the rest of you, this should prove that you can send tapes anywhere. Don't let market size intimidate you.

And no, she didn't have an agent.

Tuesday's story ideas

Hannah Montana a/k/a Miley Cyrus. Is she a teen role model or just the newest version of Britney Spears? Talk to parents to see if they're turning their kids away from this stuff in light of her Vanity Fair pictures.

Dollars to donuts. Rising wheat prices are sending things that used to be cheap, like donuts and bagels, close to the dollar mark.

Today's cool gas story: If you have to idle your car for more than 60 seconds, you should turn it off. In other words, skip the drive thru, park your car, walk ten feet and take care of whatever business inside.

Cigarette smuggling. Ne'er do wells are buying smokes cheap in places like Native American reservations, then re-selling them in places that cigarettes are expensive.

New spaying techniques for dogs are less painful for Fido. Check with the local vet.

More pregnant women are diabetic, which increase the odds their children will have the same problem. What can expectant moms do?

Driving slower to save gas. Seems to be a trend... at least when I drive 55 instead of 65 now, nobody flips me off.

Coffee shops... earliest victims of the economy? I passed four Starbucks yesterday and all had empty parking lots.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Oh, those wacky awards

It's award season, and just like the Oscars, some selections leave you scratching your head.

One year we had the best hard news reporter in the state, hands down. Even the competition would tell me how good he was. Anyway, he sends in his best three stories for a contest (stories that eventually landed him in a major market) and we all thought it was a stone cold lock that he'd win.

He didn't. What made it even worse, was that one of the worst reporters we'd ever seen won. Even the people that worked with this person used to laugh at her overly dramatic presentations.

I asked the ND how this could happen. "You wanna help me judge awards next year?" he asked.

"Huh? You mean there's no panel of high powered journalists that spend hours pouring over the entries? No ivory tower group of people with thirty years experience?"

Uh, no.

Here's how many award systems work. Let's say you work in Louisiana. You'll be directed to send your entries to another state, say, Montana. Maybe the people in Montana send theirs to Indiana. And Utah sends theirs to Louisiana.

The ND ends up with giant boxes of tapes to judge. Sometimes the ND is too busy, or just doesn't want to bother. So the task gets delegated.

One year I was the Assistant ND, and judged another state with the help of one reporter and a sports anchor. Another year we ordered pizza and I watched in the conference room with the ND, a weatherguy, an anchor, and a sales person. At another station, the ND poked his head out of the office and asked "Anybody want to judge some award stuff?"

While it is nice to win awards, and many are truly deserved, you have to take them with a grain of salt. You really have no idea who is judging and how much time and honest effort was spent doing it. Most people who do judge try to do an objective job. Just bear in mind that awards are subjective, and everyone is entitled to an opinion.

Monday's story ideas

Many store chains are making great offers to consumers regarding their tax rebate checks. Find the best bargains for your viewers.

Gasoline thefts are on the rise. How do stations prevent drive-offs and what is the penalty in your market?

eBooks... is anyone buying them? They save trees, but how many people want to read a book off a computer screen?

Sales taxes are dropping as people cut back on spending. Does your city or state have a rainy day fund, or will services be cut?

Unpaid utility bills put a strain on companies that provide energy.

Frequent flier miles. After years of hoarding, people are beginning to burn these since the price of airfares is skyrocketing. But seats are hard to come by. What are some strategies to get what you want?