Friday, May 30, 2008

Friday's story ideas

New York will recognize same sex marriages. What is your state going to do, and what will it mean regarding benefits, etc.

One's towns attempt to ban renting to illegal aliens was deemed unconstitutional.

Budget hotels. Business is up as people sleep cheap in an attempt to cut vacation costs.

Sales of name brand shoes are up, proving that while people will cut back they don't want their feet to hurt by wearing cheap shoes.

Diet study shows that drinking a glass of cold water when you first get up raises your metabolism 24 percent for ninety minutes.

Cheap stuff to keep kids amused this summer. Find free pools, playgrounds, and other old fashioned stuff in your market.

Weekend story: Hurricane season starts Sunday. For those along the coast, talk about preparedness, tax breaks (Florida doesn't charge tax on stuff like batteries and generators for a short period).

Study shows that bacteria could be the cause of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or "SIDS."

Politics in church. How many of those who lead the flock talk about elections in their sermons?

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.

Thursday's story ideas

Prices of tires are going up as well, so many drivers are "extending" the life on heir current ones. In other words, we have a lot of people driving around on bald tires.

Hospitals are changing the way they staff the overnight shift, putting actual people on staff instead of just having doctors on call. Studies show there are more deaths and complications in hospitals at night.

Workers who complain about descrimination in the work place can now take legal action against employers if there is any retaliation from management.

Foreclosure scams are becoming more prevalent, such as people charging fees to negotiate with lenders and then just taking off. Check with officials in your market to find out which ones are being used locally.

Many states looking at raising tobacco tax to make up for shortfalls.

US Air to cut out free snacks on flights. Seems like a painless way for airlines to save money.

Living in the sunbelt and tired of high air conditioning costs? Paint your house white. Show which colors absorb the most heat and which ones reflect it.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Mailbag: Photog etiquette


I'm about to start my first job and luckily the station uses photogs. I was curious about the working relationship; how much stuff does the reporter carry, how much input does the photog have, etc.


Dear Newbie,

Well, glad you asked instead of walking into a station like you own the place.

The most important thing to remember is that you and the photog are a "team" for a day. On your way to the story you should discuss your approach, who you might interview, b-roll, etc. The photog usually has some ideas you haven't thought of, as they are wired differently than reporters and see things from a different perspective.

When you arrive at your location, you must at least carry the tripod and offer to carry the bag of extra batteries, mike stands, extra tapes. Many photogs just want the reporter to grab the sticks and nothing else. Just grab the tripod and ask, "Need help with anything else?"

When you're done asking questions of an interview subject, it is nice to turn to the photog and ask, "Do you have anything?" He might want to ask a question of his own.

On your return to the station, ask him what shots he thinks work well, what nat sound he liked, etc. Then if you can, watch the video together when you return to the station.

Oh yeah, buying a photog a cup of coffee, a cold soda, or lunch once in awhile works wonders. Shooters will go the extra mile for reporters who share the load.


My ND just hired a brainless idiot for our anchor opening instead of promoting someone from the staff. There were many competent choices (I think I'm one of them) yet he went for the babe. What do I do?

-Smart Girl

Dear Smart Girl,

Well, this happens quite often. Welcome to "life is not fair." If you get passed over a second time, or already have been, time to move on.

As for those who have trouble spelling "IQ", well, you might as well be nice to her. She'll probably end up being a network anchor and put in a good word for you. She might also be a nice person. You don't have to be a member of Mensa to be nice.

Grape Dude,

What's with the color of this blog? Pink?

-Manly man

Dear Manly,

First, I'm too old to be called "dude."

Second, it is not "pink" but "wine." When I was setting up the site my wife (The Southern Martha Stewart) wandered by and commented that "grapevine" needed an appropriate color, hence the current hue. (Get it? Grape... wine....)

By the way, as far as I'm concerned my home office has red walls and a beige ceiling. But the little color charts tell me it is "Late Tomato" and "Ursa Major."

Apparently if you strike out in the news business and can write well you have a future in the paint industry naming colors.

You've got questions, the Grape has answers. Or at least opinions. Send your questions to If you'd like a private reply just indicate it in your message.

Wednesday's story ideas

Summer camp enrollments are down. Has cutting back on spending finally trickled down to kids?

Emergency room workers say young people can often have bad reactions to energy drinks, and be "drunk" on caffeine.

Some states are starting "drug recycling" programs at nursing homes, in which unused drugs are checked by a pharmacist and then re-prescribed. Saves a ton of money.

Some cities with overcrowded prisons are proving monetary incentives for companies that hire ex-cons and rehab them.

Online realtors get help from the Justice Department, as the DOJ rules they can have access to all listings. This theoretically saves the buyer some commission cost.

Pregnant women who eat a lot of seafood while expecting often give birth to smarter kids.

Many people trying to unload their SUVs are finding out they owe more than the car is worth. So what's the best course of action?

Childhood obesity rates have finally stopped climbing. Is this due to better food choices and fewer soda machines at schools?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Tuesday's story ideas

AAA reports biggest drop in driving since 1942. Americans have apparently had enough. Meanwhile, public transportation use is up. If you have mass transit in your market, take a ride and talk to people who are new to using it.

What are the long distance travel options with plane tickets so high? Show viewers how they can travel by train or bus.

Study shows drinking coffee and tea does not raise the risk of breast cancer.

Snacks at the theater will cost more, as the price of popcorn is skyrocketing.

Some theme parks are actually lowering prices for the summer as people considering cancelling their vacations. Check with attractions in your area.

Childcare workers needed for summer as working parents need a place to ditch the kids when school is out.

McDonalds gets the trans fats out of its french fries, as it will switch to new oil by the end of the year.

Are people quitting smoking as an easy way to cut discretionary spending?

Monday, May 26, 2008

Radio blast from the past

WABC Radio in New York has unearthed some old airchecks from the 60's & 70's and is playing them complete with newscasts and commercials all day. This is the station I grew up listening to as a kid.

If you'd like to hear what broadcasting used to sound like, check it out. The newscasts about Watergate and Nixon and particularly entertaining.