Friday, August 28, 2009

Mailbag: Why consultants exist, and sweeps ideas


Our station consultant visits three times each year and each time we seem to change our style of news. We never seem to give one concept enough time to grow. What's the deal?

First, here's the definition of consultant:

"A person who borrows your watch and then charges you to tell you what time it is."

Basically, consultants are employed for the most part because they provide an easy way to explain bad ratings. Example: bad book comes in, GM barges into ND's office for an explanation. ND says, "Well, the consultant told all our anchors to wear pink. What did you expect?" So the ND lives to fight another day and the consultant is called back in to try something else.

Think about it: if a consultant showed up and said, "Everything looks great," your station would stop paying him. So they have to change things up to keep their jobs.

What this means to the product is that it never is given time to develop. Knee-jerk reactions to ratings are the biggest reasons some last place stations never move up.


Our ND has asked us for sweeps ideas. Just wondering where you got yours when you were a reporter.

Well, I sorta cheated. I would read the entertainment magazines and find out what big miniseries or movies were coming up in sweeps, then pitch stories that would be natural tie-ins. For instance, if the network was running a movie about some famous inventor, I'd find a local inventor. Then the station has a natural promo to run in the movie and can run your package in the late newscast.

Hot button issues are another good source, though sometimes a hot issue today might be history by November.

And if you've got some stories you've been wanting to do that need more than ninety seconds to tell, pitch them for sweeps. Usually reporters are given more time for sweeps pieces.


I'm nasal. How do I fix my voice?

Well, I'm not a speech therapist, but I'd say you're "talking through your head" which is often a common problem of Midwesterners. You are probably not using your diaphragm.

Here's an exercise, and please don't laugh because it works.

Get something to read and stand up. Hold your nose so absolutely no air is getting through. Now concentrate on talking by using your diaphragm. At first you'll sound like Donald Duck, but practice this and eventually you'll start using your diaphragm and get rid of the nasal sound.

FYI, you should always cut your voice track standing up. This stretches your diaphragm and gives you more resonance. Those of you who "sound young" might try this.

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