Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Got a new News Director? Beware...

I've been through a lot of News Directors, and it seems that every time a new one arrives you hear the following phrase in the first staff meeting:

"Don't worry. None of your jobs are in danger."

Uhuh. That line is right up there with, "The check is in the mail."

Your new ND may have good intentions and be a solid human being, but it is only natural that that the new boss has different tastes than the old one. You may be the most talented, loyal person in the newsroom, but you might not be what the new person likes. It's a lot like a baseball team getting a new manager; there are going to be changes. Those changes may be in style, personnel, and management techniques. But make no mistake, there will be changes.

So, if a new ND is on the way, how can you "bulletproof" yourself as much as possible?

-Make an escape tape. You might be out the door and you don't want to be scrambling for a resume tape if that happens.

-Watch your back. You'll always see staffers playing politics with the new boss, wandering in the office to "offer help" when they are sometimes throwing knives. Most NDs see through the blowing smoke, but some are receptive to newsroom gossip.

-Don't be an obvious brown nose.

-If you've been on autopilot, kick your efforts up a notch and show you're a team player.

-Bring lots of good story ideas to the morning meeting. This is probably the best thing you can do. (Of course, you should be doing this anyway!)

Of course, sometimes no matter what you do, you're on the chopping block anyway. On one occasion we got a new ND who made the "check's in the mail" speech. A few days later a photog overheard the guy in the hallway talking about soon being "rid of the previous ND's people." The photog immediately passed the word and a mass exodus ensued before heads started rolling down the steps of the Mayan temple like that scene in Apocalypto.

You should be able to get a good handle on where you stand in a short amount of time. If you feel you're turning into a whipping boy, start sending tapes.

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