Today we're sitting down for lunch with Carmen Denominator, the head beancounter for a medium sized broadcasting group.
Grape: Carmen, thanks for agreeing to sit down with us today.
Carmen: No problem. (Glances at watch) But I'm only allowed thirty minutes.
Grape: They have fast service here. Let's start with--
Carmen: I know what you're going to ask about. The one man band thing.
Grape: You read my mind.
Carmen: Look, cameras are so small and easy to operate now that anyone can shoot video, so why have two people do the work of one person?
Grape: Because most reporters are not competent photogs.
Carmen: Pfffft. Like the viewers care if the video is out of focus. It saves money. More money for me to count.
The waitress arrives and asks for our order.
Carmen: I see both the hamburger and the soup in a bread bowl are both $6.95. Could I have half a hamburger and half of the soup bowl?
Waitress: Lady, we can't cook half a hamburger. And if we cut the bread bowl in half the soup will run all over the place.
Carmen: How about half a club sandwich?
The waitress glares at her. (We should point out this restaurant is in New Jersey.)
Carmen: Fine. I'll have the three bean salad.
Grape: How appropriate.
Carmen: What do you mean by that?
Grape: Well, you're a beancounter.
Carmen: Financial officers do not appreciate that term.
Grape: Journalists don't appreciate being thought of as numbers on a balance sheet.
Carmen: Ah, here we go. Look, I don't make the rules. My job is to create a healthy bottom line for the company. If that means making a few cuts here and there, so be it.
Grape: But those cuts are affecting the quality of the product and chasing good people out of the company.
Carmen: Well, in case you hadn't noticed, quality left this country and moved to China a few years ago. And so what if people leave? There's an unlimited supply of people out there to take their places.
Grape: Nice attitude.
Carmen: I don't make the rules.
Grape: Did it ever occur to you to consult with people who actually work in the trenches before making cuts?
Carmen: No. It wouldn't matter. I have this flow chart in my office that tells me how television stations work, so it's easy to make cuts.
Grape: You have a flow chart?
Carmen: Yes. I know how many people you need to put on a newscast, how much equipment is necessary. I know the average reporter drinks two-point-three cups of coffee per day, so that tells me how much coffee should be in your break room budget. It's a very good flow chart.
Grape: What about breaking news?
Carmen: What about it?
Grape: Well, in some years you have a ton of breaking news and it blows out the overtime budget.
Carmen: You should plan for that contingency.
Grape: You can't plan the future. Who knew gas would be four bucks a gallon and blow up the news car budget?
Carmen: You should have planned for these contingencies. On days when there's not much news, send everyone home early. When you have stories close to the station, your crews can walk to them.
Grape: That in your flow chart?
Carmen: No. I figured that out all by myself.
Grape: Let's talk about budgets. When I was in management we'd have to jump through all kinds of hoops to get our budget requests in, and then you guys would deny everything.
Carmen: (laughing) Yeah. Amazing you guys still fall for that one.
Grape: So you have no intention of granting budget requests?
Carmen: Please. Use the stuff you've already got.
Grape: The stuff we've already got is obsolete.
Carmen: You still got your newscast on the air last night though, right?
Carmen: Case closed.
Grape: Why not make some cuts at the corporate level?
Carmen: You cannot be serious.
Lunch arrives. Carmen picks up her fork and begins to eat her three bean salad.
Grape: Aren't you going to count those first?