Friday, November 6, 2009

Mailbag: America's newsrooms freak out!


This is my first job and my first sweeps period. It's like someone flipped a switch and all the managers freaked out. Our ratings are decent but not great. So what's the deal?

Ah, nothing sends managers to the edge like those three months of November, February and May.

These days upper management and corporate pretty much have knee-jerk reactions to everything, so one bad book can send your ND packing right before the holidays. "Merry Christmas. Here's your pink slip."

The problem is that most beancounters don't give NDs enough time to turn things around. (They also don't understand the news business.) One bad book and they'll blow up the whole format and make drastic changes. And if that doesn't work they'll do it again next year. That's why you see so many stations with marginal ratings constantly changing their names, slogans, and people.

That doesn't help NDs, who are at the mercy of a ratings point here or there. So much of the twitchy attitude is justified.


I'm in college and saw that news challenge on Fox. What's your take on it?

Well, I posted that awhile ago. For those who missed it:

Basically it looks to be a great opportunity for some college kids to get a foot in the door by knocking out a solid package. There's scholarship money involved, but let's face it: if you win this contest you'll probably have a job waiting for you when you graduate.

Take a shot. You have nothing to lose.

Hey, Grapeman!

Just curious about newscar etiquette. Should a reporter offer to drive the car, or is it the domain of the photog?

Well, I used to offer to split the driving on long trips. Photogs will appreciate the offer even if many don't want you driving their car. (And for goodness sake, leave the radio alone!)

I've also driven live trucks, which is scary in itself.

Even if you don't drive, you can impress the photog by jumping out to pump the gas or buying coffee while he fills it up. Any break you can give these guys will greatly improve the quality of the video you receive. Plus, it's the decent thing to do.


Why are "sweeps" called "sweeps?"

Because if you have a bad book a GM will come by the newsroom with a very large broom.


Anonymous said...

and if you're a reporter, learn how to bring the mast down after live shots. it'll help you get home quicker. just ask, we'll be glad to show you how!

-The Grape said...

Oh, that brings back memories. We had one live truck (nicknamed "Christine") which had a mast that would get stuck when extended. I'd have to hold the lever down while the photog climed on the side and rocked the truck until the mast moved.