Friday, February 6, 2009

Job hunting in a bad economy

I know what many of you are thinking. "I spent four years in college and God knows how much money... for this?"

True, times are tough right now. Perception has become reality and everyone is in cutback mode.

Guess what, young people have been through this before.

I graduated in the middle of the '70's recession. I remember the final weeks of my senior year in college. We had 36 seniors on the floor of our dorm. By graduation day, one person had a job. 35 guys with college degrees and nowhere to go. Back then, hard as it is to believe now, there weren't even any jobs for teachers. I remember one young lady went a whole year before she found a job.

So I went back to my dad's delicatessen and worked there while I kept looking for work. Finally, almost a year later, I got something.

A part time job at a newspaper three days per week.

At least my foot was in the journalism door (though I was still making sandwiches the rest of the time.) Eventually I found a full time job in radio and then jumped to TV. Then the 1980's hit and everyone had a job, everyone had money to spend.

The 90's brought belt tightening and last year we hit bottom.

Point is, everything runs in cycles. The business is shaking out right now, and much of the dead wood will move on to other things.

I have no idea what the future will hold. I am pretty sure the salaries of the 80's will never return. But local news will never go away.

The new generation of journalists is part of the "instant gratification" generation. If you guys don't have something right this very minute you get frustrated. It's natural to want to hit the ground running when you're young and right out of college, but the real world doesn't work on your schedule.

Hang in there. If this is really what you want to do, just hang. You may not reach your goal as quickly as you imagined, but if you have talent and persistence you'll do fine.

This country has recovered from depressions and recessions before, and it will again. Television isn't going away. If you want to know how important TV is to people, just wait for the digital switch when you hear screams across the country from people who can't watch Wheel of Fortune.

If you believe in yourself, and you are truly passionate about working in this business, just be patient.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Mailbag: Hair today, gone tomorrow

Grape,

We just got a new GM and he thinks all the women in the newsroom should have the same hairstyle, and that it should be Katie Couric short. I have professional length hair that just touches my shoulders and I'd look ridiculous with short hair since I have ears that stick out a bit...they're covered nicely by my current style. Can management force me to cut my hair?


Well, management can't force you to do anything... it's a free country. They can, however, make your life miserable if you don't comply.

Hair issues have always been touchy in this business. Color, cut, style, you name it. Some women look great in short hair, many do not. And if you polled most men, they'd prefer women with longer hair.

To make your point about your ears, you might wander by the GM's office on your day off or after hours with your hair up. Maybe if management saw what a short haircut would look like they'd leave you alone.

Of course, if all the women in your newsroom band together, your problems might go away.


Grapevine,

Do you do anything different when sending a tape to a big market as opposed to a medium market? I would assume they get more tapes in bigger markets... so how do I stand out?


The process is the same for any market. And you stand out by doing terrific work and having a great first package on your tape.


Dear Grape,

Someone in our newsroom just got a job and told me she had her picture put on the DVD. Is this worth the money and effort?


That person got a job because of the content. I'll know what you look like when I play the tape anyway... and let's face it, many people look a lot different on TV than they do in stills.

Save your money and focus your energy on the content of your tape.


Wise Grape,

Is there a formula for having a career in this business and having a good marriage as well? It seems like a lot of people are divorced. You've mentioned there is a Mrs. Grape, so I figured you'd have some insight.



Rule number one: Don't date anyone in the business. It is too hard to move as a couple, and what usually happens is that one person is more talented than the other and jealousy kills the relationship.

Rule number two: Marry someone who can work anywhere since you'll be moving a bit. Mrs. Grape is a teacher.

Rule number three: Your spouse must be a saint and understand weird hours, working on Christmas, sweeps months, and how to deal with you when your muse is on vacation. If you're dating someone who doesn't understand that you can't go out every Saturday night, you're gonna have a problem down the road.

Rule number four: Don't bring our work home with you.

Bottom line, I've been married once for 19 years. And yes, she's a saint.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Man in the street: the ultimate non-story

Okay, someone sent this one in..


IT'S JUST ABOUT 14 HOURS UNTIL BARACK OBAMA GETS SWORN IN...AS WORKERS MAKE THOSE LAST MINUTE PREPARATIONS BEFORE THE EVENT.
{***ANCHOR ON CAM***}
THERE'S NO DOUBT...THE SLOGANS OF HOPE AND CHANGE ARE CROWD PLEASERS.

BUT EVENTUALLY THE CROWD WILL GO HOME TO SIT BACK AND WATCH OBAMA TACKLE AMERICA'S PROBLEMS.

SUZY TWO SHOES WENT OUT TO TALK TO YOU IN THE NORTHSTATE -- TO LISTEN TO YOUR HOPES...AND YOUR FEARS...ABOUT WHAT THIS NEW ERA IN GOVERNMENT MIGHT BRING.

{***PKG***}

I was born and raised in Birmingham in the South, the deep South. America has changed. America has changed for the better, and I think this is one of the greatest achievements America has ever made - to have an Afro American president.

JOE HICKERSON OF REDDING -- LIKE MANY AMERICANS -- SEES THE PROMISE OF A NEW START IN OBAMA.

HE'S A REPUBLICAN WHO SAYS HE BROKE PARTY LINES TO VOTE FOR CHANGE.

I think we will become a world power again. I think we we will rebuild ourselves.

OTHERS ARE MORE SKEPTICAL-- ABOUT WHAT *COULD HAPPEN.

- He gets into office, and he's just a politician and everything he said in his campaign is just bad. He got elected on what he said, and he's just a politician.

-- A POLITICIAN FACING SOME *TOUGH POLITICAL TIMES.

OBAMA TAKES ON THE MOST DAUNTING ECONOMIC CHALLENGE SINCE THE GREAT DEPRESSION .... TWO WARS IN THE MIDDLE EAST ... AND A HOTBED OF ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES-- AND THAT'S JUST A START.

Gail: I know a lot of people have a lot of faith and excitement about the new president. I do too, everybody wants a new beginning. They want to see things start happening, but it's going to take a long time. He has a good crew, but it's going to be an uphill battle, I think.

EVEN THOSE OF YOU WHO FEAR OBAMA MAY NOT LIVE UP TO HIS WORD ... CAN'T HELP BUT HAVE HOPE.

I mean I didn't ever meet the man. I don't know what he's like, but I hope he can live up to his word. But I hope he can live up to his word, I really do because it can't really get much worse than it is right now.

SOQ.>

B-roll shots:

*file footage of Obama

*shot of Reva walking in and out of the frame.

*wide shots of Redding

*shots of MOS walking toward camera

Nats:

*Obama speaking

Unused SOTs:

Charles: I have a fear that the war will escalate, not in Afghanistan, but in Israel and Palestine.

Charles: As FDR said in his inaugural address: There's nothing to fear but fear itself.



Well, I'm not really going to do a re-write of this, but instead we're going to rethink the concept of "man in the street" packages. (Actually the writing is fine in this one, but the lack of nats is inexcusable since you have file tape of Obama.) The problem lies in the assignment.

A man in the street story is a last resort. Pick a topic, any topic, and find two people on one side and two on the other. Someone please tell me, of what use is this to the viewer? Well already know that half of the country likes the new President and the other half doesn't. So what's the point?

In this case, you can personalize your man in the street story, much in the way the McCain campaign did with Joe the Plumber. So, take an issue or two that Obama ran on and find two sides. Since he favors stem cell research, let's find someone who has a family member suffering from Alzheimer's, since that could really benefit from stem cell research. There's your pro-Obama person. Spotlight that person, show what life is like and what could be different with a new president in office.

Now take another issue and find someone who doesn't like it. Find a business owner who makes a million dollars whose taxes are supposed to go up. How does this affect him... will he have to lay off any of his employees to cover the difference in his tax bill? Obviously he's not going to be happy, so you've got your opposing opinion.

Now you've really got two sides to the story that are at least interesting to the viewer. Remember.... show, don't tell.

And the next time you're assigned one of these clunkers, suggest personalizing it.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Substance abuse can kill your career

Okay, I don't want to get holier than thou here, but this Michael Phelps thing left me feeling really disappointed in the young man. Not only will he lose endorsements, but he's tarnished his image. Many times you can't polish that out.

Over the years I've worked with many people who had either drug or alcohol problems, or both. I've seen careers crash and burn due to this. In almost every instance, the person with the problem ended up out of the business. I remember one reporter who was extremely talented but an arrest ended a promising career.

One of the reasons News Directors do background checks these days is because they want to avoid potential problems. If I'm hiring someone who will be in the public eye, I certainly don't want anyone who breaks the law and does something incredibly stupid like drink and drive.

If you're in this business, people look up to you simply because you're on TV. Kids might see you as a role model.

Set a good example and stay off the police blotter. Trust me, you'll be saving your own career.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Attack of the red pen...

Yet another package gets hit with a fix...


Lead in:

TONIGHT -- WE'RE DIGGING DEEPER INTO A DEVELOPING STORY WE FIRST BROUGHT YOU LAST NIGHT...

ABOUT REDDING ELECTRIC UTILITY...

AND THE THOUSANDS OF DISCONNECTION NOTICES BEING SENT OUT TO CUSTOMERS.

AS WE FIRST TOLD YOU LAST NIGHT -- THE COMPANY SPOKESMAN SAYS R-E-U RUNS LIKE A BUSINESS... AND CAN'T TAKE THE BLAME FOR PEOPLE NOT PAYING THEIR BILLS.

WE DID SOME RESEARCH AND FOUND OUT IN 2006 -- R-E-U SENT OUT ABOUT 76-THOUSAND DELINQUENT NOTICES.

JUST TWO YEARS LATER -- IN 2008 ... THAT NUMBER INCREASED 26 PERCENT... TO 95 THOUSAND.

WE DID THE MATH... AND IF EACH OF THOSE 95-THOUSAND CUSTOMERS PAID JUST THE MINIMUM 16-DOLLAR LATE FEE.

THAT'S MORE THAN ONE AND A HALF MILLION DOLLARS!

AS SOON AS WE AIRED THE STORY ... VIEWERS STARTED FLOODING OUR NEWSROOM WITH CALLS AND E-MAILS ABOUT *THEIR EXPERIENCES WITH R-E-U.

JANE DOE CONTINUES OUR COVERAGE WITH A STORY ABOUT HOW THESE FEES-- ARE HITTING SOME LOCAL FAMILIES VERY HARD.



I was just sitting there ... And it was lights out.

APRIL AND ROBERT WARE ... ARE SICK AND TIRED OF BEING AT THE LOSING END OF THIS RED SLIP.

THE FIRST TIME IT HAPPENED??

I can't even explain how I felt ... I was very emotional ... I called my husband crying.

3 DISCONNECT NOTICES FROM R-E-U ... OVER THE PAST 3 YEARS.

2 TIMES THE PLUG WAS PULLED.

PAYING A 350 DOLLAR BILL IS ROUGH THESE DAYS!

ROBERT WAS LAID OFF FROM HIS JOB AT SIERRA PACIFIC -- AND THEIR DAUGHTER HAS ONGOING MEDICAL PROBLEMS.

Everybody has problems they are all different ... If people are willing to try why turn them away ... A little something has to change.

JUST THIS WEEK -- R-E-U TOLD ME THEY'LL WORK WITH THEIR CUSTOMERS ... *IF THEY HAVE GOOD PAYMENT HISTORY.

BUT THE WARE FAMILY SAYS THAT'S AN EMPTY PROMISE.

THEY SAY THE VERY FIRST TIME THEY COULDN'T PAY ... THEY ASKED R-E-U TO SPLIT UP THE PAYMENTS ... AND WERE TOLD NO.

A WEEK LATER IT WAS LIGHTS OUT!

the first disconnect was over a thousand dollars ... Like i said we had no deposit, no history ... but we had to pay up front ... Or no electricity at all.

THE SECOND TIME ... APRIL SAYS SHE WAS 5 MINUTES LATE PAYING THE BILL ON-LINE.

SHE LEFT A NOTE ON THE METER ... IT READ PAID IN FULL!

DIDN'T WORK!

I came around the corner and scared him ... He said he would call in ... But still had to disconnect ... It wasn't made on time.

IT'S A SNOW BALL AFFECT.

RECONNECTION FEES ... BIG DOLLAR DEPOSITS ... ALL MAKING IT NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE TO GET THE LIGHT BURNING AGAIN!

You are a bill ... A name an address ... The circumstance you try to explain ...Sorry!

TAG:

WE CALLED R-E-U DIRECTOR PAUL HOOSER TODAY TO FOLLOW UP ON THE WARE'S CLAIMS THAT THE CITY WOULDN'T WORK WITH THEM-- EVEN THE VERY FIRST TIME THEY WERE LATE.

HOOSER SAYS ...HE WILL LOOK INTO IT ... WITH THE WARE'S PERMISSION OF COURSE.

WE CALLED THE WARE FAMILY ... THEY SAY NO PROBLEM!

WE'LL KEEP FOLLOWING THIS STORY -- AND LET YOU KNOW WHAT HAPPENS.

1. shot sheet -

Couple at table, couple walking outside ... Reu late notices, family pictures, a candle, their son, the house, their meter, the couple side by side. Reu file video

2. nats: couple laughing ... Talking to their son ... Writing a check nats.

3 transcription of sound bites - i threw them away ... But i did have a run through of

april describing when the man came ... She ran out in her bath robe!

I also have one great soundbite of the husband telling me he didn't give the wife enough credit ... He makes the money and she has to deal with the reu drama!

4. I didn't use the stand-up ... It was a tad blown out! I was standing by a meter with the red slip in hand ... And said: "when April got this red slip panic set in ... but its not about the amount on this paper ... Its about what happened after.



Okay, this is one of those "man versus the big bad utility company stories" and you pretty much offered one side of the story when there were actually four. You took care of the point of view of the customer. Nothing about the utility company's side until the tag, which you explained away with the old "we contacted them by phone." I would like to at least see a shot of you walking in the door of the utility, even if you come away with nothing. The viewer needs to know you gave it the old college try.

Meanwhile, the two biggies you missed are contacting the state's public service commission and seeking out agencies who can help people pay their utility bills. The PSC regulates utilities, and this company may have been in violation... but we don't know. Hold some politician's feet to the fire on this. And you need to at least offer some sort of solution for those in need. "If you've been laid off and can't pay your utility bill, contact this agency. You might qualify for assistance."

The writing was okay, though the lead in was way, way too long. As a viewer, I want you to get to the story. Since you didn't use the standup at the house, let's see you out there investigating the story. "We tried to talk to someone at the utility company..." or "If you can't pay your bill, you can come here... and maybe find some help."

No nat breaks. Okay, if the power is out you probably didn't have much, but you can try turning things on, walking up to the meter, and if you were real resourceful, find a meter reader and follow him.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Today's Super Bowl has a few lessons

There is probably no better rags-to-riches story in the history of the NFL than Kurt Warner. When you consider the guy was stocking grocery shelves and is about to play in his third super bowl, it tells you that miracles do happen.

What I found interesting about Warner was something I saw the last time I was in an NFL locker room. At the time Warner was the Giants quarterback, keeping the seat warm for Eli Manning. After the game Warner stood at the podium fielding every single question when he could have cut things short and blown out of there. I don't think I've ever seen a more polite professional athlete.

The lesson is that Warner obviously never forgot where he came from. There was no hint of a diva in the guy. He'll obviously never have to stock shelves again, but the fact that he's a millionaire hasn't changed him.

Rags to riches stories happen in television news all the time, but in many cases people who make it to a high level forget where they started and treat people badly.

Old saying in broadcasting: You meet the same people on your way up as you do on the way down.

You can rise quickly in this business and fall even faster. You may feel like you're stocking shelves in your first job, but the promise of something great is always there.

Don't give up, and if you make it, don't forget where you started.