Saturday, February 14, 2009

If this were 2007, a lot of you would be outta here

I hear a lot of frustration these days. I have a few incredibly talented clients who would have move on a long time ago if the economy could take a time machine back two years.

In many cases, a lot of you are thinking there's something wrong with your tape because you haven't gotten hired. In many cases, this is due to the business environment that has the industry in a death grip.

In many cases, there's absolutely nothing wrong with you or your tape.

Try not to over think things and keep the economic issue in mind. The shake out will be over soon, and things will begin to move again.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Helicopter Managers

Shhhh. Quiet.

Can you hear the beating of the rotors? Don't look up, there might be one looking over your shoulder. If you smell too much cologne or perfume, that's a good indication. You turn, and sure enough.

Incoming chopper.

You might be working in a station populated by "helicopter managers." These are the people who have raised micro-managing to an art form. They have to be involved in every single decision, they don't trust their people to do even the simplest tasks, they think they're smarter than everyone else when in reality they're not even close. They hover over everything, hence the helicopter reference. They have a job title that is higher than yours. so they assume they can do your job better even though most of them don't have a creative bone in their bodies.

So how do you deal with them? Well, in many cases, as my father used to say, you need to, "Yes them to death." Trying to argue or make a point with a helicopter manager is an exercise in futility. If they say they sky is purple, just agree.

As in all walks of life, you have to consider the source. Many helicopter managers are authorities on everything, even though they've never worked in anything but a tiny market. Many will tell you how to do your job, though they've never worked a day in the news department. You can say yes and give them the bobblehead while knowing in your heart they're wrong. But don't challenge them. That only makes them hover even more. Agree with them, compliment them on their ideas, and watch them move on and hover over someone else.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Journalism has become one big softball league

When Mike Wallace had a piece on 60 Minutes, you knew there was going to be a confrontation, that some guy caught with his hand in the cookie jar was gonna squirm, and that Wallace would turn into a pit bull who wouldn't let go until he got the answers he wanted. If they'd sent him to Guantanamo, all the real terrorists would have cracked by now.

These days reporters ask questions, get an answer, and pretty much say, "Okay."

The softballs being lobbed by reporters, even on the networks, is troubling. When you've got someone on the ropes, you go for the knockout. You don't back off and let the guy take a breath.

Whether it's a politician or someone like A-Rod or Michael Phelps, it seems like the follow up question has become a lost art.

I can see Mike Wallace grilling A-Rod. "Why should anyone believe you?" he might have asked. Or, "Do you honestly expect anyone to believe you stopped doing steroids?" Or, "You're only coming clean because you got caught. You would have carried this lie all the way to Cooperstown, right?"

Or to Phelps. "Kellogg's has already dropped you. Why should anyone buy a product you've endorsed?"

Or to a politician. "You can't account for last year's bailout money. Why should the public trust you now?"

Sometimes I think young reporters are afraid of offending an interview subject. You know what? They need to be afraid of you. If someone you're interviewing gets up and leaves, that's a great piece of video. If someone gets flustered and begins to twitch, you're doing your job.

Your job is not to make friends in this business, but to expose the truth. If you ruffle feathers along the way, well, you're supposed to. Politicians, believe it or not, actually respect tough reporters more than ones they can manipulate. They may fear them and run the other way, but that makes for good video. Someone dodging a question is better than getting an answer to a softball question.

Put the softballs away. Journalism is hardball. Pitch inside, high and tight. Fastballs with an occasional curve thrown in. But if you continue to lob easy questions over the fat part of the plate, your interviews will have an easy time knocking them out of the park.