Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Mailbag: Role reversal

Grape,

You're always telling us what News Directors are looking for, but I was wondering if you could tell us what we should be observing. I'm about to fly out on an interview and would appreciate some input on red flags.



Well, at least you're off to a good start with a plane ticket. Many stations want to hire over the phone or make the applicant foot the transportation bill.

By the way, you can tell a lot about how much you're wanted by the price of the plane ticket. If they didn't wait two weeks to get a cheaper rate, that's a good sign.

Anyway, you wanted red flags, so I'll give you enough for a Russian May Day parade.

-If you're in the newsroom most of the day, take note of the atmosphere. Are people smiling, joking around, and enjoying their work? Or do they look like they're on death row waiting for the executioner?

-If you're lucky enough to be invited to the morning meeting, note how ideas are received. Does the ND shoot down any suggestions or is he generally receptive to pitches? You don't want to work for a dictator.

-Does the ND ask you questions that are too personal? If things get creepy, leave skid marks.

-What does the news product look like? Will this station help your career grow, or are the packages lacking in creativity?

-Note the quality of the photography in the packages. A good staff of shooters can improve your work by a big margin.

-Look at the assignment board. Is it filled with car wrecks and crime, or real stories?

-If you are "dumped" in the newsroom for several hours (many NDs do this to see how you'll fit in) talk to as many people as possible and try to gauge the mood of the place. And if you can wander over to the photog's lounge, you'll get the real story. Those guys don't hold anything back.

-Are you put up in a nice hotel and taken out to a decent dinner? Always a good sign when the red carpet is rolled out.

-Have the job parameters changed since you talked on the phone? Has the two year contract turned into three years? Have the outs disappeared? Is the salary the same? Lies now mean bigger lies later.

-Finally, can you see yourself working for this ND? Do you like the person, and do you think you'll get good feedback?

Hope that helps, and best of luck on your interview.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Random thoughts

-Please, guys, stop obsessing about finding openings. It's great to cruise places like tvjobs and nice when you do find an opening, but don't wait for one to send a tape. I keep getting calls from people who say, "I don't see any openings" but trust me, they're out there. One of my clients got a job last year and the opening was never posted.

-This past week I had a recurring headache. Then I realized the reason. I kept getting hit with chunks of sky. Yes, there were clouds in our market and some of the weather people were in their "Let's scare the heck out of the viewers" mode. One night I was attempting to watch something on prime time through the crawls and the squeezebacks while being bombarded with warnings to hide under the bed. Meanwhile, Bella the cat was stretched out on the deck, enjoying the evening. I wish some of these weather obsessives would dial it down a notch.

-RTNDA is just around the corner. If you're going there looking for a job, don't be surprised to see a thin turnout. Stations are cutting back and travel is often the first to go out of the budget. That said, be prepared to do an immediate interview if you cruise the venue looking for NDs. (I'll do a post later this month on this topic.)

-A car wreck is not a lead story. You should all know that. But this past week I saw a station actually promote a car wreck for their late news. Wow, that'll bring in the viewers. Remember, when writing a tease, you have to start by picking a story that will actually interest viewers.

-I'm impressed with the level of writing I'm seeing from young people lately. For years this was the biggest weakness among recent grads, but it has really changed. Kudos to those college profs who stress good writing as well as other skills.

-The most common phrase I hear from new clients is, "I don't want to be a one-man-band in my next job." So if this sentence is kicking around in your head, you're not alone.

-It's a new month. Time to do a story that makes the world a better place. Did you do one in March?