Thursday, April 16, 2009

Mailbag: RTNDA, part deux

I just finished reading your RTNDA blog and I had a few questions.

1. How many DVDs do you think a reporter should bring. (I just made 50 copies for the trip is this too many?)
2. Do you think reporters should spend the entire time on the floor scouting out NDs or is it OK to attend some of the seminars as well. I've already signed up for the One Man Band workshop and thought it would be a good way for me to brush up on my skills and possibly form better relationships with NDs.
3. I currently work at a newspaper, do you think I should use my business cards from work or make my own personal cards that distance me from the newspaper world? (In this economy I thought newspaper reporting was better than no reporting.)
4. I attended UNITY last summer but this is my first time at RTNDA. What are some mistakes you've seen reporters straight out of college make that you didn't mention in your blog? How do you think I can not make those mistakes?

Okay, lot of good questions here.

1. Hey, if you can hand out fifty DVDs, that's great. I think you're in good shape there.

2. A lot of the seminars can be very helpful, and many NDs attend them. You might find yourself sitting next to one... strike up a conversation, then really pay attention and take notes of what the speaker is saying. (Yikes... a one man band workshop... I get hives just thinking about that.)

3. These days newspaper experience is good since so many people are being asked to re-write their stories for the web. Take a few of your best newspaper clips, make fifty copies, and hand that out with each DVD. NDs love young people who can actually write. And it's easier for a newspaper person to learn TV style than vice versa.

4. Mistakes? Hmmm... Don't be too pushy, don't fake interest in the NDs market (wow... you work in Podunk? I've always wanted to work there), have a long term plan for your career, tell the ND you have a lot to learn and need a mentor, don't bother agents (they aren't interested in entry level people.)

Oh, a few suggestions I didn't mention previously... if you can find a veteran reporter you might strike up a conversation... you might get pointed in the right direction. Also, they used to have some NDs who volunteered to give free critiques... if you can get one do so. But if someone totally hammers you without any constructive criticism, ignore it. I had some really talented clients who had people tell them to get out of the business... they've gone on to solid careers.

Good luck.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Could we be any less creative on April 15th?

As I gaze into my crystal ball... the clouds dissipate...

I see a live truck parked near a post office.....

I see a reporter standing next to a mailbox.....

I see video from a branch of H&R Block...

Just thought I'd let you know why I'm not watching local news tonight.

Funniest thing I saw last year... the local station that had tax preps as its lead story, then announced, "Free assistance will be available tonight until six."

It was the station's six o'clock newscast.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Mailbag: Hello, McFly!

I run a sports blog with sometimes questionable material. It gets some actual traffic, and shows that I've embraced the evolving world of media convergence! However, the wrong news director might find it offensive and might not appreciate the humor. Should the site stay OFF my resume and/or cover letter?

Well, this letter jumped to the head of the class because I wanted to possibly save this person's job.

The Internet can be a good thing when used properly. It lets me communicate with you guys, watch stories from around the country instantly, and spend less money at the post office.

But for some reason young people feel the need to put everything, no matter how personal, out there for all the world to see and read. I'm reminded of a reporter's website someone showed me which featured the young lady wearing nothing but a towel. Yeah, that's the kind of credible reporter I want for my newsroom.

In this case you're basically setting out land mines for your own career. You're wondering whether someone who might want to hire you could find your blog offensive, but did you ever consider the fact that your own manager and viewers are being turned off? For the sake of being funny, for one off-color comment, you could be out of a job. All it takes is one viewer to file a complaint with management and you're outta there.

As for job hunting, you should know that just about every ND does background checks and googles prospective hires, and you can be sure everything you post on the net will be read. No one, and I mean no one, is going to hire anyone who puts questionable material out in public.

It doesn't matter if your site gets any traffic, and if you're trying to drive people to your blog by being risque, you're doing serious damage to your career. It's one thing to be controversial... but nobody wants a sports guy whose site is one that might turn off viewers.

If I were you I'd go back and delete every single post you find questionable. The way to do this is to read it and think, "What would my mother say if she read this?" If she'd say, "Shame on you" then it goes.

Read some of the great sportswriters out there who have clever blogs. I, for one, never miss Peter King on the Sports Illustrated site. He can be controversial, funny, sentimental. But he never, ever crosses the line of good taste.

Clean up your blog and fill it with thought provoking sports issues. That will bring you more recognition... and help you find a job, instead of hurting you.

I'm really serious... you guys have information that's way too personal on your websites, blogs, etc.

When it comes to questionable material, here's the rule: If you've gotta think about it, even a little, it doesn't belong out in public.

Monday, April 13, 2009

RTNDA job hunting: What happens in Vegas might get you a job

In a short time some of you will be heading to Vegas for some old fashioned face-to-face job hunting. No emails, no text messages, no links to your website. Just you, one-on-one with someone who could hire you. If you've never been to RTNDA, it can be an eye opening experience.

My first convention was in the mid-80's, and I was of course armed with a satchel full of resume tapes. I had a one day pass that was given to me by a friend, so I used that time to meet as many NDs as possible. Everyone had a badge with his name and position. Reporters and anchors walked around checking out badges before faces. Since my badge said "reporter" no one paid attention to me.

I ran into a network executive I knew who gave me his badge after finding out I only had a one day pass. He was flying back to New York anyway. So the next day I had magically changed into "Network VP." All of a sudden I had all these women staring at my chest and smiling. (I know, you gals reading this are saying "Now you men know how it feels.") Now I was a guy who could change a career, and I had a parade of on-air people who wanted my time.

That's how many NDs will feel at RTNDA; their badges make them people who are in demand. All of a sudden they become rock stars at a convention.

Of course this year the turnout will probably be significantly lower than in years past. Back in the day even the cheapest stations sent their NDs to this affair. The good thing for you is that the bean counting operations won't be sending their people; so any NDs or GMs you run into will probably be from companies that are relatively decent.

Okay, so let's get down to walking the floor. The thing is usually set up like any other trade show, with booths all over the place. Companies will be selling weather equipment, editing systems, cameras, you name it. It's a toy store for NDs. But smart NDs are also keeping an eye out for good talent. It is also an opportunity to conduct interviews without spending money on plane tickets and hotels for job applicants.

First rule: dress for the job you want, not the one you have. I've seen reporters in jeans looking for jobs and some women who looked as though they were auditioning for an escort service. You need to look professional. Bring your best suits, your best outfits. You need to look as though you stepped out of a Spiegel catalog.

Second rule: it is up to you to make the first move. My "do not call" rule goes flying out the window at RTNDA. No ND is going to come up to you. You have to take the initiative. But be casual in your approach. Nothing too aggressive, as this is a casual affair for a ND. Introduce yourself, tell the ND a little about yourself, and then...

Third rule: You've gotta have a tape and resume ready to hand out. DVDs will save you a lot of space and weight in this case, and also allow a ND to look at your work immediately on a laptop. If you don't have something to hand out, this says you're the kind of person who isn't prepared.

There are also plenty of evening functions after the convention hall shuts down for the day. Some of these are open to everyone, some require an invite. You can usually wrangle an invitation from someone you meet. While these are still casual affairs for the NDs, you still have to maintain your professional look and attitude. And by attitude I mean do not drink alcohol at these affairs. You will probably see some managers hammered like they were still in college, but no one wants to hire a party person as a reporter or anchor, especially when the TV websites are frequently filled with stories about on-air people who've been arrested for drunk driving. Things are looser at these affairs, and you can easily strike up a conversation. Keep everything professional.

Collect business cards and make a list of everyone you meet. When you get home (or on the plane) write out a handwritten note to each person and stick it in the mail. NDs love on-air people who are old-school polite.

Any questions, fire away.