Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Mailbag: Why is the industry broke?


I'm new to the business and wondering why so many stations seem to be so tight with a buck. Seriously, I know that years ago salaries were a lot higher. What's the deal?

Well, there are a lot of factors, some of them obvious, like the internet. But there's one factor that many of you are not familiar with.

It's called "network compensation" or "network comp" for short. Years ago, before cable and satellite fragmented the product, network affiliates received hugs sums of money to carry its programming. You could basically buy a station, put up a few satellite dishes, hire a couple of engineers and make a fortune. My cat could have run a TV station in those days, and that's why I often worked for some station owners who couldn't tie their own shoes but were millionaires.

But back then there were just a few stations. Then the number of choices went up, the network slice of the pie got smaller, and the networks started cutting network comp until it reached the point where all those big checks simply disappeared. Imagine running a TV station and having a few million bucks to make up in the budget.

Now, throw in the damage done by the internet, the economy, and the glut of people looking for work, and you end up with the current situation.

And what's makes this even worse, is most people have no idea how the business will shake out in the future.


What does it mean when a station asks you to drive a very long distance to an interview?

It means the company is too cheap to buy a plane ticket. And since it isn't costing them anything, you have no idea if you're on the short list or not. On the other side of the coin, if they buy you a plane ticket, you've got a very good shot at getting a job offer.


I know you've said you can't predict what the business will be like, but can you gaze into your crystal ball and take a shot at what jobs in the industry might have more openings than others?

Okay... the clouds are parting... I see ships on a stormy sea...

Seriously, if I had to make an educated guess, here's what I think might be in demand in the near future:

-Male reporters
-Female meteorologists
-Producers who can do more than one show per day
-Weekend weather and sports people who can also do a decent news package

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Letterman effect

It's almost inevitable, especially in an industry filled with young, attractive people who have a lot in common. With all the fallout over the David Letterman story, now's as good a time as any to discuss dating in the workplace.

Of course "fishing off the company pier" is a bad idea in any workplace, and there's always the underlying hint of sexual harassment if a manager is involved with a subordinate.

But beyond all the stuff that has to do with love and romance, there's a more practical reason not to date anyone at your station, let alone anyone in this business. And the reason is enough to scare most people out of doing it.

You think it's hard finding a job for yourself? Imagine being a couple and trying to move on. To the same station. Or even the same market.

I've worked with several married couples over the years, and one in particular illustrates my point. In this case, one half of the couple was extremely talented, the other was pretty average. The talented one had plenty of offers from major markets, but when that person insisted that the other half be hired as well, the stations didn't bite. They only wanted the talented person. I can only imagine what went through both their heads; one person having to give up a dream while the other knowing the reason for doing so was the person in the mirror. Bottom line, they never moved on.

In fact, I can't think of any couple I worked with that did move up. A few were talented on both sides, but finding two openings at the same time is next to impossible.

Bottom line, if you're planning to move up the ladder, find someone to love who can work anywhere.

Or just stay single until you reach your goal.