Friday, November 20, 2009

The holidays offer anchoring opportunities for those who volunteer

When I first got into management I had a very talented young reporter who asked me for a shot at anchoring. I knew she'd do fine, but had trouble convincing the powers that be. Finally, I played the "noon show card."

"Let's put her on the noon show," I said. "No one's watching anyway."

"Fine," was the answer. (Noon shows do have some value.)

So I scheduled her for the noon and she knocked it out of the park.

Similar opportunities are coming in the next few weeks. Since regular anchors really don't want to work the holidays, it might behoove you to volunteer to anchor on those days that no one wants to work. Between Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah, there's bound to be an anchor shortage somewhere. Throw your hat in the ring. Most NDs will realize that "no one's watching" on holidays and might give you a shot.

By the way, you know who is watching on holidays? NDs who have gone home. They might be big market managers now, but they may have grown up in your market. And NDs can't resist checking out local news whenever they travel. (Another good reason not to phone it in on a holiday.)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Interview with a corporate beancounter

Today we're sitting down for lunch with Carmen Denominator, the head beancounter for a medium sized broadcasting group.

Grape: Carmen, thanks for agreeing to sit down with us today.

Carmen: No problem. (Glances at watch) But I'm only allowed thirty minutes.

Grape: They have fast service here. Let's start with--

Carmen: I know what you're going to ask about. The one man band thing.

Grape: You read my mind.

Carmen: Look, cameras are so small and easy to operate now that anyone can shoot video, so why have two people do the work of one person?

Grape: Because most reporters are not competent photogs.

Carmen: Pfffft. Like the viewers care if the video is out of focus. It saves money. More money for me to count.

The waitress arrives and asks for our order.

Carmen: I see both the hamburger and the soup in a bread bowl are both $6.95. Could I have half a hamburger and half of the soup bowl?

Waitress: Lady, we can't cook half a hamburger. And if we cut the bread bowl in half the soup will run all over the place.

Carmen: How about half a club sandwich?

The waitress glares at her. (We should point out this restaurant is in New Jersey.)

Carmen: Fine. I'll have the three bean salad.

Grape: How appropriate.

Carmen: What do you mean by that?

Grape: Well, you're a beancounter.

Carmen: Financial officers do not appreciate that term.

Grape: Journalists don't appreciate being thought of as numbers on a balance sheet.

Carmen: Ah, here we go. Look, I don't make the rules. My job is to create a healthy bottom line for the company. If that means making a few cuts here and there, so be it.

Grape: But those cuts are affecting the quality of the product and chasing good people out of the company.

Carmen: Well, in case you hadn't noticed, quality left this country and moved to China a few years ago. And so what if people leave? There's an unlimited supply of people out there to take their places.

Grape: Nice attitude.

Carmen: I don't make the rules.

Grape: Did it ever occur to you to consult with people who actually work in the trenches before making cuts?

Carmen: No. It wouldn't matter. I have this flow chart in my office that tells me how television stations work, so it's easy to make cuts.

Grape: You have a flow chart?

Carmen: Yes. I know how many people you need to put on a newscast, how much equipment is necessary. I know the average reporter drinks two-point-three cups of coffee per day, so that tells me how much coffee should be in your break room budget. It's a very good flow chart.

Grape: What about breaking news?

Carmen: What about it?

Grape: Well, in some years you have a ton of breaking news and it blows out the overtime budget.

Carmen: You should plan for that contingency.

Grape: You can't plan the future. Who knew gas would be four bucks a gallon and blow up the news car budget?

Carmen: You should have planned for these contingencies. On days when there's not much news, send everyone home early. When you have stories close to the station, your crews can walk to them.

Grape: That in your flow chart?

Carmen: No. I figured that out all by myself.

Grape: Let's talk about budgets. When I was in management we'd have to jump through all kinds of hoops to get our budget requests in, and then you guys would deny everything.

Carmen: (laughing) Yeah. Amazing you guys still fall for that one.

Grape: So you have no intention of granting budget requests?

Carmen: Please. Use the stuff you've already got.

Grape: The stuff we've already got is obsolete.

Carmen: You still got your newscast on the air last night though, right?

Grape: Yeah.

Carmen: Case closed.

Grape: Why not make some cuts at the corporate level?

Carmen: You cannot be serious.

Lunch arrives. Carmen picks up her fork and begins to eat her three bean salad.

Grape: Aren't you going to count those first?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Mailbag: Snappy answers


Do I need a picture on my resume? I see some offers out there to put photos on my DVD along with my paper resume. Worth the money?

Nope. The only thing that gets you the job is what's on the tape, and we can see what you look like when we play it. No News Director ever said, "Well, she can't report a lick but sure had a nice DVD cover. Let's hire her!" Save your money.


Do I need a fancy slate on my resume tape? I see some people with flying boxes, music, and all sorts of bells and whistles.

Fuhgeddaboudit. Save the production value, bells and whistles for your packages. All you need on a slate is your name, address, current job and contact information. No News Director ever said, "Well, she can't report a lick but sure had great production values on her slate. Let's hire her!" (Hmmmm.... I'm getting a bit redundant here.)


Why are News Directors always in a bad mood?

Well, there are a lot of factors. If the ND is already a cylon, it's inbred. If the ND has no home life or a bad one, he or she can take out those frustrations on the staff.

Then there's pressure from the GM, corporate, the beancounters who question every little expense, and the constant parade of complaints from the staff.


Why are photogs often in a bad mood?

Because they're often smarter than the reporters for whom they shoot.


It's like I have to be a CIA operative around here and sneak around in the middle of the night to make a resume tape.

Why are small market managers so paranoid about people looking for jobs?

Because they're stuck in a small market and you're getting out.


Please twitter.

Please stop asking.


Just got my first job. What's the best thing I can do?

Act like you know nothing, be a sponge, and soak up everything you can.

Oh, and carry the tripod for the photog.

Hey Grape,

I love my job but don't make any money. Should I be worried?

Nah. If you love what you do chances are you'll be successful.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Why the best person doesn't always get the job

A while back a reporter sent me a resume tape which included an anchor intro. While the reporter was very good, the anchor was awful.

I see this a lot, as people often ask me to look at their packages online, which include the anchor intros. Trust me, there are a lot of people out there without much talent, or veterans who are simply phoning it in, sitting on the anchor desks across America cashing bigger checks than you while operating on autopilot.

So, you're asking, "Why do these people have jobs that pay twice what I make?"

Ah, Grasshopper, life is not fair.

Guess what? Some of these awful people started out just like you. They might have had talent and drive. And, like everyone else out there, they actually cared when they got their first job.

You see this a lot in small and medium markets. People who realize they aren't going anywhere suddenly stop trying and their performance suffers. Or they don't have the talent to move on, and end up being "a piece of the furniture."

That doesn't mean you aren't talented or would do a better job. It just means that for whatever reason, they have a lock on the job you want.

In some cases, longevity trumps talent. We've all seen those anchors that have been in the same place for years. People who, if they had to look for another job, wouldn't get a nibble. Sometimes News Directors get comfortable with people like that; they show up every day and don't complain, and the public has grown comfortable with them, like a favorite pair of slippers.

That doesn't mean you should give up.

What it means is this: Don't let this happen to you.

And believe it or not, it can happen at a very young age.

You're at your first or second job, your resume tape is done, and you're biding time waiting for an offer. So you phone it in for just one day. One day becomes two, then three, then it becomes a habit.

And before you know it, you're in the same place for ten years.

Most of us have the capability of operating on auto-pilot. They key to avoiding this is to remember your first day on the job. On that day you were going to change the world and take the business by storm.

The only way to actually do it, is to keep that attitude every single day.