Thursday, December 24, 2009

The beancounter's Night Before Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas,
And all through the station,
The beancounter was cutting,
Not taking vacation.

The staff in the newsroom was pretty darned lean,
With five people doing the work of fifteen.
The producer looked at her rundown with fear,
And hoped that real stories soon would be here.

When suddenly a reporter rose up in his glory,
And said, "I've got a real enterprise story!"
The beancounter frowned, saying, "Don't bother,
Unless Octomom's run off with Balloon Boy's father."

The producer jumped up, said, "Hey, it's real news!
Your budget cuts are giving us all the blues."
The beancounter said, "No, we'll just have to pass,
It's three miles away, we'll surely waste gas."

"Just look at YouTube, and check out the feeds,
That'll fill your show, and meet all your needs."
"Just add some more weather if you're still short on time,
The weatherman's here, he won't cost a dime."

The producer's temper went off like a flash,
"No one will watch this, it's nothing but trash!"
The reporter grabbed his camera and headed for the door,
"I'm finding a story that won't be a bore!"

The beancounter said, "Stop! I've got an idea!
It's one that you'll like, the viewers will cheer!"
"For I am a beancounter, your true Christmas elf,
Just set up your camera, and interview yourself!"

Alas, there was nothing the poor staff could do,
The beancounter ruled, that sadly was true.
And when the holiday newscast did roll,
All the viewers received was a big lump of coal.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Ask Santa to bring you a new hat for Christmas

Back in the 80's, another reporter told me, "You wear more hats than Bella Abzug." Abzug, for those under 40, was a New York Congresswoman who always wore different hats; it became her trademark.

In my case he meant that I had done just about every job in the newsroom.

Over the years I've been a reporter, anchor, weather anchor, sports anchor, producer (ugh), and for one week in hell, assignment editor. I also loved to edit, and cut most of my own packages. My first News Director had told me it was important to be versatile, so I tried to learn a little about every job in the newsroom.

These days versatility is a must, because if you can do only one thing, you're not as marketable.

This past year two of my friends who have spent their entire careers doing sports switched to news. They saw the handwriting on the wall (sports being phased out, shortage of male anchors) and even though they were working in major markets, they used their versatility to make the transition. But the key is that they are both smart guys who have always kept up on current events; had they been two people who only read the sports page, it wouldn't have worked.

And now there are even more hats out there in the newsroom boutique. You have to write fast and write well in order to write for the web. You have to know a little about other jobs in the newsroom, because one day your ND may ask you if you're interested in doing weather. And if you have the luxury of photogs who edit for you, you'd better be looking over their shoulders and learn how to cut a package; the day may come when you'll have to do everything yourself.

In the next decade, versatility is the new black. If you can do several things well, you may just trump someone who is more talented but can only do one thing.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Mailbag: Holiday blues

Grape,

I hate my job, I hate my boss and I've had no nibbles at all while job hunting. My co-workers all stab me in the back. Please cheer me up for Christmas.


It could be worse. You could be Tiger Woods.


Grape,

Our station didn't have a Christmas party this year. To me this is beyond cheap. Is this happening everywhere?


Well, yeah. It's an easy way for beancounters to slash ten or twenty grand off the bottom line, but in reality its about the worst thing they could do for morale. However, I'm sure every corporate office had a party.

If that's the case, throw your own.


Grape,

I'm in my first job. My parents keep asking if I've gotten my Christmas bonus yet. When might I receive one?


When someone develops a time machine and you can transport yourself back to 1982.


Grape,

You're always helping us. Just wondering... what do you want for Christmas?


Just pay it forward, guys.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Negotiation is like poker, but don't be surprised if they call your bluff

This time of year we baseball fans are hoping our team will pick up someone good. I've been reading about two players in particular, Johhny Damon and Jason Bay.

Damon is (or was) the Yankees left fielder, whose swing is perfectly tailored for the stadium's short right field porch. Despite the fact that he can barely reach second base from the outfield, he was an important part of the championship team.

He's also 35 years old.

So his agent demands a three year contract for huge money. Finally, the Yanks sign someone else, and now Damon must be wondering where he'll end up. And no one is going to pay him the money he's demanding.

Same with Jason Bay of the Red Sox. A perfect situation for a right handed dead pull hitter, and his agent turns down a huge offer. The Red Sox sign someone else, and now Bay is a man who won't get to play with a great team in a great city.

Two things you can learn from this:

-If you have an agent, you'd better be absolutely sure the agent knows your true wishes. If you don't want your agent to play hardball, tell him.

-Management usually holds all the cards in a negotiation. If you won't sign, there are countless talented people out there who will.

I've been on both sides of negotiation. Sometimes, as a reporter or anchor, you can sense that you've gone as far as you can go. If you're gonna bluff, be prepared to have said bluff called. You could end up out in the street.

As a manager I once wanted to hire a really good anchor who was a very nice person. But the agent was so difficult to deal with I moved on. There were plenty of talented anchors out there.

Remember, in any negotiation, keep things civil. Don't ask for the moon, and ask politely for anything you're requesting. In this economy, you can't push too hard.

And always consider the consequences if you do.