Thursday, May 13, 2010

News Director's playbook: promoting from within, and why the most qualified person often does not get the job

Filling an anchor opening is always a dicey proposition for a News Director. Not only is it a crucial hire, but the ND has to consider the fallout in the newsroom. If you promote someone from within, what happens to the other people who wanted the job? And if you go outside for your hire, chances are the new person will get the freeze-out from the staff...and so will you.

With that in mind, I thought I'd go over some of the factors that NDs have to take into account when filling an anchor opening. In this example we're going to assume our morning anchor is moving on, and we have several people in the newsroom who want the job.

Personality: A morning show is a different animal, as we want an anchor who is upbeat. (I hate the word "perky" but you know what I mean.) Perhaps my best fill-in anchor is a terrific hard news reporter who has never done a feature, and is seen in the community as a serious journalist. I can't see that reporter hosting a segment on purses and shoes, so I might go with someone who is not as talented on the anchor desk but has a more warm rapport with the viewers.

The Co-Anchor Factor: If this is a co-anchor job, who has the best rapport with the anchor who remains? You can't put two people on a morning show who hate each other.

The Domino Effect: Okay, so I pull my best reporter off the street and put her on the anchor desk. Where does that leave me for day to day coverage? I've got another reporter who is just average on the street but has some real potential on the anchor desk. Then I'll have to hire another reporter. But if I hire an anchor from outside, I can leave my reporting staff intact.

The Shift: The morning shift is an absolute killer, so I need to take this into account. Which of my applicants are morning people and which are night owls? Then there's the social life question, since people on the morning shift have none. Who can best deal with getting up at two in the morning and going to bed at seven?

Contracts: I'll want my new anchor to sign a two year extension. I know my best substitute anchor is looking hard for a new job, and probably doesn't want to stay any longer. Meanwhile, I have a reporter who just signed a few months ago, so a new contract won't be a big deal.

The Local Factor: My best candidate is a reporter with a ton of potential on the anchor desk, but I know she'll find a job easily two years from now. Meanwhile, I've got a married reporter whose husband just opened a law practice here in town, so she's not going anywhere, ever. Won't it be nice to never have to worry about the morning show again?

Money: I've got a budget and really have very little wiggle room as far as salary is concerned. Will one of my reporters take the small raise, or would I be better off finding someone outside who is making peanuts and thinks the salary is a huge increase?

Morale: This is a tough one. Pick someone from within, and you might start a revolt and jealousy will rear its green-eyed head. Pick someone from outside, and people will resent you. No-win situation all the way around, so I'll probably go with the lesser of two evils.

So, you can see there are a ton of other things that factor into the decision, many of which have nothing to do with talent. And that's why the best person doesn't always get the promotion.

No comments: