Monday, June 7, 2010

The new News Director has arrived. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

This is the time of year when managers get twitchy. The numbers from the May book are trickling in, and if they're not good this is the perfect time of year for a station to change News Directors. The November book is six months away, which gives the new person plenty of time to get things straightened out. So suddenly our business resembles a Mayan temple with severed heads rolling down the steps.

Most new NDs arrive and call a staff meeting, usually emphasizing that very little will change and, "you don't have to worry about getting fired."

Really. I guess that's why they fired your predecessor. And obviously, ownership doesn't want you to change anything and keep landing in last place.

I was at one station in which a terrific ND was replaced with a guy who rolled in with a gunslinger attitude. Within nine months 60 percent of the staff had left. We saw the handwriting on the wall, and, just like that scene in the Amityville Horror, it read, "Get Out!"

I'm not trying to alarm you here. Many new NDs will come in and just make a few changes, especially if the predecessor has been promoted within the company or simply moved on with a better offer. But if you're in last place and your ND just got canned, time to make resume tapes.

You may be a piece-of-the-furniture anchor with years in the market, but if you're not delivering the ratings your head could be on the block. You might be a terrific reporter, but if your style doesn't match that of the new ND, you might be forced out the door.

You'll know pretty quick where you stand. If your schedule suddenly changes to something awful, if your story assignments are dogs, if your ideas in the morning meeting are routinely dismissed, you're a target of the "make them miserable so they'll quit" strategy.

Regardless of your situation, no two News Directors are alike. Tastes and styles are different. You owe it to yourself to be prepared and have an "escape tape" ready. There have been numerous stories over the years of new management coming in and staffers being escorted out the door, without so much as an hour to make dubs.

Actually, you should always have an escape tape, and keep it at home. Things in this business can change in an instant, and you don't want to be left out in the cold with your best work locked away in the station.


PlainsMET said...

How about a new GM?? Everyone is shaking in their cubicle...

Anonymous said...

Even though reporters barely get paid in many markets, a DVR/TIVO is worth the money. You can review and then save tons of on-air work. You'll have escape tape material in house, ready to go.