Wednesday, June 9, 2010

News Director's playbook: Why the ND didn't have time to call you

When I was a reporter I often wondered what the News Director did all day while we were out doing stories. I mean, once the assignments are handed out, the important part of the job is done, right? I figured they went on three hour martini lunches and played poker with the guys in the sales department.

Then, when I landed on the other side of the managerial fence, I saw how quickly an average day can disappear... and very little can get accomplished.

So, if you've just sent a tape for that opening you saw on and are wondering why the ND didn't drop everything and call you immediately, here's the reason why. A typical day might go like this:

9:00 News Director arrives, feels hot breath against his neck as he unlocks office door. He notes the handful of papers on the floor that were shoved under the door since the previous day, bends down to pick them up only to have the morning anchor crash into him and send him to the floor.

9:01 Morning anchor follows ND into office, starts ranting about co-anchor, producer, director, salary, the horrible shift, or the equipment.

9:03 ND walks out of office to get coffee, but this is an excuse to get away from the angry morning anchor.

9:09 ND peeks around corner to make sure morning anchor is gone, then re-enters his office.

9:11 ND looks at stack of papers that were under the door as he checks email. Notes one is from GM that reads, "Call me immediately!"

9:13 ND reaches for Maalox bottle as he dials GM. GM rants that the live truck is dirty and needs to go to the car wash. ND pictures goldenrod of live truck getting stuck in car wash and smiles. ND checks weather channel website, then makes mental note to schedule live shot where it will be raining.

9:30 Morning meeting begins. ND asks for story ideas. Reporters pitch stories, half of which came from the morning paper. Assignment editor runs through the stuff that is in the file. ND hands out assignments. Reporters who didn't bring story ideas complain about assignments.

10:05 ND decides he will begin looking through the massive pile of resume tapes. Just as he is about to load the first tape into the machine, he realizes there is a manager's meeting.

10:06 ND gets reamed for being late to the meeting. Sarcastic comments are made regarding the dirty live truck.

11:02 Meeting ends. ND heads to office, determined to start looking at tapes.

11:05 Assignment editor informs ND that two stories have fallen through and reporters need new ideas. Intern overhears conversation and gives ND a batch of story ideas. ND makes mental note to hire intern upon graduation.

11:17 With new assignments made, ND sits down to look at tapes. Phone rings. Viewer calls to complain about female anchor's new hairstyle.

11:22 ND finally pops first tape into machine just as the Public Service Director arrives and wants to know why the PSA for the Arbor Day Foundation was dropped during the 10pm newscast. ND informs Public Service Director that the Arbor Day people didn't pay for a spot, and he will plant a tree this weekend.

11:37 First resume tape rolls.

11:37:14 First resume tape ejected.

11:52 ND manages to go through ten tapes when the AE reminds him he has a lunch meeting with the Executive Producer.

12:00 - 1:05 Lunch. EP asks how search for new reporter is going.

1:16 ND gets call from reporter candidate despite the fact the ad read "No phone calls." ND puts reporter on hold and leaves him there.

1:19 ND hears thunder in the distance. Grabs keys to live truck and moves it out of garage.

1:27 Salesman calls wanting to demo new weather equipment. ND tells salesman to call Chief Meteorologist.

1:31 Chief Meteorologist enters office, telling ND the current weather equipment is hopelessly out of date even though it was purchased last year.

1:35 ND goes to get coffee to get away from Chief Meteorologist. Sadly, the weatherman follows him.

1:48 Tape viewing resumes. ND knocks out five more tapes before the afternoon meeting. Also notes the reporter he put on hold is still on hold.

2:00 Afternoon meeting. Night reporters actually have excellent ideas.

2:30 Meeting ends. First morning crew returns. Young reporter enters office and asks for help writing story.

2:50 Non-linear editing system crashes. ND tries in vain to find Chief Engineer. ND then picks up phone, dials station intercom system, and announces that free pizza is available in the newsroom. Chief Engineer magically appears.

3:15 Computers are fixed.

3:16 Reporter calls in. News car needs a jump. ND tells AE to handle it.

3:18 Torrential rain begins pelting the roof. ND looks up and promises to go to church on Sunday.

3:25-4:30 Script approval.

4:35 Nightside reporter calls. Story has taken a different angle and she needs to discuss it.

4:47 ND looks at stack of tapes and realizes he'll have to take them home.

4:52 Sales person wanders in, trying to get ND to do bogus story for new client. ND immediately heads to get coffee to get away from sales person.

5:00-6:30 ND watches newscasts.

6:35 ND heads home, box of tapes under his arm, smiling as the now gleaming live truck rolls back into the lot.

And that's why you didn't get a call today.


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