Thursday, December 16, 2010

Clock management

On Sunday the Metrodome roof collapsed, which meant instead of an afternoon watching the Giants I was stuck flipping around the dial looking for a decent game. I settled on the Redskins-Buccaneers, which was going down to the wire and looked like it was headed for overtime.

At one point in the game, the Redskins called timeout. As they lined up for the next play, the clock ran out and they were called for delay of game. I'm not sure I've ever seen a team called for delay of game after a timeout, but that was about the worst case of clock management in football I'd ever seen.

Clock management in television news is crucial, and, if you're not good at it, may be the reason for a lot of stress in your life. The two most stressful things for young reporters are deadlines and coming up with story ideas.

These days reporters are more time crunched than I ever was, as the days of two hour lunches are long gone. But even with today's demands, you still have to manage your time carefully or you'll be a bundle of nerves at the end of every day.

Having observed young reporters from the management side, I can tell you that there is a ton of wasted time early in the day that can come back to bite you as you get closer to news time. Here are some of the biggest time wasters that can get you in trouble:

-The Internet: Mindless surfing, emails, social networking, etc. You can do this stuff anytime, but it seems to be the first thing people do when arriving at the station in the morning and coming back from a story.

-Personal phone calls: I never cared if people made personal phone calls while on the clock, but when those calls make you push the envelope as you get closer to news time, they're a problem.

-Get your story and get going: As soon as you've gotten your assignment, set things up and get moving. The quicker you're done in the field, the quicker you can get back and edit. I've seen too many reporters get late starts on stories because they're wasting time on the computer or chatting with co-workers.

-Taking a break when you get back from a story: You've just shot a story and you're back at your desk. Have some coffee, shoot the breeze with the co-workers, and all of a sudden it's three o'clock and you haven't started looking at your video and writing your story.

The big problem occurs when most of the staff does these things and then there aren't enough edit booths at the end of the day. If you get your assignment done as soon as possible, you'll have plenty of time to relax at the end of the day... instead of being stressed out about possibly missing a deadline.


1 comment:

Bill said...

Amen. I'm gonna sound old, but back when I was in the biz, I anchored the morning newsbreaks, and my photog and I were our AE's first call. After 8:30 we would shoot, write and edit 9 or more stories before noon, often with a live wrap around package as the noon lead. Others would do maybe two or three stories in a full shift. Then again those were the days before social networking and email. We still found time to have coffee (getting up at 4:30 a.m. required it) and grab lunch, at 9 a.m. and be social, but we were there to do a job.