Wednesday, December 8, 2010

How to make your News Director's life easier

I know, some of you read that post title and said, "You gotta be kidding. Why should I?"

Well, you need a little insight into the job to understand why your ND looks stressed, might have a short fuse, or seems preoccupied all the time.

The job is not fun. Well, it probably used to be, but these days the parameters have changed. The big culprit is money. Years ago NDs had massive budgets and worried about important stuff, like, you know, news. Now News Directors have beancounters and sales people hovering over their heads, and have been turned against their wishes into glorified accountants.

Trust me, no one wants to become a News Director because he wants to study a balance sheet.

The other bad thing about the job is that invisible line you can't cross. Wanna be friends with the staff? Well, you can and you can't. Get too close and you're seen as a pushover. Stay too far away and you're considered aloof.

A News Director's day begins when he walks out to the driveway to pick up the morning paper. Then he cringes as he unfolds it, hoping against hope that there's not a huge front page story his staff has missed.

So how do you fit into the picture? Well, every News Director has favorite people, and you can become one of those making things just a little bit easier. NDs love people they "don't have to worry about" and you can become one of those with a few easy steps.

-Bring solid story ideas to the meeting every day. When a ND comes to work and knows it's a slow day, he can count on the fact that certain reporters will always have good story ideas. (And those people will get the plum assignments down the road.)

-Stay out of the drama pool. Every News Department has drama, and some are like running soap operas. Do your best to avoid gossip, backstabbing, and the other little things that can tear a newsroom apart. Do the opposite and be a team player.

-Once in awhile, ask your ND something personal. You might ask about the NDs spouse, kids, what he did on vacation, etc. Anything to take his mind off the job is always welcome.

-Volunteer for the stuff no one wants. If you're not going home for the holidays, volunteer to work. One of the toughest thing a ND has to deal with are holiday requests for days off.

-Take care of the news car. As a reporter, I never left anything in a car and left it as I found it. As a manager, I was amazed at the stuff I'd find when I had to borrow a news car. Half eaten lunches, rotten fruit, cigarettes, shopping bags, you name it. The other pet peeve about news cars concerns the gas tank. Make sure you don't bring it back to the station running on fumes. The next person might have a breaking story and that five minute stop for gas might be the difference between getting the story and missing it.

-Respect the equipment. You wanna know why half the equipment in the station doesn't work? Because people don't treat it like their own.

-Answer the phone. I worked in one shop where the phones would ring forever and no one would answer. Grab the phone as soon as possible. Might be a great story on the other end.

-Don't complain. This is a tough one, but a NDs day is filled with complaints. If you want something, ask. Don't complain and demand.


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