Thursday, February 4, 2010

Mailbag: Eavesdropping on resume tapes


You always talk about websites to watch other people's resume tapes. What are some of the links?

Well, there are lots of places to see how the rest of the world is doing. is a good one (just click on the "talent" section.) You can also visit the websites of agencies, (you'll find a list of those on as many post the work of their clients.

Remember, try to watch people who have more experience and are working in bigger markets or networks.

Also, if you note that some tapes on agent websites look a little sloppy with bad edits, that doesn't speak well of the agency. If I'm shopping a client, I want that person to look their absolute best. You may put your own resume tape together, but a good agent will fine tune it and/or clean up the mistakes.


I've been shopping for an agent and noticed they all seem to charge different rates. What gives?

Well, there's no regulatory commission that governs agents. Anyone can hang out a shingle (or a website) and claim to be an agent. You don't need any sort of license, or even experience in the business. I could do it if I wanted to.

As for rates, agents can charge whatever they want. What you need to know is that sometimes these rates are negotiable. All you have to do is ask. The other thing to ask an agent concerns the fee if you find a job on your own.

Hey Grape,

When you mentor someone, do you feel it is best to be brutally honest even if criticism is justified? My ND is pretty rough.

Well, there's a big difference between mentoring and criticism. Mentoring is effective if you start by building on the positive stuff and then offering suggestions to help the person work on the weak points. Some NDs simply focus on nothing but the bad points: you could have done 99 out of 100 things right, but all you'll hear are comments about that one thing you did wrong.

Am I brutally honest when I critique someone? Well, to a point. You're not going to improve if I play baby boomer parent and give you a ribbon for trying. But it's easier to build up than tear down, so I try to offer suggestions rather than criticism.

What amazes me is when I tell a woman she needs to do something about her hair or wardrobe, and I don't get death threats in the mail.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Pulling an end run on the resume tape police

I always had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing when upper management would tell me, "You know, some of your staffers are making resume tapes in the edit booths."

Wow, stop the presses. I had no idea.

Amazingly, these people think that forbidding the making of resume tapes will actually stop people from making them, as if we're afraid the resume tape police will send us to Guantanamo. They fail to realize that we're pretty resourceful when it comes to breaking out of hell.

Anyway, I had to do a little editing project recently and stumbled onto some free software that might help you guys who are trying to edit stuff from DVDs.

I had to pull some video from a DVD and someone turned me onto a program called "MPEG Streamclip." This couldn't be easier. You simply download it, click on "open DVD" under the file menu, and set your in and out points. Then send your video to whatever editing program you need. Here's the website:

Take that, resume tape police.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Congrats to my "late bloomers"

I have to laugh when I hear some young people say things like, "I'm still in a medium market and I'm twenty-five." You can hear the pain in their voices, as if certain milestones must be reached by certain birthdays.

So, a couple of stories about two of my clients who proved it's never too late to start a dream.... and have done quite well in pursuing theirs.

About a year and a half ago I got a client named Lori Obert, who, after a career that had nothing to do with journalism, decided she wanted to do more with her life. So this Denver gal got her first job in Peoria, Illinois. (Yes, there really is a Peoria. I know that's the standard town we use when we tell people they have to start in places like Peoria, but it does exist.)

Lori's goal was to someday make it back to Denver. An ambitious goal for someone who got a late start? Nope. Not when you're driven to do something you feel you were meant to do. And a lot of talent helps too.

Since Lori often went home to visit her family, I told her to start visiting stations and dropping off tapes. She did this for more than a year. Eventually she developed relationships with some managers. She kept dropping off fresh tapes, laying the groundwork in her job hunt. When an opening popped up that matched her skills, she was hired. She's reached her goal, even though she got what might be considered a "late start."

Meanwhile, I got another client at about the same time named David Still. A meteorologist from the South who was freezing in Iowa, David had also worked in an unrelated industry when he discovered that weather was his calling. His goal, like Lori's, was to move close to home.

Despite the late start, David had a polished presence that belied his experience level. While extremely well versed as a meteorologist, the guy makes weather fun and interesting, unlike so many "weather geeks" out there who bore viewers to tears. David worked hard, improved quickly, and regularly sent tapes to places close to home. And again, when a suitable opening occurred, he scored a job in Memphis. (Whereupon he was greeted by an ice storm... the guy brought the Iowa weather with him.)

Many times maturity is a very valuable commodity to a News Director. In a business increasingly populated by people right out of college, sometimes it's nice to have someone on staff who has actually used a typewriter. A good newsroom is made up of a nice mix; young and old, rookie and veteran, quiet and outgoing. When you have a staff made up predominantly of people under 25, a mature voice can settle things down, and tone down the drama that often comes with youth.

In any event, nice to see these two deserving people break some rules and reach their goals... even after getting a "late start" in the business.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Solid reporting is a politician's kryptonite

When it comes to lying, cheating and sleaze, politics is an equal opportunity employer.

Congress may argue till doomsday on health care, but dishonesty is a bi-partisan effort. Both parties have their poster boys (John Edwards, Mark Sanford) with tales that just make your jaw drop. The only thing more outlandish would be if Nancy Pelosi had made a connection with Tiger Woods.

How do these guys get this way? And how can you break a big political story?

Well, it's really easy to answer both these questions when you get inside the mind of the politician. Some of these people actually have good intentions when they're first elected, but eventually most of them get arrogant and think they're bulletproof. The longer they're in office, the more powerful they get...or the more powerful they think they are.

Don't forget, two young reporters brought down Richard Nixon.

If you're one of those young reporters who is dazzled by the celebrity of a notable politician, well, time to take the blinders off. If you're a card carrying member of either party, time to realize that there are good Democrats and bad Democrats. There are good Republicans and bad Republicans. A Republican label doesn't make a politician a paragon of family values, just as a Democratic label doesn't make a politician a flaming liberal.

When you start to realize politicians are people, that they are subject to the temptations of any human being, you'll begin to get the picture.

You wanna break a big political story? You need to follow the money, look for the wandering eye, or both.

One thing to remember about politicians; their bulletproof attitude means they often leave a paper trail. Think a politician is stealing? Get the campaign disclosure forms and find out who is contributing to the campaign... and see if there might be a connection. If XYZ construction company is dumping money into someone's campaign and that someone keeps awarding government projects to XYZ, well, you've got a story. Even if you don't think a pol is stealing, you should always keep an eye on the money.

Think a politician is cheating on his wife? Look him in the eye. If you're a female reporter you've got a built in sleaze detector as a woman anyway. If you're a male reporter and you catch a comment about women that would only be made between guys, that's a tip there's something to investigate.

Finally, know this: Politicians think they are smarter than anyone else, especially reporters. It's up to you to prove them wrong.