Friday, February 19, 2010

Memo to Tiger

If you're going to insist on a pool camera, make sure the camera works.

Tiger's "press conference" is all about b-roll

So, let me get this straight... a news conference with a pool camera, selected coverage by three media outlets, and no questions from reporters.

As reporters, you'll run into stuff like this. Why no questions? Well, it's obvious, because we all know what the questions would be. And we pretty much know what the answers would be as well.

So if you're stuck covering something like this, what can you do to make your story better? Sometimes the most profound statements are those that are never spoken.

Words can be crafted by spin doctors. Sincerity can be faked. But sometimes a look, a glance, something natural that can't be controlled, can give you the true meaning behind the words.

In most of these "stand by your man" news conferences, the most telling looks come from the wife. Reaction shots, cutaways, and other little things can tell the story. The misting of the eyes, wringing of hands, biting of the lower lip. Look for things like this, as they'll often tell the true story. And when including stuff like this in your story, you don't need to say a word, since the video does it for you.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Mailbag: Show stackers vs. producers


I just started my first job as a reporter and I've heard the term "show stacker" used in a derogatory way. Can you explain the term?

Sure. A show stacker is an uncomplimentary name given to a producer who simply puts together a newscast like a puzzle without any thought to how things might flow. For instance, if said producer has a 25 second hole in the A-block, that producer might just grab whatever story runs 25 seconds, without any thought as to whether it relates to the stories before or after.

Basic differences between show stackers and real producers:

-A show stacker sees a newscast as a math problem, trying to fit stories into time slots. A producer sees a newscast as a complete story, one that will capture the viewers interest from the opening tease to the kicker.

-A show stacker has no idea about the content of the packages being used. A producer takes the time to talk to the field crews about what is in the package.

-A show stacker grabs the first piece of video that's cued up for a tease or a v/o. A producer either watches all the raw tape, or asks the photog where to find the good video.

-A show stacker uses weather as a crutch to close the newscast rather than take the time to actually time out the show. A producer searches for an appropriate kicker.

-A show stacker writes generic teases. A producer looks down the entire rundown and puts together clever ones.

-A show stacker gives orders to field crews. A producer has a good working relationship with field crews, and listens to feedback as to what actually happened out in the field.

-A show stacker takes a hard line on package times. A producer understands that some stories require more time, and is able to cut a few seconds here and there to accommodate a great story.

-A show stacker puts together a newscast written by ten different people. A producer goes through the whole script with the anchors and polishes a script that ties everything together.


What should I list as my "objective" on my resume?

You don't need anything, and you don't need a section about your "objective."

Two reasons: by applying for a job, the employer already knows your objective. Duh, it's to get hired. And by listing an objective, you might be knocking yourself out of something you hadn't thought of.

For instance, if your objective read, "Seeking long term career as news anchor" and a terrific job opened up for a reporter at a station that had your resume on file, a manager might toss your resume aside.

Your true objective should be in your cover letter. Your resume is just a list of your experience and education.


Why are ratings periods called "sweeps?"

Because if your station does badly a giant broom will come and sweep you out of a job.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Office politics: the hidden career killer

One of the biggest surprises for people in their first jobs is the amount of office politics that takes place in a newsroom. In a way, it's almost like you've gone back to high school, only the manipulation has gone up exponentially. If you let it, the pettiness, back stabbing, alliances and gossip can suck you into a vortex from which there is no escape.

Almost sounds like an episode of "Survivor."

With that in mind, you don't want to be "voted off the island" because you've played the office politics game badly. So how do you survive?

The key to this game is simple: don't play.

It is natural in a very competitive business to measure yourself against others in a newsroom. But here's the one thing people forget; you're competing against the people from the other stations, not those in your own newsroom. Half the problems in news departments could be solved if people became what the promos advertised: a news team.

Almost every cover letter I've seen extols the virtues of being a team player, but I've rarely seen that translate into actual actions. People talk a good game, but are often sharpening knives in an effort to get ahead.

But you have to approach this as if you were a small child. Don't play with sharp objects.

You have to resist the invitations that pop up in every newsroom; the opportunity to slam the new anchor who got the job you didn't; the spreading of gossip about someone who might have more talent; not keeping personal conversations private in order to make someone else look bad; and the big one, stirring the pot. Someone once came to me and asked why there was so much drama in the newsroom. I had to bite my tongue and laugh, since this person was causing most of it.

Play your cards close to the vest. Choose your friends carefully. Be nice to everyone, as your reputation will follow you through this very small business. Never criticize someone else in your own newsroom. If you're truly serious about being a team player, help you co-workers when they need it.

In this business, your reputation is as important as your talent. Make sure you don't ruin things for yourself.