Saturday, August 7, 2010


Remember, gang, if we get to 100 followers someone wins a free critique.

Join the resistance!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The email postman always knocks multiple times

While we've often discussed the pitfalls of calling News Directors when a job posting specifically asks you not to do so, we've never touched on the email process.

Trust me, this isn't too far off from what managers receive...

from: Dirk Goodhair
to: News Director
re: job opening
date: August 3, 2010 8:14am

Dear News Director,

I'm ready to come work for you at (station)! I'm an energetic reporter who will go the extra mile to help make (name of newscast) even better. I know that your newscast has a long history of putting out a quality product.

I have already sent a tape, so please send your feedback as soon as possible. Attached please find a copy of my resume, cover letter, a link to my online resume tape, my facebook page and twitter account.

-Dirk Goodhair

from: Mike Level, News Director
to: Dirk Goodhair
re: job opening
date: August 3, 2010 2:14pm

Thank you for applying for the reporter position at Eye-Missed-It News. We will be reviewing all tapes within the next few weeks and will contact you if we are interested.

(By the way, Dirk, you might have looked up my name, our call letters and the name of our newscast instead of sending out a form letter that wasn't properly filled out.)


from: Dirk Goodhair
to: Mike Level, News Director
re: job opening
date: August 3, 2010 2:18pm

Hi Mike,

I can't believe I didn't include the name of your station or newscast! Duh! I hope you won't hold it against me.

Have you watched my tape yet?


from: Mike Level, News Director
to: Dirk Goodhair
re: job opening
date: August 3, 2010 3:14pm

I won't. And no.


from: Dirk Goodhair
to: Mike Level, News Director
re: job opening
date: August 3, 2010 3:19pm

When do you think you might watch my tape? I'm really excited about the opportunities there. Trust me, if you hire me you won't be disappointed. May I schedule an interview to speed up the process?


from: Mike Level, News Director
to: Dirk Goodhair
re: job opening
date: August 3, 2010 6:33pm


I'll watch the tape when I watch it. You will be contacted if I'm interested. I'm not scheduling interviews with anyone until I watch all the tapes.


from: Dirk Goodhair
to: Mike Level, News Director
re: job opening
date: August 3, 2010 6:44pm

Well, I'm going to be in your city next week, so it would be easy for me to drop by. Just give me a time and I'll be there. Trust me, when you meet me you won't want to look any further.


from: Dirk Goodhair
to: Mike Level, News Director
re: job opening
date: August 3, 2010 7:44pm

Hey Mike,

Hadn't heard back about an interview next week. Lemme know, okay?

from: Mike Level, News Director
to: Dirk Goodhair
re: job opening
date: August 3, 2010 7:45pm

(out of office reply)
I will be gone till further notice.

from: Ray Cathode, Assistant News Director
to: Dirk Goodhair
re: job opening
date: August 4, 2010 9:33am

Hello Dirk,

Mike Level has asked me to get in touch with you, as he is on vacation for the next month. As he pointed out, we are not in the interview process right now, and will call you if we are interested.


Ray Cathode
Assistant ND

from: Dirk Goodhair
to: Ray Cathode, Assistant News Director
re: job opening
date: August 4, 2010 9:44am

So Mike isn't the person screening the tapes? Can I drop by and see you next week then? I assume you've looked at my tape, so can I have some feedback?


from: E.P. Stacker, Executive Producer
to: Dirk Goodhair
re: job opening
date: August 4, 2010 10:33am


Ray Cathode has asked me to contact you regarding our reporter opening. He will be out on maternity leave for two months.

Please direct any further employment related inquiries to Helen Waite, our Human Resources Manager. In other words, if you want a job at this station, you can go to Helen Waite.

-E.P. Stacker


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Twilight in the newsroom

Ah, the night shift. It's a welcome break if you work in the sunbelt, a chance to work in the cool of the evening. Winter up north is another story.

But the night shift is a different animal when it comes to finding stories. In many way's you're at a disadvantage, but in one way it forces you to think.

Because your crutch, the official sound bite, is often not available.

Many stations hold 2pm meetings to talk about how the day is going and assign stories to the night reporters. And if you're not bringing enterprise stories to the table, you're liable to get stuck listening to the scanner or following up on a story done by a dayside reporter.

So, waddaya do when your enterprise ideas just won't work at night? That crutch you're missing? Now you have to come up with more real people stories. Or at least include their side of the story.

A few things you need to know about the night shift before you start looking for stories:

-It helps to call the newsroom and ask to be put on a speakerphone during the morning meeting. Even if you're lying in bed, you'll at least know what stories are kicking around for the dayside staff... and this might give you an idea for the night shift.

-If you think you're going to find an official on Fridays, you're going to be looking on the golf course or beach. Trust me, "public servants" book out of their offices early at the end of the week.

-Find out if you'll be covering any meetings during the week. If so, get the agenda, pick a highlight, and set up your story away from the meeting in advance.

-If you have an education story and need classroom video, you'll have to come in a little early since most schools let out at 3pm.

-Sources are a great help for those on the night shift, so use them. Politicians may leave their offices at five but there are all sorts of political events at night. Charities often work with volunteers after hours. Parents are chauffeuring kids to all sorts of things after school. Find out what's happening in your market that might be interesting or different. Always ask the question, "So what do you guys do after work?"

-Many stories don't end when the sun goes down, they just change. The oil spill is a great example.

-Plan ahead. Trying to hit the ground running at 2pm is tough. Setting as many stories up a day ahead will make your life a lot easier. And if you know you're going to need an official for your story, calling at 2pm and hoping to track that person down by five is usually a lost cause, so set things up the day before.

Sadly, we're now a 24/7 world. Stores are open round the clock, people are working longer, parents are obsessed with filling every waking minute of their childrens' lives. In reality, more interesting stuff goes on when people are off the clock than on.

You just have to talk to as many people as possible to find out what's happening.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Standups 101: And we're walking, we're walking...

"You're on TV for two minutes. What the hell do you do the rest of the day?"

That classic quote was from my late father, who was loaded with street smarts but really didn't understand my chosen profession.

However, tucked away in his words of wisdom is a subtle message. If you're only "on TV" for two minutes, those 120 seconds better be a compilation of your best two minutes of your day.

And if you're on camera for ten seconds, those ten seconds ought to show you at the top of your game.

Yes, it's time to talk about standups, those wonderful pieces of reporter involvement that can make a montage great and send your career skyrocketing. They can also keep you buried in Palookaville covering blood drives and doing lame man-in-the-street packages until you finally send up the white flag, give up, and head home to mom's basement.

There are two schools of thought on standups. On the one hand we have the snooty elite journalists with the big "J" tattooed on their foreheads, who believe that standups are basically "a transparent attempt to get your face on camera while adding nothing to the story." Oh, and if you really want to get these people mad, start a conversation about a walking standup. "There's no good reason for a reporter to move!"

Fine. You wanna agree with them, enjoy your life in public television.

On the other hand, your face, your personality, and, if you're lucky, your "IT" factor are what can set you apart from the rest of the crowd. As one of my first news directors put it, "If we can't see you covering the story, what's the point of having you out there?" The audience needs to see that you actually covered the story. If you want that resume tape to grab the attention of a News Director, if you want your personality to jump through the screen, you need to knock out killer standups. Yes, excellent writing and reporting skills are important factors, but when job hunting the standup gets your foot in the door.

A great standup shows your ability to think in the field, to add a clever approach to a story, to display your passion, personality and energy all at the same time. When you're hitting on all cylinders, all of those factors come into play in just ten or fifteen seconds.

So let's talk about the kinds of standups and then we'll work on what you can do to improve them.

-No standup in your package: Uh, no excuse. The only time you don't need a standup is when covering a funeral.

-Standup open: Looks ridiculous and you run the risk of having it chopped up if the director punches up your package a few seconds late. And that can really change the meaning of your standup. Example: "A spokesman denies that the Mayor had an affair with his secretary." A one second late punch gives you this: "The Mayor had an affair with his secretary." (Yet another great reason to start stories with a few seconds of nat sound.)

-Standup bridge: The best of all standups. It shows your ability to think in the field, to be able to tie things together, to get from one place to another in your story. You can use it to change locations, go from one side of the story to another, and just seamlessly change course in the middle of the package.

-Standup close: Used most often by rookies or non-creative types. While better than a standup open, these are often pretty lame afterthoughts that don't add much to the story, and don't showcase your talents.

Now let's talk about walking standups. There are two huge mistakes people make when doing a walking standup: not walking fast enough, and not being in motion when the standup begins.

Walking speed is important, and it's funny to see people with a great energetic delivery all of a sudden just...sort of...amble...along. We're talking about twenty minutes to walk two blocks. You need to approach your walking standup like a New Yorker attacks a crosswalk; up to speed quickly and with a ton of energy. (If you don't do that in New York a cab driver will run over you.) Let me see the spring in your step, and let me see the energy in your walk match that of your delivery. Give me the power walk.

The second most common problem is that people aren't in motion when the standup begins. When you begin counting down, start walking. Don't give me "three, two, one," and then move. I want you to be at full speed when you start talking, so start walking at "three." Then when you edit your standup into your package, you'll already be moving at full speed and this will give much more energy to your story.

Now, how can you make your standups stand out? Well, you have to put some thought and effort into them. Too many people finish shooting and think, "Oh, yeah, let me shoot a standup," and then knock out anything to fulfill an obligation. Take the time to actually think about what your standup will do and how it will work in your story. If you have to write out a rough outline in your package, do so.

Some tips on doing effective standups:

-Your energy level must be up. Remember, talk to the viewer, and be excited and interested in your story.

-Be animated. Your eyes convey that excitement and interest, so don't give me a half-hearted droopy-eyed look. I don't want Mary Hart over-the-top, but a touch of her animation wouldn't hurt anyone. Even when you're doing a serious or sad story, your eyes can convey the emotion of that story.

-Your delivery should match the story. If it's a fun feature, sound like you're having fun. If it's a tragedy, let your tone be serious.

-Be clever. Think of a different angle to your story, then use your standup to illustrate it.

-Show and tell. If you're talking about something and you can show it while you're talking about it, do so.

-Use standups to illustrate hard to imagine concepts. If flood waters rose twenty feet and left a line on the second story of a house, stand under it to show how far the waters rose.

-If you work with a photog, bounce ideas off him about what you'd like to do in the standup. Then rehearse it before you shoot it.

-Always shoot an extra standup even if you've got one that makes you happy. Many a great story has been screwed up because of a tape problem.

-Make sure the camera is not "shooting down" at you. Shooting up even a touch will give you the illusion of height even if you aren't tall.

Bottom line, your standup is your chance to shine. Give it the proper attention and effort, and you'll see better results in both your packages and job hunting.