Friday, August 13, 2010

Mailbag: The disappearing sportscast, Julia Roberts and the Jersey Shore

Grape,

I am a weekend sports anchor in a mid size television market. I have 5 years of experience and am starting to think about the future of television sports. Everywhere I look, local sports is getting cut back. It seems as if cable television is the way to go for sports anchors these days. I do not have an agent, and never see cable jobs posted on the job service websites. Do I need to get an agent if I want to break into cable?


You'd have better luck if your father was a famous sportscaster.

Seriously, sports is vanishing from many newscasts thanks to the attitude of consultants that big sports fans get all their sports news from ESPN. (I am and I don't.)

That said, two of my good friends have, in recent years, given up major market sports jobs to switch to news. There is a serious shortage of males on the news side, so if you like news and can knock out a decent package, you'll have a much easier time finding a job. I had an incredibly talented sports client a few years back and it still took that person almost two years to find another job.

If you want to stay in sports, you're facing an uphill battle. Between ex-jocks and nepotism (Joe Buck, Jeremy Schapp, all relatives of Marv Albert... the list of sons and relatives of famous sportscasters is endless) half the jobs are already gone. As for breaking into cable, you can certainly send tapes yourself or go the agent route. If the latter I would find an agent who specializes in sports people and make sure you do your homework; how many clients has the agent placed in sports jobs in the last year or two?

But looking long term, I would seriously consider a switch to news. Much more job security and probably fifty times the openings.


Hey Grapevine,

Just checking to see if you're going to see "Eat, Pray, Love" this weekend.


Yeah. I'll catch the late showing right after I get out of the Celine Dion concert.


Grape,

Since you're Italian and from New York, I was wondering if you had any thoughts on the reality show "Jersey Shore."


Youse guys tink all da people from Joisy tawk like dose people on TV? Fuhgeddaboudit!

It's bad enough that Lady Gaga is a paisan. That just gives me agita.

-

Haven't heard anything? Send another tape

Okay, I want you to remember all of the emails you received in the past seven days.

Can't do it, huh? Now ask a News Director to name all the people who sent tapes last month.

If you've sent a tape more than two months ago and haven't heard anything, send another. Situations change, NDs can't remember every tape they've seen, and you probably have a better tape anyway. So stick another tape in the mail. Your cover letter doesn't even need to mention that you've already sent one.

Now, if you've gotten favorable feedback from a ND, you should be sending a tape every two months anyway, even if you never hear anything. When the same names keep crossing a ND's desk, then he might start to remember you.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The flight attendant's field guide to quitting a job in broadcasting

Quitting a job can be a euphoric experience, especially if you're leaving a gig located in the ninth circle of hell. Sadly, we can't pull a Jet Blue, grab a beer and hit the emergency slide. The closest that we in the news business could get would be to steal all the Sweet 'n' Low from the break room and roll down a satellite dish.

However, since some lack the creative flair to quit a job in a memorable manner, here is an all-purpose resignation letter. Whether you're leaving in a professional manner or napalming a bridge, this multiple choice letter will enable you to leave in style.


Dear:

a: name of News Director
b: name of General Manager (if you want to send a subtle message by going over the head of the News Director)
c: idiot who runs the newsroom
d: crash dummy

Please accept this letter as notice of my resignation. During my two years here:
a: it has been a pleasure to be a part of your team.
b: I've learned a good deal about the news business.
c: I've had the suicide hotline on speed dial.
d: you've proven that people rise to the level of their incompetence.

I am leaving in order to:
a: pursue a great opportunity
b: take a job that will enable me to take my skills to the next level
c: work for someone with more intelligence than a sock puppet
d: preserve what is left of my sanity so that I do not end up in a rubber room

My last day will be:
a: in two weeks
b: in two weeks minus the 37 comp days you owe me for all the unpaid overtime I worked
c: only experienced if you can take a trip back to last Friday in a time machine

I would like to:
a: thank you for the opportunity that you have afforded me during my time here
b: wish you and the news team the best in the future
c: hit lotto, buy the station, and fire you
d: see you reincarnated as a spider

In closing, I'd like to say:
a: I'll keep in touch as I'm sure our paths will cross again
b: I'll send good people your way
c: I'll think of my time here as a root canal that lasted two years
d: you're a big meanie and I hope you get hit on the head by a meteor

Sincerely,
(your name here)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Laugh for the day...

And you though the Jet Blue flight attendant grabbed a beer and slid down the emergency chute quit in a clever way.

Check out this gal's very creative resignation...

http://thechive.com/2010/08/10/girl-quits-her-job-on-dry-erase-board-emails-entire-office-33-photos/

Mailbag: After you get that foot in the door...

Grape,

I just got my first job as a general assignment reporter and I am very excited, but also nervous. Do you have any advice/tips on how to shine AFTER you secure your 1st job? What are the most important things to think about? Any tips from how to deal with work relationships, meeting package deadlines, and coming in everyday with story ideas?


Ah, excellent question, as perhaps the "dropout" rate out of the business is highest after the first job. Some people think they're home free once they get that first job, but there's a big difference between college life and that of the real world.

Having hired a bunch of young people in my time, let me run down some of the more common mistakes:

-Thinking you know everything. In reality, you know very little coming out of college. You need to be a sponge and soak up every bit of information you can. Ask for help, ask for advice. If the ND doesn't provide feedback, seek out a veteran on the staff.

-Throwing knives. Young people often start running down the other reporters in the newsroom in an effort to move up the internal ladder. It doesn't work, and just labels you as a backstabber. Be nice to everyone.

-Drama. There seems to be a drama king or queen in every station, and this is particularly true in entry level shops. Resist the urge to gossip.

-Not watching network or big market reporters. You're probably not going to learn much watching other entry level reporters in your market. If you want to be the best, watch the best. And that's all readily available on the internet.

-Not dressing appropriately. Too many rookies need to understand the concept of dressing for the job you want, not the job you have.

-Being too aggressive. Showing the mike in the grieving widow's face is just tacky. Learn to have compassion when you need it.

Now, tips for keeping that job and heading up the ladder:

-Bring at least two story ideas to the table every day, and I don't mean stuff you've cut out of the local newspaper. You can read out of town newspapers to get ideas and localize stories you've read elsewhere. When you have free time, read. Talk to everyone you met, and ask if they know of a good story. Hand a business card to everyone.

-Hit your deadlines by not wasting time early in the day. Checking emails, making phone calls, and surfing the internet wastes valuable time. Get your story going as soon as it is assigned. Setting your story up a day early will really give you an advantage.

-Don't date anyone in the newsroom. Or the news business for that matter. It rarely works, and think how much fun it will be trying to find two jobs in the same market when you're ready to move.

Bottom line, be professional in the way you act, dress, and do your stories.

Monday, August 9, 2010

No nibbles on your first tape?

(I pulled this question from a recent comment.)

I have one friend who has been sending out tapes for over a year and she still doesn't have a job. Is it because she doesn't have talent or because this business is just that hard to get into?

Well, it has always been tough to break into the business. But these days, it's never been easier.

You heard me right. There have never been as many opportunities in this business as there are today.

Why? Well, if you follow the money that will give you the answer.

When I broke in there were three stations in every market. That was it. Anchors made huge salaries. A one man band was rarely seen. Cable TV wasn't even seen as competition. Stations made a fortune since they were compensated by networks to run their programming. (That money is long gone, and it was a sizable chunk of change.)

Today the Internet has killed a lot of revenue, there are 300 channels on cable or satellite, and salaries are being slashed. That last item is a big factor as far as opportunities are concerned. People of my generation are either leaving because of pay cuts or they're simply disgusted with what the business has become. Throw in Fox and CW stations, and the result is you have a lot more openings for young people.

But, let's get back to your original question. Honestly, I really can't answer it without seeing the tape. But you might get some answers from an article I did for TVJobs.com about five years ago:

http://www.tvjobs.com/cgi-bin/featurestories/archive.cgi?action=view&Id=27

Well, while things have changed a lot in five years resume tapes (now mostly DVDs) really haven't.

Talent, of course, is subjective. I may think your friend has big market potential but other News Director's might think she's awful.

And hiring entry level people is a whole different animal. Basically, you're hiring potential, since college students are basically putting a tape together in their spare time. A ND looks at a tape and maybe sees a flash of talent, then has to wonder, "Would this person be able to do this every day, and is there enough potential there to justify my taking a chance on this person?"

Sometimes, if a person isn't having any luck getting a foot in the door, a road trip is a good idea. Some personalities are great in person but don't yet translate to videotape. Again, it's potential.

You just have to find a way to make it come through.