Friday, September 17, 2010

Pop quiz

It's Friday so sharpen your pencils and take your seats. Twenty questions, dad's rules apply. (In other words, the answers will not be given at the end of this quiz. "If you don't know the answer," as my dad would say, "look it up.")

1. Name the newest member of the Supreme Court.

2. Who just resigned as Mayor of Chicago?

3. What do the letters "CBS" stand for? (If you work at a CBS affiliate and get that one wrong, deduct five extra points.)

4. What is a "bond issue?"

5. Name a hurricane or tropical storm that is currently active.

6. Name any actor who recently won an Emmy award.

7. What does "IFB" stand for?

8. Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean is a doctor. What kind of medicine did he practice?

9. What team won last year's Super Bowl?

10. The show "Mad Men" is set in the 1960's. What does "Mad" stand for?

11. How many men have walked on the moon?

12. Who played Captain Kirk in the original Star Trek?

13. What's the difference between a State Representative and a member of the US House of Representatives?

14. What state is Joe Biden from?

15. Which NFL team is under investigation for possible improper behavior toward a female reporter?

16. What executive from World Wrestling Entertainment is running for the US Senate?

17. What number makes up a "baker's dozen?"

18. Who is the author of the Harry Potter series of books?

19. Who succeeded Tony Blair?

20. Finally, what book are you reading now? If the answer is none, pick one up and start.

Pencils down. How'd you do?

80-100: Excellent! You're well rounded in current events, pop culture, sports and history.

60-80: Not bad. You could probably read a little more, and make sure you read every section of the newspaper.

40-60: On the bubble. You work in the news business but don't spend enough time on stories other than your own.

20-40: In case you didn't know, there was history before 1990.

0-20: Get out of the business and run for public office.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Familiarity breeds success

Over the years I've been fortunate to work with many fantastic photogs. But a few stand out because we worked so well as a team. When you work with the same guy frequently, you get to know each other's moves. It's like a quarterback and a wide receiver being in sync. A quick look, a nod of the head, a wink, and both know what the other is thinking.

Same holds true if you're working with one of those special photogs. You can get in tune with someone so that you can actually communicate without words.

How can you develop these kinds of relationships? Well, if you're new, it's best to shoot a few stories with all the available shooters. Ask the assignment editor to mix things up for you.

After a while you'll discover the photogs that best match up with your talent and personality. And trust me, personalities that click are a must. On many occasions I've worked with a few really talented photogs but our personalities just clashed. If you can't get along and enjoy working together, you're not going to turn out your best work. Besides, spending the better part of the day with someone doesn't need to be stressful.

When you've figured out who your best partners are, talk to them and find out if they'd like working more with you. If you're both on the same page, ask the assignment editor to pair you whenever possible.

If I looked back at my old resume tapes I'd note that most of my stories were shot by one or two photogs. Some people just click when working together, and it's to your benefit (and the photog's) to find out who is a great match for you.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

No shirt, no tie... no job offer

This post is for the men. Because they need it.


If you were going on a job interview, you'd wear your best suit, a shirt and a tie.

Yet for some reason young men in this business fail to realize that a resume tape is a job interview. And how you dress on your resume tape is as important as what you wear to an in-person interview.

I realize we have become a casual nation of slobs, but that shouldn't translate to the television news industry. Yet lately I'm see a lot of polo shirts, casual slacks, and other items normally worn on the golf course during coverage of important stories. And while you may think, "Ah, I'll go casual today. This story isn't going on my resume tape," you never know who's watching. Do you want your story to end up on the feed with you looking like a slob?

Seriously guys, it's time to start dressing for success. (And many of you might pick up a copy of that book.) If you want to move up the ladder and have News Directors take you seriously, you need to look the part. If your photog is dressed better than you are, you've got a problem. (And may I say you shooters are looking very spiffy these days.)

Obviously you don't need a suit and tie when doing a story on a pig farm or covering the oil spill on the beach. But for the majority of your stories, dress to the nines.

Are you fashion challenged? Here's where you can go for help:

-Ask one of the women in your newsroom for help. You won't have to twist an arm. (News flash! Women love to shop!) Or visit a nice store and ask for the personal shopper.

-Buy a copy of Esquire, GQ, or both. You don't have to buy thousand dollar suits, but it helps to know what look you're shooting for.

-There's a new fangled invention out there called a steam iron. If your shirts have more wrinkles than a nursing home, break out the iron.

-Watch shows like "Mad Men" and "White Collar." Note how the lead characters dress. Even though Mad Men is set in the 60's, take note of the classic styles.

-Old school never goes out of style. Cuff links, tie bars, wing-tip shoes and pocket squares show a touch of class.

-Learn to tie a necktie. Put a dimple in it, make sure your top shirt button doesn't show, and avoid massive knots.

-Note that young men can look a lot older and more mature in dark suits.

You don't have to spend a fortune to look good. But you do have to at least make the effort.

Monday, September 13, 2010

If you're working election night, start preparing now

It is generally accepted that election night is the "Super Bowl" of the news business. If you're anchoring, you're often flying without a net, not knowing what's coming up next on the monitor while the crutch of a teleprompter isn't much help.

It's during election night that your worst flaws or best features are exposed.

I've seen election night newscasts go down in flames because anchors aren't prepared, they don't know anything about politics, or both.

On one occasion our anchor apparently got it stuck in her mind that the name on top of the graphic was the winner. In reality, the Democratic candidate was at the top of every graphic. So, on that election day, Democrats won every single election even though the numbers obviously showed otherwise.

I've seen other people butcher tough names, tell viewers that State Senators were headed to Washington instead of the state capital, and fail to know who the incumbent is in a race.

Nothing tells a viewer you're stupid more than a bad election night performance. And this year's election may be one of the most watched ever.

So, how can you be at the top of your game in November? It's just like getting to Carnegie Hall. Practice, practice, practice.

First, start reading everything you can about politics, both locally and nationally. Know the people, know the issues, know the rules. If the Democrats lose the house, how is a new Speaker chosen? And if it is that Boehner guy, how do you pronounce his name and what state is he from? Do you know what redistricting means? Gerrymandering? What's a poll watcher?

If you're anchoring, you'll need to go old school. You need to make up old fashioned flash cards for each candidate. You may have to fill time waiting for a live shot or a graphic to come up, and if you have some info handy you'll sound like you know what you're talking about. Your flashcard might look like this:

Joe Politician
Incumbent, 3rd District, elected in 2004
Occupation: Lawyer
Married, two kids. Wife is a school teacher. Oldest son plays minor league baseball.
Parents ran a restaurant and he put himself through college waiting tables.
Introduced legislation on school prayer, proposed corporate tax cut in 2006

So, now if you're about to toss to a reporter covering this race and you've got time to kill, you can chat a bit about the candidate. "Joe Politician is seeking his fourth term. You might remember he introduced that controversial tax cut four years ago and has been a vocal proponent of school prayer."

Make up cards for everyone on the ballot. If it means you have to pick up the phone and call the candidates, do so. If you're new to the anchor desk, talk to the veterans on staff for some nuggets of information.

Then on election night, take your stack of flash cards with you to the desk and you'll be ready to roll. Of course, it helps if you familiarize yourself far enough in advance to that half of this stuff will be in your head already.

If you're a reporter, you might ask your ND right now what race you'll be covering. If you already know, start doing your homework now.

Read as much as you can, learn as much as you can. If you start preparing now, you'll knock it out of the park on election night.