Friday, December 17, 2010


I guess we can continue our sports themes of late, since pitcher Cliff Lee made a very interesting point by signing with the evil Phillies this week.

Lee, in case you didn't know, is one of the best pitchers in the game and was a free agent. He was thought to be in a bidding war between the Yankees and the Rangers, then, out of the blue, signed with the Phils and left about 30 million on the table.

Apparently it was the comfort factor that outweighed the bucks. He'd played in Philly before, liked the team, liked the city. And really, how many millions does one need?

When job hunting, we always envision the perfect scenario; good salary, quality newsroom, great photogs, equipment that works, supportive management, a nice place to live. While you can generally find one or more of those at any station, it's pretty hard to find them all.

Sometimes you get a great job offer for big bucks, but it's in a war zone. Sometimes it's a great place to live, but not a lot of money. Great ND, but a one man band shop. Terrific shooters, but lousy salary.

These days you have to set your priorities, and they're different for every person. For some, money is and always will be number one. For others, it is quality of life.

And if you're young and relatively new in the business, your top priority should be this: which job will help my career most in the long term. You may take the job with photogs that pays a little less, but your work will look a lot better the next time you're job hunting. You might take the job in the smaller market, but get to do better stories.

When you're young and broke and frustrated, it's easy to grab what seems to be a lifeline that will improve things immediately. But if it doesn't advance your career and help you realize your potential, it might not be the right move.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Clock management

On Sunday the Metrodome roof collapsed, which meant instead of an afternoon watching the Giants I was stuck flipping around the dial looking for a decent game. I settled on the Redskins-Buccaneers, which was going down to the wire and looked like it was headed for overtime.

At one point in the game, the Redskins called timeout. As they lined up for the next play, the clock ran out and they were called for delay of game. I'm not sure I've ever seen a team called for delay of game after a timeout, but that was about the worst case of clock management in football I'd ever seen.

Clock management in television news is crucial, and, if you're not good at it, may be the reason for a lot of stress in your life. The two most stressful things for young reporters are deadlines and coming up with story ideas.

These days reporters are more time crunched than I ever was, as the days of two hour lunches are long gone. But even with today's demands, you still have to manage your time carefully or you'll be a bundle of nerves at the end of every day.

Having observed young reporters from the management side, I can tell you that there is a ton of wasted time early in the day that can come back to bite you as you get closer to news time. Here are some of the biggest time wasters that can get you in trouble:

-The Internet: Mindless surfing, emails, social networking, etc. You can do this stuff anytime, but it seems to be the first thing people do when arriving at the station in the morning and coming back from a story.

-Personal phone calls: I never cared if people made personal phone calls while on the clock, but when those calls make you push the envelope as you get closer to news time, they're a problem.

-Get your story and get going: As soon as you've gotten your assignment, set things up and get moving. The quicker you're done in the field, the quicker you can get back and edit. I've seen too many reporters get late starts on stories because they're wasting time on the computer or chatting with co-workers.

-Taking a break when you get back from a story: You've just shot a story and you're back at your desk. Have some coffee, shoot the breeze with the co-workers, and all of a sudden it's three o'clock and you haven't started looking at your video and writing your story.

The big problem occurs when most of the staff does these things and then there aren't enough edit booths at the end of the day. If you get your assignment done as soon as possible, you'll have plenty of time to relax at the end of the day... instead of being stressed out about possibly missing a deadline.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Don Meredith

Much has been written about Don Meredith, the broadcaster who helped make Monday Night Football appointment television even for those who didn't like football. He was a character, no doubt, and someone who changed the way color commentators approached the game.

The thing that made the MNF crew so special was especially evident during a blowout. Today you'd turn off a game that wasn't competitive, but you'd hang in there till the final gun with the Monday Night Football crew. That's when Meredith and Howard Cosell would go off on hilarious tangents. Viewers loved it when Meredith could put Cosell and his wild vocabulary in his place.

Has there been a Don Meredith since? John Madden comes close, though his partner was the classy Pat Summerall (who had nothing in common with Cosell) and it was obvious the two were on the same page as former players.

What we have seen since the Meredith era is an endless parade of sportscasters who try to come up with that perfect schtick that sets someone apart. Chris Berman did it with his clever nicknames, but for the most part there's not a whole lot of originality out there. It's pretty much a homogenous mix.

While there are still characters out there (think Tony Siragusa, who could easily fit in during one of my family's Italian weddings), the common denominator is that these unique people are born, not made. You can't set out to become something you're not. You can't become a down home character like Meredith if you don't have that in your makeup.

While I often write that your work has to be unique, it also has to be you. Trying to be something you're not is obvious, and it doesn't work.