Thursday, March 17, 2011

Prayer to Saint Patrick: Please drive the snakes out of our business

You don't have to read a Harry Potter book to visit Slytherin house. It's alive and well in the television news industry. Over the years I've run into plenty of managers and co-workers who could play Lord Voldemort without needing a script.

What constantly amazes me about this is the fact that the snakes in the business seem to only bite those on their own news team. I worked in one shop where I could hear the knives flying the minute I turned my back.

If you have a human being for a News Director count your blessings. If you have supportive co-workers who can be thought of as true friends, you're very lucky.

But sadly, in most organizations, you'll run into a snake who either wants you to quit, wants your job, or wants to prevent you from getting a promotion. There are strategies for dealing with snakes, but we must first separate them into species. (Call it the news version of the Sorting Hat.)

-The anchor-wannabe snake in the grass: This reptile generally slithers around the newsroom, waiting patiently in the high grass for an anchor opening to occur. In the meantime, said snake will deftly spread gossip about any other possible anchor candidates, dropping a line here or there to management about people being lazy, being negative about the company, or making a mistake in a story.

The strategy: Ignore this snake and resist the impulse to fire gossip back in its direction. Be the good soldier and always volunteer to pitch in, work a holiday, come in without being called during a big breaking story. Trust me, the ND will notice that more than idle gossip. When things are dead even talentwise, the team player will have the edge for a promotion.

-The management power trip snake: One of the toughest things about being a manager is having to make decisions that can seriously change people's lives. One promotion, one shot at the anchor desk, one chance at a reporter's gig can launch a career. When you make a decision that turns out well it truly warms your heart. Sadly, said power can often go to the head of managers, many of whom are jealous of those who have on-air careers. Power is a great afrodisiac, and can be a huge turn-on to those who have no life outside the station. You may be the victim of constant cutting remarks, a string of bad assignments, or a permanent spot in the station doghouse.

The strategy: This snake relishes getting under the skin of employees and gaining the upper hand. You need to take a "whatever" attitude, ignore the comments or bad assignments, and continue to do a great job so that you can get the hell out of Dodge. That's the ultimate "last laugh."

-The young producer power trip snake: Ah, the power trip rears its ugly head again. This is a very common variety of snake, as young producers are very susceptible to the clout monster that comes with the territory. Ordering veteran reporters or photogs like a bunch of soldiers is a rush to these people, who then simply don't understand why everyone in the newsroom hates them.

The strategy: See these people for what they truly are. Reporters and photogs may have to operate under time constraints, but you guys still have control over what goes into your final product. When you realize that you're the ones really in change, the producer snakes become paper tigers.

As in the wild, it is best to leave a snake alone and ignore it. Worry about your own career, and resist the temptation to be sucked into their web of deceit. They only have power if you give it to them.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks again for this wonderful blog!
I really needed to read this today especially the "Power Trip Management Snake"