Wednesday, July 13, 2011

High School Musical Chairs

The television news business has so many parallels to high school it's scary.

In high school a boy tells a girl he'll call her then never does. In the news business a News Director tells a reporter he'll call then never does.

In high school the pretty people get what they want. Same is often true in television news.

In high school someone may not want to date you any longer, but that person doesn't want you to date anyone else.

Which brings us to today's lesson. Ah, grasshopper, you really thought life would be different after that diploma, didn't you?

Today's "wax on, wax off" moment deals with our third example, and translated to the news business it becomes a News Director who won't give you any opportunities, but doesn't want you to leave. I know, that doesn't seem to make sense, but read on. Here are a few traits or red flags to look for:

-Resume tape sniffing dogs. Anyone caught making a resume tape will be severely chastised. How dare you try to improve your own life!

-The electronic door printout. Got one of those electronic key cards to get in the building? There's a reason for it. It tells the powers that be who came and went at any given time. If on Mondays you see a manager checking to see who came in off the clock on the weekend, he's looking for those ne'er-do-wells making resume tapes.

-You're hired as a reporter but suddenly find yourself in the producer's chair, with no way to make a tape. "Yeah, let's see you try to find a reporting job now! I've got you where I want you, my pretty!"

-You're assigned the worst stories of the day. Sure, you may bring great story ideas to the table, but those are given to other reporters while you're covering a bake sale. Tough to put a resume tape together what that kind of stuff.

-You're given the overnight reporting shift. Lotsa luck doing a decent package at three in the morning.

Bottom line, your ND doesn't think you're all that great, but doesn't want you to go somewhere else. That means he'll have to run an ad, look at tapes, do a bunch of interviews. Much easier to keep people in place.

And there's the psychology of it all. Some NDs are on a power trip, have jealousy issues, or deep down want to be reporters and anchors, and take it out on the staff. If they can't have the perfect job, neither should you.

Sometimes a ND will focus on one person as a whipping boy. Usually it is one of the nicer people in the newsroom, someone non-confrontational that the ND can manipulate through fear and intimidation.

If any of this applies to you, see it for what it is. Then do your best to rise above it and move on. And start those musical chairs spinning.


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