I guess we can call them green flags...green for go.
I've had seven News Directors in my career. A few were terrific. One is still a good friend. I think I spotted a couple in the Harry Potter movie standing behind Lord Voldemort just before the Battle of Hogwarts.
In any case, here are some "green flags" that won't have you leaving skid marks after your interview.
1. Experience in the field. Yes, I know there are probably some good NDs out there who never worked as a reporter or photographer, but nothing beats the hands-on experience of working a story. If you've never done it, it's very hard to understand what it takes to knock out a great story... and deal with the adversity that often comes with putting one together. A ND who has field experience will understand you and your concerns a lot better.
2. Stability at home. If a ND has a rotten life off the clock, said ND often brings that attitude to the newsroom. News Directors who are happily married, or even happily single, are usually easier to work for than those who have a bunch of exes.
3. Even temper. This can be a frustrating business, and everyone can lose it from time to time. But a News Director who constantly yells and screams can have the staff walking on eggshells. If you're on an interview and the staff looks nervous when the ND takes you through the newsroom, it's not a good sign.
4. Open minded to ideas. A News Director who honestly considers all story ideas in the morning meeting instead of running the place like a dictatorship is a blessing.
5. A soul.
6. Knows a little about your personal life and is flexible. Managing a newsroom can be a true juggling act, since everyone is a little different. A ND knows who lives a long way from home and needs to book a flight well in advance, who has a kid graduating from college during sweeps and needs a special day off, who is getting married and needs some time to plan the wedding. Hard and fast rules are really hard to enforce in a newsroom. A ND has to bend a little from time to time.
7. A mentoring attitude. This is especially true in an entry level market. If you're in your first or second job, the last thing you need is to be thrown into the deep end of the pool. You need someone who will give constructive criticism and help you get to the next level.
8. Feedback. The most common complaint I hear is, "I never hear any feedback from my News Director." And the old saying is, "If you don't hear anything, you're doing okay." That isn't helpful. You want someone who will tell you when you've done a great job and when you might have done things a little differently to make your story better.
9. No helicopter. The last thing you want is a manager who hovers over employees all day. A News Director who trusts his staff gets trust back in return... and has a much more relaxed staff that does a better job.
10. A life. A News Director who eats, breathes and sleeps news thinks you should be the same way. You want someone who can turn it off and realize there's more to life than a job.
Tomorrow, 57 qualities of a bad News Director. (Kidding)
TVNEWSGRAPEVINE, copyright 2011 © Randy Tatano