Friday, February 4, 2011

Guarding your privacy

We've talked before about putting "too much information" about yourself on the Internet. Telling people where you hang out just invites stalkers, and letting the world know you're on vacation rings the dinner bell for burglars.

For those of you addicted to social media sites, read this:


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Best place to start?

Here is my random question of the day...If your ultimate goal is to work for a network as a national correspondent or maybe even an international correspondent, would starting at a small station still be the most efficient way to reach that goal?

I pulled this question from the comments, and it's a good one.

Everyone is always seeking a "formula" for success in this business. Years ago it was, "get ten years experience in small or medium markets and then start applying to big markets." Well, these days, that theory is long gone. No rules anymore. Big markets? Experience not necessarily necessary.

Back to the original question: it's not the size of the station at which you start, but the quality. If you truly want to be a network correspondent (and you ought to dig out my post on how grueling these jobs are) then it doesn't matter where you start but what you learn.

There are entry levels jobs in small and medium markets, and occasionally you hear of someone (usually a pageant queen) who starts in a major market. When choosing your first rung on the ladder, step carefully. If you're going to a station that will make you a one man band who chases the scanner, you're not gonna learn much. But if you get a first job at a shop with experienced photogs and veterans who can mentor you, you'll learn ten times as much.

Remember, a package is a package, whether you do it for the network or in the smallest market. Good writing is good writing. Good TV is good TV. The location doesn't matter. What you learn does.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Bureau jobs: two points of view

First, let me say that I've never worked in a bureau. Never had any desire to. I'm a social person, and the camaraderie of a good newsroom is a very appealing thing. When NDs would call me about bureau jobs, I would politely decline. I have some clients who are in bureaus right now, and all of them say, "never again." Next to morning reporter gigs, these are the worst jobs for an on-air person.

These days more and more bureau jobs are popping up, for several reasons. First, the one-man-band thing makes it cheaper. Second, people can actually work out of their homes and an office is no longer necessary (also cheaper.) Third, it lets the ND stretch an already thin staff farther out into the market. (By the way, putting a rookie into a bureau situation is just insane from a management perspective. You're not just throwing a kid into the deep end of the pool, but into the ocean.)

There are two kinds of bureaus: those with one person or crew and those with a bunch of people. Most of them are the former. This is where you must be careful when considering a bureau job. So let's take a look at two points of view:

-As a reporter in a bureau you have a ton of responsibility, more than those at the main station. Where normal reporters might have a beat like education or crime, your beat is the entire area. You're expected to know everything that's going on. Normal shift? Hah. If something breaks you'll get the call since you're the only reporter in the bureau. Nights, weekends, overnight, doesn't matter. Tag, you're it. Miss a story in your area? Tag, you're it.

Camera or gear broke down? Enjoy the drive back to the main station. Wanna day off? You'll have to figure out some way for someone else to cover the bureau, and there won't be a lot of volunteers. And if you have to call in sick it creates a nightmarish domino effect at the main newsroom.

-As a manager you know that you have someone covering a certain area, and you're not shy about calling that person any time, any day, when news breaks. You expect your bureau person to know everything and never miss a story. You might expect that person to have a scanner at home, and sleep with the thing on. (Not kidding.) And if you can't reach the bureau person during a big story, you're gonna get ticked off.

Meanwhile, out of sight, often out of mind. You don't develop the relationship with the bureau people as you do with the rest of the staff.

Bureau jobs are tough. It's like you're never really off the clock. There's nothing social about them. If you're young, you won't be around the veterans who can mentor you. So think long and hard before considering one.


Monday, January 31, 2011

Creating your own brand

You've probably heard the term "branding" around your station. It basically means your station has a style, a reputation, that is associated with its name, or the name of its newscast. For instance, when I hear a horribly dated term like "Action News" I can only assume the newscast follows that brand... one of scanner chasing crime filled news.

But people can have a brand as well. For years, Mike Wallace was basically his own brand; you knew that when he did a story it was going to be a take-no-prisoners piece and he was going to get confrontational and ask the really tough questions. Charles Kuralt was a brand; he was a master at turning a phrase, a storyteller who found the little things that drew you in.

The best reporters have been able to create their own brands. We know some reporters will always have good political scoops, others will offer great consumer tips, and so on.

And when you put your resume tape together, you're basically creating your own brand. Problem is, these days the average brand seems to be a generic one. Stories all seem to follow the same formula, standups aren't anything special, editing lacks any creativity.

If you want to stand out, you must create your own brand. You must show a News Director that if he hires you, he'll be getting something unique.

Be different and you'll stand out. If you keep sending out tapes with boilerplate stories that aren't any different than the average reporter, you don't have a brand.

Find your own brand and run with it.