Saturday, February 26, 2011

Tax deductions for TV people

If you want to get audited, this is how to do it:


Friday, February 25, 2011

Terrific story

This wonderful piece is from Sally Showman, one of my clients in Spokane, Washington. Check it out and pay close attention to the incredible amount of work... and bravery... this story took.

It also proves, once again, that people will watch stories that run more than a minute fifteen.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Stating the obvious

If I have to see this package on gas prices one more time, I'm going to scream:

Voiceover: Gas prices hit the highest levels in a few years, with prices topping three dollars a gallon nationwide, and that has consumers worried.

Motorist: I have to get to work, so I have no choice but to pay the higher prices. What can I do?

Voiceover: According to the group "Americans too dumb to realize they're getting shafted by the oil companies," prices could hit four dollars a gallon by the summer.

Standup at gas pump: So will people drive less or switch to smaller cars?

Motorist: I'm thinking about dumping the SUV and buying a hybrid. Then again, maybe I'll just skateboard down to the supermarket.

Voiceover: Prices seem to creep up every day, with no end in sight. Joe Reporter, Eye-Missed-It News.

This is a prime example of a "stating the obvious" package. There is absolutely no news value here. We all know gas prices are high, we all know people have to get to work in some manner. We all know there are ways of cutting back, carpooling, switching to a hybrid. We've done this story and seen this story dozens of times.

So why do the story if you're not going to tell the viewer something new?

If you're assigned a story like this, you must look past the obvious. Ever think about the people who make a profit when gas prices rise? Ever consider the fact that heavy products which cost more fuel to ship (detergent, car batteries) have gone up in price a lot more than light products that cost less to ship (potato chips)? Ever wonder what that ten percent ethanol in your gas is doing to fuel economy, not to mention corn prices?

Every cause has an effect, but too often we choose the obvious effects for our stories. You have to stretch your imagination and really look for the hidden angles that no one else has considered.

Otherwise you're just wasting the viewer's time.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Pop quiz

Okay, boys and girls, time for another current events quiz. What, you're too busy with sweeps? Too bad, you should know this stuff anyway. And if you don't, learn quick.

1. What is a "quorum?"

2. Explain "collective bargaining."

3. Who is hosting the Oscars this coming weekend?

4. If the NFL does not come to an agreement with its players on March 4th, owners may lock the players out. What is a "lockout?"

5. What is the name of the bride-to-be in the upcoming Royal Wedding?

6. Explain how the US Census can change the number of electoral votes for a state.

7. What major bookstore chain just declared bankruptcy?

8. What is the capital of Wisconsin?

9. Explain the Medicare "donut hole."

10. What is a "bond issue?"

Bonus question!

11. How old do you have to be to collect social security?

Pencils down. The correct answers can be found... looking them up!


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The electronic confessional

I was seven years old. My legs were shaking and I had broken out in a cold sweat. The wooden door slid open, revealing the familiar silhouette behind the opaque glass. "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned," I said. "This is my first confession." Long pause. "I drew on the wall with a crayon."

If you grew up Catholic, you know that your first confession can be a terrifying experience. Kind of like dealing with a manager who has you walking on eggshells.

Sunday our priest told a story about a man who went to confession and said that he had no sins. The point was this: even though you haven't done anything wrong, you might not have done the things right that you're capable of. In this case, the man hadn't broken any rules, but he hadn't gone out of his way to be a good guy.

Sometimes we're so worried about making a mistake that our creative muse is sent into vapor lock and we forget all the things we can do right. Many times I look at resume tapes and there's really nothing wrong with the packages... but there's a lot the reporter could have done that's missing. And then I have to tell people, "There's nothing wrong with your work. But you can do a whole lot more." The who, what, when, where, why and how might all be in the story; but the reporter has missed certain elements that could have made it better.

Take a look back at your recent stories and don't focus on any mistakes you made, but rather on what you could have done. Did you interview enough people, use enough nat sound? Could your story have been better with a graphic? Was the writing your best, or just enough to get by? Did you just throw together a standup in the field, or really give it some thought?

Doing just enough won't cut it these days, and never has. Those who move up in this business do more than what they're asked, and what is required. It's the extra mile you go that gets you up the ladder.