Friday, April 8, 2011

Your own home teleprompter!

Someone sent this in anonymously, so I have no idea who to thank.

But if you want to practice your anchoring, check this out...

Paste any copy into the box and you've got your own home prompter!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

What makes a successful anchor?

This was a great question I got the other day, and it goes beyond the obvious. Yes, you need to be competent reading the prompter and it sure helps your credibility if you can pronounce the name of the Iranian president, but there are a lot of intangibles that can make or break your time on the desk.

Over the years I've worked with incredibly smooth anchors and train wrecks. Really sincere people and total phonies. So I've seen a wide spectrum on the desk. Here's my take on what it takes to make your mark as an anchor.

-Be well read. This is especially evident on election night, when anchors who simply read the prompter and nothing else are exposed as people who really have no idea what's going on in the world. Instead of wasting time social networking and playing on the Internet, use the Internet to access information. Thousands of newspapers and other publications are available for free. Use them.

-Don't be afraid to show your true personality. There are anchor robots, and those who come across as real people. Be serious when reading a tragic story, have fun with your delivery for a feature. Ad libbing during cross talk is more of a gift than anything; if you can do it well, it's a big plus. Viewers connect with anchors who are warm and come across as real people who actually care about the news they're presenting.

-Get involved in the community. An anchor's job is never done, because you are the face of the station. Hosting charity events, pitching in at fundraisers, and being a go-to person when the community needs help will only solidify your standing.

-Talk to everyone you meet like a real person. Whether it's in the line at the grocery store or at a restaurant, be friendly and take the time with anyone who comes up to you.

-Never show your wild side. You may be a party animal, but those days are now over. (At least in public, anyway.) You can't get falling down drunk (and yes, I've seen one staffer do just that) and not expect that story to spread like wildfire. And with cell phone video, you'll be on YouTube in no time.

-No mug shots. Don't drink and drive or break the law. Nothing kills a career quicker.

-The sincerity factor. Okay, this one can be faked, but your true colors will come through when you meet people in person.

A few years ago I was visiting a friend at a network and he was giving me a tour. We were about to pass the network anchor who was sitting at a desk. My friend leans over and says, "Don't even say hello unless you've been granted an audience."

Apparently this anchor was not well liked by the staff but was popular on-camera. But I lost a lot of respect for this person because I had a personal experience.

-Treat the staff equally. Yes, that kid running camera may be right out of college but he deserves as much respect as anyone else. And as much of your attention. Everyone is equal in the newsroom, as you're all part of a team.

-Pay it forward. Someone helped you up the ladder, now it's time to be the mentor to the young people on the bottom rung.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Different rules for different people

One of the toughest things about management is trying to deal with the personal lives of the newsroom staff. When you're a reporter you simply assume that the same rules should apply to everyone, with no gray areas.

But in reality, you often need 25 rules for 25 people.

One of the biggest mistakes managers make is not familiarizing themselves with the personal lives of the staff. By that I don't mean they need to go out and party with them, though I've had a ND who did just that. I mean a manager needs to know a little about each person's life off the clock.

Then it's "let's make a deal" time.

For instance, let's say I've got an anchor whose daughter is the valedictorian graduating from college Friday night during ratings. Normally, there's a no days off policy during sweeps, but this is special.

Meanwhile, my best fill-in anchor is a dayside reporter who I know goes out with her fiance every Friday night.

I could, if I was a heartless manager, simply change the schedule without talking to the substitute anchor. But if I know a little about everyone's personal life, I can use that knowledge to make everyone happy. So I appeal to her, telling her this is a really special event for the main anchor. I sweeten the pot by offering her something I know she wants down the road... some time off to prepare for her wedding, even though she's blown all vacation days on her honeymoon. So I tell her she can leave early every day the week before her wedding as soon as she's got her package in the can.

In these tough economic times, raises are few and far between. But sometimes there are things more important to a person than money.

Suppose I've got a 5pm anchor with a new baby. His wife is a teacher and gets home at three. But if I switch him to the 11pm newscast and let him come in as soon as his wife gets home, the couple can tag team the new kid and save a fortune on day care.

If you're single and see some of this stuff you may think the ND is being unfair to you because you have the most flexibility of anyone in the newsroom. In reality, a manager is sometimes just trying to make the personal lives easier for the most people.

That doesn't mean you won't get rewarded down the road. Everyone needs a favor eventually, everyone wants a promotion. NDs favor those who are team players, don't complain, and pitch in to help other staffers navigate life's little conflicts.

On the other side of the coin are the NDs who simply couldn't care less about your life off the clock, and see every staffer as a cog in a wheel.

That's why it's so important to make sure you have a connection with the ND when you're on a job interview. It's important for you to work in a place where you'll further your career, but having a manager who understands your personal life is a factor you can't measure in dollars or market size.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Yes, Katie, it's all our fault...

To those of you at CBS affiliates, hang your heads in shame.


Monday, April 4, 2011

Tailoring a bid

That's a term politicians use when they know in advance who they're going to hire. In essence, they tailor the job description so that only one person qualifies... the one person they want to get the job.

For instance, if a politician wanted to find a job for his brother-in-law who had experience as both a building inspector and an explosives expert in the military, the description might read something like this:

"Wanted: Building inspector. Experience necessary, knowledge of explosives required."

Sure, they sound like totally unrelated skill sets, but this kind of stuff happens all the time. Maybe not as far-fetched, but you'd be surprised.

Now let's see how managers "tailor a bid" for newsroom positions.

Suppose an anchor position is coming up and two people who have filled in extensively on the anchor desk want it. One is clearly superior to the other. But for whatever reason the News Director wants the job to go to the less talented person, who happens to have experience as a consumer reporter. The better substitute anchor does not. So the posting would read:

"Wanted: Main anchor for 6 & 11 pm newscasts. Will also be responsible for weekly consumer reports on 5 pm newscast."

So even though the other anchor is more talented, she can't legally complain because she doesn't have the required consumer reporting experience.

This will explain why many times you're the better candidate but didn't get the job. The fix was in before you even applied.

Many times managers will "already know who they want to hire" so they'll simply tailor the ad to specifically fit that person.