Friday, April 15, 2011

The worry generation

For several years now I've been hearing many clients with a lot of talent sound the same over the phone when it comes to job hunting and careers. The worry simply pours out in their voices; worry that they'll never find another job, worry they'll never reach your goal, worry that they'll get stuck in the current market forever. The worry factor seems to be a common denominator of people under thirty.

And today it finally occurred to me why this is happening. It's the parenting skills, or lack thereof, of my generation.

I realize that some of you grew up like I did, with lots of responsibility and strict parents. (By the way, I don't have any kids, but if I did my parenting skills would lie somewhere between Bill O'Reilly and Dick Cheney.) But there are plenty of young people who got the proverbial ribbon for trying, who were covered in bubble wrap by helicopter parents determined to protect them at all costs from the real world.

And then when the real world strips off the protective covering, you can end up bruised and battered.

The real world isn't like childhood or school. People play mind games, beancounters make decisions that have nothing to do with your talent, managers hire and fire for superficial reasons.

Life, without the bubble wrap, isn't fair.

What does this do to young people who have never had to worry about anything? Well, if mom and dad have always kept you behind a protective force field, it can be a bucket of cold water in the face. If you've never failed, it's hard to experience it for the first time, especially if that experience is in your 20's.

Who's to blame? Doesn't matter.

What does matter is that you master the art of not overthinking. Worry can consume your life, so much so that you lose your focus and can't do the best work you can. Sending a tape and then worrying if your montage had the right order, if you had the right packages on your tape, or if your cover letter was good enough will send your muse into vapor lock. And when a great story falls in your lap, you're too worried about something else to see it. A News Director tells you to call, you leave a voice mail, and then wait days or weeks for a return call, worrying about why you're not at the top of his to-do list. And while you've been worrying and waiting, I'll bet money you didn't knock out any exceptional work.

As news people, you have control over your own careers. You control the look of your stories, the way you anchor, the words you write. After that, it's up to the universe as to where you end up next. You may be the best reporter in the world, but the stars still have to align for you to move on.

Luck occurs when preparation meets opportunity. You make your own luck by living and working in the present, and not wasting time or energy worrying about things over which you have no control.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Why your writing is so important

Check it out...


Mailbag: the journalistic biological clock


I've been looking for my second job for almost a year and haven't had any luck. I'm worried that if I don't find something soon I'll be stuck here too long and then it will be even harder to get out. I'm almost 25 and others I know are already heading up the ladder.

What's a good timeline as to when you should be in your second job, third, etc.

Well, considering I've got neckties older than you, I feel qualified to answer this question.

There is no timeline as to your career, as every person is different. Every career is mutually exclusive. You don't have to be in a certain size market by a certain age.

What really matters is if you are getting better and not just treading water till the next job.

By the way, age means nothing. I got my first TV job at 28. I've got two clients who broke in after 30. So stop looking at the calendar.


Why do News Directors who say they're interested take forever to call you back?

Several possible answers;

a: they're rude

b: they're playing mind games with you

c: (the most likely) they've got a million other things to do

Be patient. If they want you, they'll call.


How much input does a Human Resources person have into hiring someone? I see lots of ads asking you to send your tapes to HR.

Really, none. HR people are basically beancounter types who simply keep records of who applies, who got interviewed, etc. Never direct your cover letter to the HR person, as it just gets passed on to the News Director. Always get the name of the ND and address the letter accordingly, even if you have to mail it to HR.

Hi Grape,

What's the most stuff you ever turned out in a day? Just curious.

During the 1988 Democratic and Republican National Conventions we cranked out three packages a day and a bunch of live shots. And hauling 3/4 equipment around the Omni and the Superdome wasn't easy.

We were exhausted, but it was a "good kind of tired."


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

27 dresses: the biggest mistake with anchor tapes

Most everyone knows the format for a good reporter tape; a montage, three packages, and hope for a phone call.

Anchor tapes are a little different. While you obviously have to show good communication skills and a personality that fits the story you're reading, you may be unwittingly making a mistake that sends up a red flag.

If you're wearing more than two different outfits on a tape, a News Director is going to wonder whether you can make it through a single show without stumbling.

Many anchor tapes are a collection of clips from the desk; a welcome and a lead story, some stuff from the A & B blocks, a consumer or health lead-in, a kicker. Then some cross talk with weather and sports. But if every clip is from a different newscast, it's a subtle hint that you can't muster all your best work in a single day.

It's best to pick one, or at most two, of your best newscasts. Show that you can hit a home run on any given day, because chances are if you get a call, a News Director is going to ask you for a second tape of your most recent anchoring.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Best book I've read in a long time

I get lots of emails and calls from people who are often depressed about their jobs, management, salary, being stuck in a nowhere place, etc.

I encourage you all to read this terrific book by Laura Hillenbrand, who also wrote Seabiscuit. Unbroken is the story of a World War Two prisoner who survived an incredible ordeal.

Trust me, read this and you'll never complain about anything again.


Now's the perfect time to send those tapes

Ah, the May sweeps are almost up on us.

Which means the June firing season won't be far behind.

Did you ever notice how your contract always seems to end right after sweeps? Well, there's a reason for that. If you contract ended right before sweeps, your ND would be operating short-handed for sweeps.

So having a contract end after sweeps makes sense. And having it end after May sweeps makes even more sense.

Why? Because the next book isn't until November, and that means a ND can take his time looking for new people. (Please don't even bring up the July book. Nobody cares.)

Right now, News Directors know a: who they're going to cut loose after the May book, and b: who is probably going to leave.

That means there will be a lot of openings.

So why are you sitting on your tapes waiting for them to be posted?

Ship 'em out now, this week, and have them in place for the inevitable openings that always occur after the May book. Better to be one of a few that trickle in during April than one of a bushel a ND gets in June.

We've said it before, but some people still don't get it; you don't have to wait for a job to be posted to send a tape.