Friday, May 13, 2011

Mailbag: The skinny on the bathroom scale

Dear Wise Grape,

First, thanks so much for taking the time to write this blog. I can't stop reading it!

Anyway, my question is about the touchy subject of weight. I'm finishing my junior year in college and every time I update my tape I cringe at how I look in my stand-ups. I'm 5'1" and wear a size 6 dress, and while I'm not insecure about my appearance in real life, I feel like the camera is making me look short and chunky. I don't want to put anyone on the spot by asking about it, so I'd like to know, are news directors overly concerned with how skinny women are? Are there any camera tricks to help disguise this? Should I lose 10 pounds before doing any more stand-ups? Am I being obsessive?

This may be the only business in the world where a woman will ask a man for an honest opinion about her weight, and the man will answer without fear of being slapped into next week.

Funny, the camera seems to add ten pounds to some people and not others. Then there's the classic line from the Friends episode in which Chandler asks, "So how many cameras were on you?

A good photog knows how to put a reporter in the best light. If you're vertically challenged, you simply need to make sure the camera is lower than you are, and shooting up a bit. It's all about perspective. I've seen tapes where a person looked short only to discover they were actually tall but the camera was shooting down at them. And then I've worked with network people who looked tall on camera but actually live in Munchkinland.

A fashion expert would also tell you how to use color to your advantage. Dark colors make you look slimmer, and if you're petite you should avoid stripes. You probably already know that.

I would have to actually see a standup before telling you if you need to lose weight, so if you wanna upload something to YouTube and send me the link, I'll take a look.

And sadly, yes, News Directors do want women to be thin. Or at least look thin. Men can get away with some extra pounds, especially if they do weather. Sorry for the double standard, but I don't make the rules.


How do I write a "cover letter" when sending out tapes to stations that don't have any openings? I have always heard from you it is good to send ND's tapes even though they don't have an openings. Any other suggestions for getting a foot in the door at stations that don't have openings now?

The cover letter is exactly the same, whether there's an opening or not. You're sending the tape because you want a job, so you don't have to state, "I know you don't have any openings" to start your letter. Besides, there are always openings, many of which aren't posted.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Waiting game

Several years ago I was flown in for a job interview on a Friday. It went very well, I got along great with the ND, we had a lot in common. He dropped me off at the airport and said, "I'll definitely be calling you with a decision on Monday."

I flew home knowing it wasn't gonna happen.

Monday, no call. Tuesday, no call. The rest of the week, no call.

I'd seen this game before. They want to see how desperate you are. If you call, they know you really, really want the job, and will take less money to get it.

So I waited and didn't call. Even though I really, really wanted the job.

Week two, no call.

At this point I moved on, figuring he'd hired someone else.

Week three, no call. I'd kinda forgotten about it. I went on vacation.

Then I got the call and the job offer.

So what's the deal with the waiting game? Why does this scenario play out time and again? Why do NDs say they'll call on a certain date, tell you they have to make a decision immediately, and then make you endure more delays than if you were flying out of the Atlanta airport?

Let's go down the possible reasons:

-The desperation search. See story above.

-They made a decision to hire you, kicked it up to corporate for approval, and are waiting for some beancounter to rubber stamp things. Corporate people don't move fast in this business, especially if the station is part of a large group. You're not on the front burner.

-They're waiting for the results of a drug test, background check, or both.

-They're checking references.

-They're saving money. Divide the salary by 52 weeks, and every week they stall, they're saving that much.

-They can't make up their damn minds. GMs can gum up the works like you wouldn't believe. And so can consultants.

-If it's the middle of summer, there's no real rush to hire since the next sweeps period is in November.

-A big breaking story got in the way. If you're applying for a job in Memphis right now, you're not even on the back burner. You're not even on the stove.

So it's not you, it's them. This is very, very common and happens to my clients all the time. It has happened to me numerous times.

It's hard to put this out of your mind when you're up for a job, but you have to. It's just the way the business works.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Top ten lies of broadcasting

Ironic, isn't it? We work in a business with a basic principle of uncovering the truth and then deal with people who flat out lie to our faces.

Well, that's just human nature. As the old saying goes, a pessimist is merely an optimist with experience.

I'd guess about half the managers out there will be honest with you. The other half? Well, they could spend a year in a confessional, get ten thousand Hail Marys for penance and still lie on Monday.

So here's a list of statements that you can pretty much discount:

1. "We don't need to put that in writing." Usually heard during contract negotiation, this lie will not be unveiled until employee tries to collect on said unwritten promise, upon which manager will suffer from selective memory. Moral: get everything in writing.

2. "It will be a lot better when we get in the new building." Yeah, I fell for this as a rookie when told that we'd be leaving our ramshackle station for a state-of-the-art facility.

3. "You'll be considered for the anchor job." If they were really considering you, they'd come to you, not vice versa, and not give you such a lame flicker of hope.

4. "We have big plans for you in the future." Usually heard after a reporter who has been at one place for awhile gets turned down for a promotion for the umpteenth time.

5. "You should consider this a promotion." Heard when you have actually been demoted to a lousy shift or had your job description drastically changed.

6. "I'll try to get you some more money." Right up there with, "The check's in the mail."

7. "If you don't sign right now I'm going to hire someone else." Typical hard-line approach taken with rookies who fear they will never, ever get a job. If you hear this, leave skid marks.

8. "You don't really need to read the contract, it's all standard." That means you really, reaaalllllly need to read the contract. And have a lawyer do it as well.

9. "Our company doesn't give outs." Do your homework with other employees at other stations. Chances are you'll find that statement isn't true.

10. "We only do three year contracts." See lie number 9.