Friday, July 8, 2011

Walls, plateaus and steps

You see it all the time, especially in those first three years of a career. And in this era of instant gratification, it can be frustrating to young people just starting out.

You're not getting better fast enough.

We had one young reporter wears ago who wanted to learn everything about the business in the first week. He would get frustrated that every package didn't have every single element. We told him it would take time to master the art of reporting.

In this business, it's not about going up the ladder. It's about hitting the wall.

When most people start, the packages are pretty basic. A bunch of sound bites, voiceovers and a standup close. It's pretty much a template for all rookie reporters. No nat sound, no graphics, no writing to video.

The reporter gets comfortable with that, and then gets bored. There must be something else. He has hit a wall, then suddenly discovers the wonders of using nat sound. He becomes obsessed with nat sound, and takes a step up to the next plateau.

A few months later, same deal. Mastered nat sound but bored that all the packages look the same. Then it's walking standups. He sees a reporter he admires doing a cool walking standup, and suddenly he figures out the secret handshake. Another step up to another platueau.

Every step leads to another plateau. Writing to video, using graphics, writing in and out of sound bites, turning a phrase, doing a standup bridge rather than a close.

This seems to be a common denominator with talented people. Sometimes it takes a while to find the step, and sometimes you spend more time than you'd like on a platueau, but it's necessary to the process.

You can't master everything all at once. Take your time, learn one thing at a time, master it, then move on to another element. Trust me, if you do this in your first job you'll be knocking out great packages in a year or two.


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Yes, there is justice in the world of broadcasting...

And in a related story, Anthony Weiner can stop making his resume tape.


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

What "Hoosiers" can teach you about market size

If you've ever seen the Gene Hackman movie "Hoosiers" about a small town basketball team, you've gotten a subtle message about television news markets.

Toward the end of the film Hackman takes his team to the state championship. The day before the game he walks them around the court, takes out a tape measure and shows them that the basket is still ten feet high and a foul shot is still fifteen feet. It is the same, whether you're playing in a backyard or on the world's biggest stage.

The same holds true for television news. A package is a package, whether it is done in market 210 or at the network. In each case you still need good video, nat sound, strong writing and creative editing. Along with solid reporting skills, of course.

So it makes me shake my head when so many young people think they have to start in a tiny market, or can only jump a certain number of markets for their second job. I'm not sure if college professors are telling kids they have to start really small, or if it is simply a myth that is so old it has become reality to some.

The truth: plenty of people have gotten their first jobs in New York or at the network. If you're talented, the sky's the limit. You have absolutely nothing to lose by sending your tape to any station. Limiting yourself to markets 100-210 can only set you back two years if you truly have talent. You may eventually end up in a small market, but you may not.

The same applies for a second job. If you can turn a package with the best of them, once again, take your best shot.

The rules of broadcast journalism don't change from market to market. I've seen great products in tiny markets and horrible ones in large markets. The business is getting younger, as veterans see the handwriting on the wall and bail out.

When someone tells you you have to start small, don't believe it. When you're told that maybe you can make it to market 50 in your second job, fuhgeddaboudit.

Talent knows no age or experience. If you've got it, aim high.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Super 8

Best movie I've seen in years. Check it out.

And for those of you who weren't around in the late 70's early 80's, those truly were the good old days.