Friday, August 19, 2011

Resume tape season about to begin

Those of you who have been sending tapes out this summer are probably wondering why things are moving so slowly. You've heard nothing, or it takes forever for News Directors who have shown interest to get back to you. If you're a college student looking for that first job, you're probably throwing up your hands in disgust.

Fear not, it's the summer. And once the calendar clicks over to September, let the hiring begin.

That's not to say people don't get jobs in the summer. They do. But September and October are often busy months for personnel changes.

There are several reasons for this. First, after May the next sweeps month is in November. News Directors are in no hurry to beef up their staff during the summer, preferring to save that salary for the fall. Personally, I think this "nobody is watching in the summer" theory is a bad strategy, as news viewing as been up this summer due to all the shenanigans in Congress. But it is a popular one.

So if you're a News Director you want a full staff ready to hit the ground running in November. That's why you start doing interviews in September.

It's also why you guys need to get your tapes ready now and also send them to stations without openings. Why? Well, all those people who are going to get jobs in September are going to create openings. It's a domino affect, and there's no point waiting for a job to be posted.

Here's that scenario: Reporter gets job in September, gives notice, News Director panics to fill his slot. Hmmmm, your tape is already on his desk and he likes it. He needs a quick hire rather than be shorthanded during sweeps. Does he post the job and go thru the month long process of reviewing tapes, or hire someone he already likes? Many times it's the latter.

Next week I'll be re-posting the various resume tape tips that have run on this blog in the past. But you need to get things in gear now. Get your stuff ready, get your dubbing system set up, make a list of your target stations.

Then when those openings do occur, you'll be first in line.

TVNEWSGRAPEVINE, copyright 2011 © Randy Tatano


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Snowballs in August

You can be watching a station for the first time, but you can always tell a rookie anchor.

No, it has nothing to do with the person's poise, or delivery, or ability to connect with the viewer. It's the snowball rolling downhill after the first stumble.

Every anchor stumbles, says the wrong word, loses his or her place on the prompter. I've done it a thousand times. So has anyone who's ever sat on the desk. Watch any network newscast and you'll see the main anchors do it.

It's natural. We're not perfect.

Back to the rookie anchors. If it's your first year on the anchor desk, you want to be perfect. You want to get through the newscast flawlessly. You don't want the boss or your co-workers to dwell on that one mistake you made.

And then you make it. Annnnnnnndddddd.....cue the snowball.

Once that first mistake is in the can, the snowball begins its downward journey. If you're not from the snow belt, you don't know that if you roll a snowball along the ground it becomes bigger...and bigger... and bigger... until you've got something the size of a boulder. The same is true for a newscast. A rookie is humming along, cruising through the first block, and then it happens. The first misstep.

And then the snowball starts rolling, because said rookie anchor is dwelling on that mistake. The anchor keeps thinking about it, not focusing on the remainder of the newscast, and then stumbles again, and again. By the end of the newscast the rookie is ready to give up and run like hell from the desk forever.

So here's what successful anchors have: short term memory. You make a mistake, you move on. It's done, gone to Pluto. You can't unring that bell.

And very often the mark of a good anchor is one who recovers so smoothly you don't even notice.

If you're new to the anchor desk, the first thing you must do is realize you're not gonna get through the rest of your career without stumbling. You'll have plenty of clean shows, but there will always be a misstep along the way. The last thing you want to do is start that snowball rolling downhill.

TVNEWSGRAPEVINE, copyright 2011 © Randy Tatano


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Memo to producers who think their jobs are just tooooo hard...

Whatever teacher came up with this project at Florida Atlantic University gets the college instructor of the year award.

While this project was about print journalism, much applies to what we do today... and how hard it was yesterday.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Even in 2011, women still face higher standards

So I'm flipping around the dial the other day and land on a station featuring a female anchor I've watched for a long time.

I didn't hear a word she said for about sixty seconds, because all I could do was stare at her hair.

The anchor in question had apparently lost a battle with a weed whacker. Either that or her stylist decided to cut her hair while wearing a blindfold. It was that bad. If my dad were around and she were his daughter, his comment would be, "I sure hope you didn't pay for that."

After the shock wore off it occurred to me that I was being unfair to this woman. She was still a good anchor, still the same person. I had become superficial in a superficial business. I had time-warped back to the Mad Men era.

Yes, women still have it tougher than men in this business. You can be an average looking guy and have a decent career as a broadcast journalist, but if you're a woman who looks like Quasimodo, fuhgeddaboudit. Behind the scenes you go.

Women have to look their best, always. They must not have a hair out of place, they must not ever gain weight, their makeup and clothes must be flawless. They have to wear heels to Wal-Mart.

Guys? Well, we're guys, ya know? We can get away with more.

When Katie Couric debuted as an anchor on CBS, much was written about her wardrobe. She wore white after Labor Day! Oh, the horror!

But does anyone notice anything about the appearance of male anchors? I can tell you Brian Williams favors purple ties and Bob Schieffer likes loud ones, but other than that I couldn't tell you what suit they wore or if they got haircuts recently.

And to make this worse, men, even on the networks, have gotten more casual lately. Years ago you never, ever saw a guy on television without a necktie. Now it seems that casual Friday is everyday.

Except for the women.

And over the years, the complaint calls I've fielded at local stations regarding females always had something to do with appearance. My all time favorite: "She spends too much time worrying about her jewelry."

What does all this mean? It means, grasshopper, that nothing has really changed. Women still have an uphill battle in the news business and just about everything else. Look at politics. In 2008 Hillary Clinton was described as "shrill." Would anyone say that about a male candidate? And don't even get me started about Michelle Bachmann's Newsweek cover photo.

It also means that at the end of the day, men still look at you as women. We still hold doors, pull out chairs in restaurants, and pick up the check. (At least we're supposed to.)

Is it fair that women have to meet higher standards? No. Do I have any idea how to change this? Not a clue. So for now, anyway, you still have to look as if you stepped out of a Spiegel catalog. Meanwhile, guys, it wouldn't hurt for you to step things up in the appearance department. If the women have to do it, so should we.

Back in the day when women were first getting into the business, the best compliment a woman could receive was that "she's one of the guys."

If only.

TVNEWSGRAPEVINE, copyright 2011 © Randy Tatano