Thursday, September 22, 2011

Payback can be hell. In this case it's just $7.99

In the four years I've maintained this blog I've offered free advice; answered questions online, with personal emails, and over the phone; and generally tried to help the next generation navigate the minefield known as the broadcasting business.

This site has always been free. In return I've never asked for anything.

Until now.

Oh, don't worry, I'm not going to ask you to pay a subscription for access to this blog or stick checks in the mail. But I am going to ask for a small amount of help with a personal project.

While television has been my career, fiction has been my passion. Over the years Pocket Books has published some of my Star Trek stories, and you can find a bunch of my sci-fi tales on Amazon. So it is with great pride that I announce the publication of my first novel, Rom-Com. In case you haven't figured it out, it's a romantic comedy. The tag line is: The News Never Sleeps When The Women Run The Network.

Even if you're a guy, it's one you'll enjoy, since it is about a television news network. The bottom line plot: four women take over a television network and turn things upside down, reversing the traditional co-anchor pairing of older-man-younger-woman by creating anchor teams with an older woman and a younger man. (Why this doesn't happen in real life is beyond me.) It is, of course, written with the same brand of sarcasm and warped humor that permeates this blog, so the television industry takes more than a few shots along the way. It's published under my pen name, N.J. Harlow. (The Sci-Fi stuff is under my own name.)

In any event, I'm asking for your help with both sales and marketing of the book. It's available in both print in electronic versions at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, the iPhone bookstore, and is downloadable to any iPhone, Blackberry, Android or iPad. Prices start at just $2.99 for the electronic version and $7.99 for the paperback. I hope you'll buy one (or a bunch as Christmas gifts) and help send it up the charts.

With that in mind, I'm also asking you to help take this viral. You'll find links to the book at the bottom of this post. I would appreciate it if you could send them to those in your email address book. Post it to whatever social networking services you use, and ask those you're connected with to send it on to their contacts. That won't cost you anything but time, something I've give a lot of to this blog.

There will be another novel released in the coming months. Also about the television news industry. Only that one is a thriller.

So, here's the deal. Buy the book. If you want an ebook but don't have an e-reader, you can download a Kindle or Nook application to your computer or most devices for free.

But there's more to this than just asking for your help. You get a reward for doing so. (And I may live to regret this.) And, if you order now…(operators are standing by) I'll critique one package or an anchor segment for you free of charge. Send me proof that you've bought the book… a receipt, whatever. And then upload something you'd like critiqued. How's that for a rebate?

To purchase on Amazon, either in paperback or for Kindle, click on the cover:

Link to the electronic version at Barnes & Noble for the Nook e-reader:

Barnes & Noble

Link to the electronic version for iPad, iPhone or iPod:


Thanks in advance for your help.

TVNEWSGRAPEVINE, copyright 2011 © Randy Tatano


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

29-cent feedback

One of my clients reminded me of something I used to do when I was shopping for a job. I'd actually forgotten about it. (When Sicilians get older, we only remember the grudges.)

Anyway, back in the day those 3/4" tapes used to get returned most of the time. You could pop them in the deck and find out where the ND stopped watching. But since tapes and DVDs now go to the great landfill, there's no way of knowing what the ND thought of you if you don't hear anything.

Ah, but sometimes there is.

What my client reminded me of was the old postcard trick.

Here's the deal. You put a self-addressed 29 cent postcard in the package along with your tape/DVD, resume and cover letter. On the back of the postcard you politely ask for feedback. It might read something like this:

Dear ND,

Thanks for taking the time to watch my resume tape. If you have a minute, I'd appreciate any suggestions and feedback you might have.


(Your name)

Then leave the bottom of the card blank.

This makes it real easy for a ND to respond. All he has to do is jot down a line or two and put it in the outgoing mail slot. It's easier than sending an email, and with an email you end up getting in a back and forth discussion, which you don't want.

I did this when I was a reporter and was surprised how many NDs responded. Don't know what your response will be, since past performance is no indication of future returns, as they say on those investment commercials.

But hey, for 29 cents, it's worth a shot.

By the way, tune in tomorrow for a special announcement.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Everything old is new again

Most of you probably think that updating a story for the web is something new, something that has revolutionized the news business.

In reality, it's something journalists have been doing for decades.

"But Grape," you're saying, "there was no Internet before Al Gore invented it! People didn't have computers in their homes!"

Ah, Grasshopper, but television could go live with breaking news. And newspapers had more than one edition.

That latter tidbit seems bizarre in light of the financial problems the newspaper industry is having. Just the cost of paper and delivery is killing the traditional printed word. But many moons ago, most newspapers routinely printed two editions, and some even knocked out five in a 24-hour period.

In New York, the Daily News had an early edition that came out the evening before the traditional morning paper. It was called the "Night Owl" edition. After that, there were five editions, marked by stars in the upper left hand corner. If it read "Final" with five stars, you knew you had the last edition of the day. Other papers called their vampire edition the "Bulldog edition" and sought to grab those readers who couldn't wait for morning, or who worked the night shift. In addition, job-hunters routinely bought the Sunday New York Times on Saturday, when the classified ads section was distributed to stores.

What does this mean? It means that before word processors and websites, reporters had to pound typewriters and often write several versions of a single story. And it had to be published the old fashioned way.

Television, meanwhile, has been doing live shots for more than half a century. And while 24-hour news operations didn't exist, newsrooms operated 24-hours a day.

So when you complain that you have to update stories for the web all day and grumble that this didn't happen in the good old days, think again. In fact, it was a lot harder back in the day.


Monday, September 19, 2011

The source of your feedback is often more important than the feedback itself

The biggest complaint I hear from reporters is the same one I had twenty years ago. "I never hear anything from my News Director." And the old saying that followed was, "If you don't hear anything, you're doing okay." This lack of feedback from managers made things worse when you actually did talk to the ND, as the staff simply assumed that if you're called into his office, the news must be bad. An assumption that still exists today.

So, where do you get feedback if you're not getting any from your boss? Well, you need to be careful here, as often times bad feedback is worse than no feedback.

Mom and Dad will tell you you're wonderful, and in my case, continually ask why the network doesn't hire you. Your close friends will never tell you anything bad. College professors are a mixed bag, some so bogged down in theory that they wouldn't know a good reporter from a crash dummy. But you still have options.

Every station has a solid veteran who doesn't mind helping out the rookies. Seek out these people. Don't drive them nuts with questions, but occasionally ask, "How could my package have been better?" Even better, if you don't have an idea of how to approach a package, talk to the vet before you head out the door to shoot your story.

And if you're at one of those stations that has photogs, make use of their ideas. These people are often the smartest people in the newsroom, and look at stories with a different eye. You should always talk to the photog on the way to the story. I got into the habit of including photogs in interviews. When I was done asking questions, I'd turn to the shooter and say, "Anything you want to add?" Very often the photog had a good question I hadn't considered.

Too many people aren't getting feedback, but in many cases you have to take the initiative to ask. Just make sure you ask the right people.

TVNEWSGRAPEVINE, copyright 2011 © Randy Tatano