Thursday, October 6, 2011

Social media: The secret job killer

Must reading for anyone looking for a job:


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The new Fairness Doctrine

Back in 1949 the FCC implemented a rule known as the "Fairness Doctrine." The goal was to insure that stations provided fair and balanced coverage to all issues, especially politics. It was abolished in 1987.

Regardless of the rule, bias has always been present in the media. You can trace it back to the beginning of the printed word. Newspapers have done editorials for years, and now stations and networks do it in a back door manner.

These days viewers often choose their news provider based on the political slant rather than the quality of the product. It's sad that it has come to this, as most journalists try to be objective and fair. In many cases the slant of a network or station is the decision of management, and you have to follow the leader or you're out of a job.

Even though the Doctrine was abolished nearly a quarter century ago, it doesn't mean you as a journalist have to throw the rules of journalism 101 out the window. We're all opinionated, and most news people have strong feelings one way or the other about politics or social issues. But you have to check your opinions at the door and do your best to be fair. And trust me, when you get a reputation as a reporter who is fair, you get the respect that goes with it. Show the world you're biased, and you're killing one half of your audience and almost all of the trust factor.

With that in mind, and with the 2012 elections just around the corner, here are the rules for the new Fairness Doctrine.

-I will never let my opinion be part of any story.

-I will treat all candidates fairly.

-I will not lob softball questions at candidates I like, nor "gotcha" questions at candidates I dislike.

-I will not slant my questions to let the viewer know how I feel. Questions should not begin with, "With all due respect" or "But don't you really think" because those telegraph the fact that I do not agree with the candidate.

-I will not ask questions so totally obscure that I would have to look them up myself. Those are "gotcha" questions.

-I will not commit "bias by omission." That means I will not leave out a part of the story that I do not personally like, that would hurt a candidate I like or help a candidate I don't like.

-I will keep my political and social opinions to myself in the newsroom and out in public.

-I will not shoot video or edit my story in a way that makes a candidate look bad. If I am a producer, I will not use an unflattering still frame of a candidate I do not like. If I am a photographer or one-man-band, I will light and shoot my interviews in a professional manner.

-I will not use sound bites or b-roll of the most extreme followers of a candidate in an effort to show that the entire group is made up of extremists.

-I will not treat female candidates differently than males. I will not use terms like "shrill" to describe a female candidate, nor have any opinion about a female candidate's appearance.

-I will not use opinionated terms to describe a candidate, like "popular" or "embattled."

-I will not view people whose views differ from mine as "ignorant."

-I will not let my facial expressions tell the viewers what I think. I will not roll my eyes during a sound bite about which I disagree, nor nod my head during one I agree with.

-I will not edit in such a way that things are taken out of context, or in a way that the viewer does not get the entire story.

-On election night, I will have a poker face. I will not look like I won the lottery if my candidate won or appear as though someone has run over my dog if my candidate lost.

-I will remember that as a journalist it is my job to tell the viewers what I know, not what I think.

TVNEWSGRAPEVINE, copyright 2011 © Randy Tatano


Monday, October 3, 2011

Coming up, when the news continues...

Okay, I'm back from my annual pilgrimage to New York. I love going up this time of year, as fall is my favorite season. Of course it was hot in NYC. And when I got back to Florida, it was cold.

The trip illustrated (for me, at least) how much the world has changed and continues to do so. And not in a good way.

For example, if you were of a certain age and watched the new show "Pan Am" you were reminded how wonderful air travel used to be. Well dressed passengers and impeccably coiffed stewardesses, actual food and free booze. Airline employees who actually smiled. And then I got on a plane and was shoved into my seat like an egg into a carton after being greeted by a gate agent who wasn't cheerful enough to work at the Department of Motor Vehicles. A very large man who would be best described as the "before" ad for Jenny Craig in a shirt that might fit Britney Spears walked down the aisle barefoot to the restroom.

And then there was this interchange between me and the steward-- excuse me, flight attendant.

Flight attendant: "Would you like a snack?"

Me: "What do you have?"

Flight attendant: "Peanuts or pretzels."

Me: "Peanuts."

Flight attendant: "We're out of peanuts."

And then there was my first trip to the new home of the Mets, Citi Field. Or, as it might be better described, a shopping mall and food court that happened to have a baseball diamond in the middle. Ear splitting music as every batter walked to the plate. Six dollar hot dogs. Eight dollar beers. (Thankfully, we ate before the game.)

Ah, but there's a museum as you enter the park. With a ton of stuff commemorating the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Dodgers, in case you didn't know, are one of the teams who bailed on New York City in 1957. Paying homage to the Dodgers in the new Mets Stadium is like giving Monica Lewinsky a wing in the Bill Clinton Library.

One old black and white photo caught my eye in the museum. A shot of the stands in the fifties. Women in hats and men in ties.

Combine that image with the weeble on the plane, and you could see how we have become a nation of slobs. And class has gone out the window.

But back to the treadmill that is 2011. In the coming months we'll be doing things a little differently on this blog. The posts might not be as frequent, but they'll probably be longer. (After eleven hundred posts, you understand the thinking.) Besides, I do have to make a living.

Speaking of which, the blog will remain free, even though several industry people have told me lately that I'm out of my mind not making this site subscription-based. With that in mind, I'll meet you half way. A "donate" button has been added to the right side of the page under the heading, "Throw the Grape a chocolate bar." In other words, if you feel you've gotten something of value out of this blog, and you're so inclined, drop me a buck or two for my chocolate fix. (Or a lot more and help pay the mortgage.) If you're a typical broke rookie reporter, you don't have to do anything. The advice here should be available to anyone who wants it, regardless of financial status.

In the near future I'll be telling you of three success stories which prove that market size means nothing. Three tales of clients who each jumped about 150 markets. We're going to nuke that myth down to the molecular level.

We'll talk a lot about the upcoming election and how to cover it fairly. There will be new rules to follow, since the old ones have apparently gone out the window.

I'm also going to be asking you guys to send me links to great stories, so we can share them with the rest of the class. You not only learn by working hard, but by watching the good work of others.

And we'll talk a little about life in Palookaville, dealing with the psychological aspects of living a thousand miles from home in a city where you don't know a soul.

This country is at a turning point, and so is our industry. It has always been a young person's business, but now those young people have more influence. It's a big responsibility, and one every journalist needs to take seriously.

Hopefully you'll be up to the challenge.