Saturday, November 26, 2011

Sometimes, great people trump a bad company

Whenever people ask me about the best and worst places I've worked, the answer is often the same station.


Well, you can think of stops during your career in two ways. The people with whom you share a newsroom, and the company itself. And let's face it, these days many companies aren't remotely human, having been taken over by beancounters and non-creative types.

And very often, if you're being treated badly by management or your company throws nickels around like manhole covers, you seek solace in your co-workers. After all, you're in the same boat, and misery loves company.

I can remember one station that started out terrific. Great News Director who was a friendly guy, company that paid well and had great benefits, members of management who had a heart.

And then we got sold. To a company that was just the opposite, and a News Director who reminded everyone of Mister Potter from "It's a Wonderful Life." Nasty and cheap is not a good combination and makes for a toxic work environment.

I remember a line from another reporter about the new guy. "He said he wants to unite the newsroom. Well, he's done it." Problem was, we were all united. Against him.

Ironically, this brought us all closer even though we were pretty close before. The friendships became tighter, any competition in the newsroom disappeared, as we were all united in one cause: the resistance.

I still have plenty of friends from that place. One of the best...and worst places I've ever worked.

It just illustrates the importance of a news team in this environment. If you're in an "every man for himself" shop that's owned by a bad company, you've got the worst of both worlds. If you work together and help one another, even the worst environment can be a positive one. You simply have to tune out that junk rolling downhill from corporate and focus on the friendships in the newsroom.

Is your newsroom a "family" and does every day seem like a Thanksgiving get-together? Or are you all doing your own thing?


Monday, November 21, 2011

A Black Friday story you might consider

If I'm a reporter covering Black Friday, I could write my script today. It's the same everywhere, local and network, from every reporter. The opening nat sound of the store security chain going up, the hordes rushing in. The soundbites with a few shoppers who scored bargains and a store manager who says business was great. Nat breaks of gifts being scanned at the checkout counter. Shots of people in sleeping bags (who aren't interested in Occupying the Store forever.)

Seriously, do we have to see the same damn package every year?

Many years ago I got sick of doing this story. I mean, if I was going to get up at the crack of dawn (which you all know I hate) I was going to do something fun and different.

Hence the advent of "This season's most obnoxious toys" package.

I got the idea when I was at a dinner party at the home of a couple who had a demon child that simply wouldn't go to bed. Nothing but adults in the house, and this kid kept getting up and annoying people. Finally he started following me around wanting to play a game. I asked him if he wanted to play hide and seek, told him to go hide, and never looked for him. Problem solved.

So it occurred to me the couple that had spawned this hatchling from Hades needed a little payback and a taste of their own medicine. If their kid was gonna annoy others, he might as well annoy his own parents.

We set up a story with one of the biggest toy stores in the area and I asked the manager to round up the noisiest, most obnoxious toys in the store. He didn't disappoint. A mechanical Santa that did nothing but rap. A CD of the chipmunks version of "Achy Breaky Heart." A battery operated chicken that squawked incessantly. You get the idea. It turned out to be a hilarious package. And then it became an annual affair, as viewers got a real kick out of it. I often wonder how many parents received these lovely stocking stuffers and maybe got the idea their kid wasn't Macaulay Culkin.

Anyway, you might float that one by your ND if you want to get out of the usual Black Friday mold.