Thursday, January 26, 2012

In today's newsroom, you need a "cut man" in your corner

The alarm clock goes off, and the reporter slams the snooze button, fighting for every last minute in the safe cocoon of his bed. He used to throw back the covers and jump into the shower, ready to seize the day and tell the world a story. But now the career has turned into a job, one that has become increasingly painful. Not because he hates reporting. On the contrary, he loves being a journalist.

It's because he's taken too many shots at work. All of them psychological.

He finally drags himself out of bed, walking like an old man of 70, and later feels his blood pressure rise steadily as he pulls into the station parking lot. He feels like a quarterback who's gonna get sacked, and most of the shots he'll take will come from the blind side.

Not from management. From other members of the staff.

Every boxer takes a lot of hits, hence, the need for a "cut man" who can patch things up between rounds. The most famous would be Mickey from the Rocky movies, a guy who could not only repair physical damage but rebuild confidence after shots to the psyche.

Newsrooms can be a lot like a boxing ring, if you're in a dysfunctional shop. And many times said dysfunction has absolutely nothing to do with the News Director. Co-workers can be the most vicious people you'll encounter along the way. They might be jealous, afraid you're trying to take their jobs, hate the fact that you were born good looking, or just resent the lack of dues you've paid. Doesn't matter.

They love to blitz from the blind side, hitting you with a cutting remark that will ruin your day, stick in your craw, and gnaw at your confidence.

If this happens to you on a regular basis, you need a cut man.

As creative souls we are wired differently than the rest of the world. Most of us can be very sensitive when it comes to our work. We might have all sorts of awards and make a great salary in a nice market, but we still cringe when someone says something nasty. And we'll often take that comment home and let it ruin the rest of the day.

That's when you call in your cut man. Someone who can build you up and remind you you're talented. Someone honest enough to give you constructive criticism when you need it, while also telling you that you knocked out a great story when it happens. Someone you can talk with about anything, someone who always has a shoulder to cry on, someone who knows what makes you tick.

I'm not talking about Mom or Dad. They think their kid should be at the network from day one.

Your cut man might be a close friend, or another co-worker who values your work and friendship.

And by the way, you can be a cut man yourself. If you see someone getting psychologically beaten up day after day, step in, fix the cut, and shove them back in the ring with more confidence that what they had when they left.

Sometimes life in a newsroom can be a breeze, and sometimes it can feel like a street fight. You may think you can survive on your own, but you really can't. A good friend is your strongest defense against those things that can bring you down.



Anonymous said...

This couldn't be more true. I work in a newsroom whose ND has already been told she's being fired, meaning she's totally disengaged from the job, and there's no leadership at all. Now the assignment editor, who admits to hating the news business, has appointed himself king of the newsroom. He makes it a point as often as possible to criticize the one-man-band reporters, mostly because he thinks they need it, despite that they work 50-60 hours a week, no lunches, while he sits in comfort and leaves promptly at 5pm after a leisurely day playing video games on his phone, doing crossword puzzles, and of course taking a nice hour long break. One reporter told me he goes so far as, in one case, calling the reporter a "failure" because of an editorial disagreement. And stuff like that happens almost every day. It could almost be called psychological warfare. Meanwhile the ND sits in her office looking for new jobs. It's a ridiculous situation. Virtually all of us are looking for new jobs, producers and reporters both, but not everyone has been here long enough to avoid the impression of being a "jumper," and that aside, it takes time to find something. Until then, we all need a cut man to help with the daily blows that dent confidence and destroy morale. And they wonder why some of the reporters have been showing up later and later every morning...

-The Grape said...

Well, I hope you feel better after venting. Sadly, I hear the same story from many people.

Anonymous said...

Since everyone likes updates and viewers hate all bad news... I feel obliged to point out that a couple of days after posting that, our main anchor took me aside. We chatted for a few minutes and he said some very complimentary things about my work. It was the confidence lift I needed. It doesn't get rid of the dysfunction, and I think everyone else there needs the same ego boost right now too, but it helps.