Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Mailbag: Is my station really broke?


I'm in my first job in Florida. As you know, we recently had a primary here and at our station just about every commercial was a political ad. I heard one sales guy say we were totally sold out. Yet all I hear from the News Director is that the station is broke. How can this be?

First, a little info on political advertising. While the four billion spent in 2010 really propped up the industry, it sometimes drives sales people nuts. Political spots are sold for what is called the "lowest unit rate." Let's say the cheapest ad your station sold in the past month for your morning newscast went for fifty bucks. Joe Politician can buy all the spots for that rate. (Nice how that works, huh? Wonder who came up with those laws?) So the sales people who might have sold a few spots for a hundred bucks have to sell them to politicians for fifty. Yes, you're sold out, but at a lower rate that's not as profitable.

Second, it's really hard to know if a station is broke, or if the beancounters are simply cooking the books to make it appear that way. Remember, a news department operates on a budget, and it is not like Congress....a ND can't just print more money if he goes over budget. So while the station may be profitable, the news department may have to cut corners anyway.

Dear Grape,

With all this emphasis about sweeps month I recently asked my ND if I could see a ratings book. I was told no, that employees were not allowed to see them. What's the deal?

It's because ratings books contain nuclear launch codes, the final resting place of Jimmy Hoffa, and photos of what actually landed in Roswell in 1947.

Seriously, some stations have no problem showing the book to employees. What they're afraid of is that after a good book anchors will make copies and send them out along with their resume tapes. ("In my first year, the ratings for my newscast improved 25 percent.") And some managers simply like to keep employees in the dark.

Hi Grape,

This might sound odd, but is there a best time to ask for a raise?

Actually, that's a really good question. Timing is everything in life, and that applies to your salary as well.

Good times to ask for raises are after the station has gotten a good ratings book. After you've knocked out some killer packages. And when the ND is in a good mood. (Hold the jokes, please.)

Never ask for a raise on a Monday (too much junk piled up over the weekend) or after a managers meeting (too much stress.) Fridays are a good day.


Are all Assignment Editors grouchy?

Yes, but in their defense it is usually because reporters don't bring enough story ideas to the morning meeting.


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