Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Sweeps start on Ground Hog Day: If your News Director sees a shadow, it's that of an executioner

Ah, the day before sweeps. There's an equation that applies to this particular time.

The amount of stress during any sweeps period is directly proportional to the salary of any member of a news staff.

In other words, the more money you make, the bigger the target you are. Bad book came in? Guess who gets the blame? Not the lowly street reporters or assistant producers. It starts at the top down.

So if you see you News Directors and anchors start twitching today, you know why.

Problem with sweeps is that they are often not a true indication of what viewers are watching. The theory is that it sometimes takes a year and a half for true results to filter through. So that great news product you've been knocking out this February might not show up in the numbers till next November.

Several years ago I worked in a newsroom that was always in a neck and neck race for number one. We avoided the scanner and had the white collar viewers; the other station went after viewers whose lips move when they read.

Anyway, News Director moves on right before sweeps, new ND that everyone hates moves in. Ratings come in, we're number one. New guy thinks his changes are the reason. (Yeah, making people miserable makes them put out a great product.) It was simply the aftereffects of what we'd done months earlier.

So sometimes anchors and News Directors can unfairly take the blame for a bad book. A new guy can come in and have to deal with the results of the previous regime, which might not have been very good.

While we live and die by the ratings, you have to put them in perspective. Many times you don't need ratings to validate the quality of your work.


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