Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Mailbag: biggest mistakes


I'm in my first job and picking up new things as I go. I try to learn from my mistakes and not make them again. While I know mistakes are inevitable,  I would rather not make any more mistakes than I have to, I was wondering if you'd share your thoughts on the biggest and most common mistakes that young people make, and how you can avoid them.

Ah, what a thoughtful question. You got about an hour? (Kidding.)

Just off the top of my head, here are some of the more common errors I spot among young reporters:

-Single source sound bites (taking one interview and chopping it up into several sound bites without interviewing anyone else)

-One sided stories

-No standups in packages

-Packages that do not "show and tell" but simply "tell"

-Not understanding how politics works (confusing a State Senator with a US Senator)

-Packages without nat sound and/or b-roll that adds nothing to the story

-Not writing to the video or nat sound

As for the "how can you avoid them" part of your question, the answer is more psychological than mechanical. The key is to ask for advice. Seek out the veterans on the staff. If you work with a photog, by all means ask for his input on every story. If you're on a big story and rub elbows with people in big markets or on the network, talk to them. (We won't bite.) Watch newscasts from networks and other markets and pay attention to what other reporters and anchors are doing.

You have to be a sponge and soak up everything you can.

One of the biggest problems with many young people is that they come out of college acting as if they know everything, when in reality, they know very little. Just admitting you have a lot to learn is a big first step.

Hey Grape,

I'm about to start my job search as soon as sweeps end. Can you tell me what most people are looking for these days when it comes to moving up the ladder?

Not sure what you're looking for specifically, but I would guess 99 percent of all my clients who are one-man-bands want a job in which they don't have to shoot anymore. It tops a salary increase by a long shot.

The other thing on the wish list is a News Director who is a human being.


I'm about to graduate and I'm scared I won't find a job. I've done the internships, I think I have a decent tape, but I know there are tons of people out there just like me who will be sending out bushels of tapes. Any advice to help set me apart from the pack?

Sure, kid. The two best things you can do are:

-Send tapes anywhere, and I do mean anywhere. Lots of grads will be afraid to send tapes to medium or large markets because it has been drilled into their heads that they absolutely must start in a tiny market. Let everyone else descend on Palookaville.

-Do a road trip. Send emails and call ahead, telling News Directors you'll be traveling thru the area and asking if you can stop by, say hello, and drop off a tape. You'd be amazed how many interviews you'll get, and how many people get hired that way.


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