Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Mailbag: Attack of the neutron News Director

Dear Grape,

Our station recently got a new news director. Did the new boss wait a few months before making changes? Nope! The new ND started making changes immediately, before learning ANYTHING about the station. Work schedules changed at random, and many don't make sense. Anchors have to one-man-band it now.  No more feature stories. (Not that we did much of that anyway). We're now expected to turn "60 Minutes" style investigations every night. Bottom line: I used to love my job but the new ND is making it very hard. I've had some hard ND's before, but this is one is quickly taking the cake! I still have a couple of years left. Any tips? 

Frustrated Reporter
Ah, you've brought back some memories, and not good ones. We went through that once, same deal; changed schedules, job descriptions, etc. It became clear the guy didn't want any of us. More than fifty percent left in the first six months of his tenure, and I have a hunch he let some out of their contracts because he didn't want them.
You have a "neutron" News Director, the theory being he's the same as a neutron bomb: leaving the building standing while killing all the people.
Here's what I suspect happened: the guy watched a bunch of airchecks before taking the job and decided the following:

a. Who he wants to keep (if anyone)
b. Who he wants to get rid of, and how to make those people miserable enough to quit

You can endure two years of hell or ask to be let out of your contract. If you have a buyout clause, it might be worth it just for your own mental health.

Sorry you're going through this. I remember how painful it was for our staff and wouldn't wish that on anyone.
As for the guy I worked with, I put the Sicilian "evil eye" curse on him and his career went into the dumper.

I know most journalists thought the election process was exciting. This morning I'm feeling a bit of withdrawal. Is this normal?
Elections are exciting and so is the political process. But now you have to go back to finding stories that aren't laid out for you. Start breaking a few good enterprise stories and you'll get your mojo back.
Meanwhile, I sure as hell miss the robo-calls.

Dear Grapevine,
Just wondering if you encountered any gimmicks when you were a News Director that made you pay more attention to a tape?

Not really. I've seen all sorts of attempts to gain attention, the most common of which was a bag of microwave popcorn. (Get it? Lay back, eat some popcorn and enjoy the video.) A woman once sent a three foot poster of herself in a revealing costume. Other people vetted me and would put stuff about the Mets or Giants in the cover letter.

None of these made me more likely to look at a tape or hire anyone. I looked at all the tapes anyway, as do most NDs, so save the trickery.

But the best thing you can do to improve your chances besides your tape is a clever cover letter.


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