Saturday, February 18, 2012

Book coupon for starving journalists (I realize that last part is redundant)

I've arranged for the publisher to offer a three dollar off coupon on my book for blog visitors. Simply click on the "Amazon Createspace" link on the right and use coupon code FVRQCW4D at checkout.


Friday, February 17, 2012

Talent doesn't make you bulletproof

This week we've seen a talent barometer, losing two incredibly talented people. Whitney Houston and baseball Hall of Famer Gary Carter.

Both were blessed with immense talent. One threw hers away, the other got every ounce out of his.

I never met Houston. I did meet Gary Carter a few years ago, and he couldn't have been nicer or more patient with this Mets fan. He shook my hand, posed for a picture. At one point I said, "I'm sure you get tired of talking about Game Six," hoping he'd tell a story of that classic World Series game in 1986. "I never get tired of that story," he said.

Most people know that game as the Mookie Wilson - Billy Buckner game, but it was Gary Carter who got the rally going with a two-strike single. He simply refused to give up.

Back to wasted talent. The Mets had two other Hall of Famers on that team, Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry. Well, they would have been in the Hall had they not thrown their talent away with booze and drugs. Both ended up in jail instead of Cooperstown.

The television news business isn't immune to the bulletproof talent syndrome. We've read many stories of people who had the world by the tail and thrown it all away. In my case I've seen a bunch of people do it to themselves.

I used to work with one reporter who would knock out great packages one day, show up glassy-eyed and slurring his words the next. Finally he went to rehab after admitting he was addicted to crack.

I worked with another very talented young lady who got busted on a drug charge. The ND hated to let her go, but knew she no longer had any credibility with the public. Her career, which was about to take off, crashed.

We often see tales of local news people on the police blotter for drunk driving and other offenses. Some manage to hold onto their jobs, but their careers are forever tainted.

Some of you are supremely talented, with gifts that go off the charts. And inevitably, some of those people will throw it all away, thinking the rules of life don't apply.

God gives many of us gifts of talent along with free will. Ironically, it is often the latter that determines our level of success.


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.