Friday, March 16, 2012

Open conventions: a primer on the process

There's been lots of discussion about "brokered" or "open" conventions regarding the race for the Republican Presidential nomination. It's been a long time since the country saw one of these, and few are familiar with the political process as to what happens if no candidate has a majority of votes on the first ballot.

I remembered a great movie about an open convention and it would be good for you guys to watch it and learn how the process works. It's called "The Best Man" starring Henry Fonda and Cliff Robertson. They're two front runners for the nomination who don't quite have enough delegates. It's a great look at those backroom deals in the smoke-filled rooms, and how the process can eventually play out.

It was released in 1964 (I can hear you kids saying, "Ewwwwww.... it's old") but it's a terrific movie. You can probably get it from Blockbuster or Netflix or buy it from Amazon if you're so inclined. By the way, there are about five movies out there with the same title... make sure you get this one or you'll end up watching a rom-com.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Money clouds the issue, part deux: doing your homework

(This comment came in after yesterday's post)

It's hard to tell the difference between a good station and a bad one from the outside. I can tell if the product is decent by looking at the station's website or looking up youtube videos, but even that isn't a sure thing. As an outsider & newbie to the business, I find it hard to know whether I'm picking the right stations to apply to as far as management, location, quality of co-workers...Any advice? Also, maybe you can tell us about those war zones you mentioned? Not the name of the stations, but just the cities.

Well, first of all, I'm not going to list those places I consider to be the ninth circle of hell in writing. But you can find out a lot about both a city and a station by putting on your reporter's hat and doing some legwork.

As you mentioned, visiting the station's website is the best place to start. You can see the product, find out if they're scanner chasers or prefer enterprise stories. But you need a lot more info before sending tapes.

Location: What's the quality of life in a certain city? Use the internet to find out, and don't go by those "best places to live" lists, as half those include factors as things to do for senior citizens, number of doctors, etc. Stuff that you're not really concerned about in your twenties. Check out things like the crime rate, weather conditions. If the city scores high in things like murder rates, car thefts, etc. it might not be a great place to live, and you might be covering nothing but crime. (Often car insurance is highest in places that have a high crime rate.) You should also visit to check out the cost of living. What seems like a good salary can disappear if it's an expensive place to live.

Companies: There are a few companies out there that are in the top echelon and others that throw nickles around like manhole covers. The bad companies are notorious for treating people badly. Simply ask some veterans in the business. Everyone who has been in the business awhile knows the best and the worst.

Management & newsroom staff: You can often find out where a manager has worked by visiting, click on the "weekly newsletter" and do a search. This site posts management jobs, and news about News Directors moving on. You can call the ND's old station and find out what people thought of the person. (Photogs are probably the most honest when it comes to this.) You might also beware of a manager who is working his way down the ladder, and who has made a lot of moves in a short period of time. Google the person as well; News Directors are often quoted for articles on things like news coverage, philosophy, etc.

You can also check those "moving on" listings on, find reporters and anchors who used to work at a station, and call those people. Trust me, they won't mind being honest about a place at which they no longer work.

These days, doing your homework on a market and a station is just as important as sending out the tapes. Take your time to do a lot of research; it can save you a major headache down the road.


Monday, March 12, 2012

Money can cloud the issue: what you can learn from Peyton Manning

First, we'll stipulate that Peyton Manning could work for a dollar. He really doesn't need to make any more money, so he is basically looking for what he considers the most important issues in choosing a new team. Call it the football version of "quality of life." If he wanted to take the offer worth the most money, he would simply get that nutty owner of the Redskins to open the vault.

His thought process is interesting. New York? The sports media there makes the White House press corps look like a bunch of softball reporters. Plus there's the dysfunctional locker room. Washington? Never wins and it's in the same division as his brother. Seattle? Never on TV. Denver? Probably too cold and snowy.

Which brings us to the news business. (Yes, it's another sports analogy.) You want to make it to "the show" and put on blinders until you get there. You look only at market size and money. When, in reality, you should be following Peyton Manning's strategy, considering quality of life.

I'm always amazed when new clients send me lists of markets in which they'd like to work. They've never been to any of these cities, but assume that because they are high on the list they must be good. Since I've traveled extensively in my life, I tell them there are places that are war zones, there are big markets where the product is laughable, there are companies that raise dysfunction to an art form. And there are cities that are horrible places to live and work.

As mentioned before, comfortable is the new black. When targeting new places to work, consider everything. While none of us share the same financial position as Manning, keep in mind that money cannot trump a bad situation, a bad location, or bad management.