Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Mailbag: Is there a common denominator?


I've got about five years experience as a reporter. I've won numerous awards, always get the lead story, and I'm an old school reporter. I'm about to start sending tapes to big markets and networks.

Since you work with network people I was wondering if you've noticed some common denominator in the reporters you've worked with. Are they all that much more talented than the rest of us?

Good question, but the answer, for the most part, is "it depends." (Sorry, I know that's not what you were hoping for.)

A good package is a good package, no matter what the market or network. There are great stories being knocked out by people in small markets and horrible ones in big markets.

The people I work with are very talented. (Although there's one person out there who makes the crew roll its collective eyes and wonder, "How the hell did this person get the job?) And I can't stress this enough... the network people are predominantly team players and bury the ego out in the field.

Yes, there are people out there who got their jobs through connections, or they fit the right demographic. But for the most part, the talent is there. The stars may or may not align for you... it doesn't make you any less of a great reporter.

Dear Grapevine,

Should I wait till the end of May sweeps to send tapes? I've heard News Directors don't bother looking at stuff till sweeps are over.

Send 'em now. They're more than likely to get lost in the giant stack after sweeps. And some NDs will look at tapes that trickle in since it's just a few minutes out of their day.

Hi Grape,

Just curious what non-news television shows you watch.

Well, I watch too much TV but my tastes are often satisfied by shows with clever writing and lots of plot twists. Here are my current favorites:

Castle: Great writing and chemistry, and the best unresolved sexual tension since Moonlighting.

Justified: Terrific characters, always one hilarious scene involving an idiot criminal.

Revenge: I'm Sicilian, so I was naturally drawn toward this one.

Big Bang Theory: A natural since I'm obsessed with Star Trek.

Blue Bloods: Great New York stories with accents that aren't faked for the most part.

Smash: Terrific choreography. It always amazes me how people come up with dance routines like they do.

Burn Notice: Great characters and plot twists.

White Collar: Love the antiheroes in this one, and Mozzie is one of the best characters on television.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Mental health days: The care and feeding of a muse

Back in the day I had a News Director who realized creative people get burned out every so often. I don't mean burned out to the extent you change careers; but when you have to get creative every single day, eventually your muse goes into vapor lock and needs a lounge chair and a drink with an umbrella in it.

Anyway, every two weeks or so you'd either get a day off the street to work on something special or you'd get assigned to what we called "v-o patrol." The desk would give one reporter and photog all the voiceovers and vo/sots to pick up. Still work, yes, but without really having to bother the muse. The next day it seemed you'd always knock out a great package.

I don't expect News Directors to do this anymore, not with skeleton crew staffs and newscasts that are longer than Gone With The Wind. So you'll have to do this yourself off the clock. Remember, the muse wants what the muse wants. And every once in awhile, the muse wants some time off.

As Captain Kirk once said, the more complex the mind, the greater the need for simplicity of play. (I'm assuming anyone in this business has a complex mind. Except, of course, for the beancounters.) Anyway, when you're off the clock, give your brain a short vacation. Do something mindless. It might be in vogue to watch a deep, meaningful movie that makes you think, but that's not what you want. You want something in which you don't have to think. You want The Hangover, not The Descendants. Something that takes your brain out for an airing. You want to play spider solitaire, to play with the cat. The key word here is "play."

While you can't phone it in, your muse can. The care and feeding of a muse is a delicate proposition. Don't take it lightly.