Thursday, April 26, 2012

Versatility is the new black

Way back when, before consultants told News Directors that no one cares about sports, stations had fully staffed sports departments. A weekday guy, a weekend anchor, maybe even a morning show person.

Anyway, true story: We had someone local about to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. And back then, the ND thought nothing of sending crews across the country for stories like this. But in this case, he was stuck. Due to people moving on, etc. he was out of sports people and needed the one guy he had left to cover the newscasts. So he drops by my desk and says, "You're the only one in the news department who really knows baseball. Wanna go to Cooperstown?"

Hell, yeah!

So, because of my versatility (I had been a weekend sports anchor at a previous station) I got to go on a cool trip and do some really fun stories. Ernie Banks even stole my microphone during a standup.

After that, I was occasionally pressed into service when the sports department was shorthanded. Even got to cover Brett Favre's last college game. (This was before he was a diva.)

Point is, you can make yourself more valuable to both your current and future employers by both letting management know you're interested in certain things, like sports or weather. There will always come a day when vacations and illnesses and people leaving will leave a ND shorthanded. Then he'll remember that he has someone who can step in and pinch hit.

And with staffs being stretched these days, an extra talent on your resume can be the difference between getting the job and not getting it. If I'm a News Director and have two candidates that are dead even, and one knows how to do weather, I'm going to pick the one who is more versatile. It's like a baseball manager having a utility player who can play all the infield and outfield positions. Versatility in your staff gives you more flexibility.

If you're interested in something, learn as much as you can and let people know you're interested. It might be something that saves your current job or gets you a new one.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Note to my clients

Just a heads up that my business email account was compromised by some ne'er-do-wells in the UK looking for idiots to send them big checks.

Anyway, if you've tried to contact me in the past two weeks, your emails might have gotten lost, or you may have gotten one of those scammer emails in return, so please send me a note at

Sorry for any inconvenience.


Monday, April 23, 2012

The May 2012 Sweeps Ideas

Time once again to float some suggestions out there to the idea challenged. You've more than likely already been assigned to your sweeps pieces, but if you're still looking, we're happy to oblige with some last minute ideas. Or you might have been assigned a real dog of an package and hope to convince your News Director that you have something better.

Bear in mind that almost all successful sweeps pieces have one or more of the following elements: money, fear or sex. The theory being that your basic crash dummy viewer drinking a six pack in a barcalounger is only concerned with these three things. If you can combine all three, you've really got something special.

So, here goes:

"Secret Service": Wow, talk about timely. No, we're not talking about those guys who protect the president, but the, ahem, "services" provided by women of questionable character in your market. Nothing says sweeps like grainy nighttime video of streetwalkers in your own neighborhood. The horror! Viewers will be shocked that these people are right in their own backyard. Make sure you interview some highbrow snob who says, "I cannot believe I saw a... trollop... a few blocks from the garden club." And the promo possibilities are endless. (The New York Post won the headline battle this week with "Ho-Down"). If you can score a local politician doing an impression of Eliot Spitzer, you'll hit the ratings bonanza.

"Quit Smoking by Siphoning Gas": Hey, it's no secret with sky high gas prices that people are stealing the stuff. The old-fashioned siphon hose (sometimes known as an Arkansas credit card) is in vogue once again. Sucking the gasoline from someone else's car and then lighting up a cigarette to celebrate will save you the trouble of buying nicotine gum.

"Death Can Kill You": Remember, every good sweeps month should have at least one piece that leaves the viewers shuddering in fear. Last year we told viewers that the germs from your dish scrubbie and shopping cart handles would send you to a quick dirt nap. This year, the dangers of going to a wake with an open coffin. The guy in the box may have gone on to a better place but who knows what horrible germs or viruses he left behind that might still be crawling around on him despite the formaldehyde. He's dead, isn't he? You really wanna say the rosary a few inches away?

"Personalized Weather Alerts": Every station has those email alerts it sends to viewers when severe weather is on the horizon. Now, your station can take things a step farther with a personal alert using those cell phones that talk to you. Show viewers how they can sign up and have your main anchor record a personal message designed specifically for their situation. Who needs another email that might end up in the spam folder when you can hear your favorite anchor yell, "We're not in Kansas anymore!" or "Get the hell out of the trailer, now!" Viewers can also opt for that sultry female voice which comes with the phone for a standard message that says, "Your house is about to be relocated. Honey."

"Live Convenience Store Cams": Let's face it, those static shots around town from weather cams are pretty boring, especially for those crack-of-dawn morning shows. Dark empty streets, highways with little traffic. Now you can jazz up your morning show by letting the public know you'll be placing cameras in convenience stores in the worst parts of town. (What the hell, evening newscasts are loaded with convenience store crime video anyway.) Imagine you're a morning weather anchor, and instead of, "The traffic on the interstate is non-existent at four a-m" you can pique the viewers interest with, "Let's see who's staggering into the Sack 'n' Save on Main Street." Video of hungover partyers spilling coffee on themselves or bleary-eyed husbands in their pajamas looking for diapers is highly entertaining. And, if you're lucky, you might even catch a robbery in progress, thus saving one of your reporters from the trouble of finding a real story.

"How to Date a Supermodel": Basically a promotional piece with little substance. Simply assemble all the pictures of old, funny-looking millionaires with gorgeous women young enough to be their daughters on their arms. (Sorry, Anna Nicole.) Nothing new here, but every guy in your market will tune in hoping to learn the secret handshake.

"Teach Your New College Graduate Daughter How to Talk on the Phone": We all know teenage girls and college age women will give up their cell phones when you pry them from their cold, dead fingers. But in the real business world they may have to actually talk rather than text. In this piece, parents take daughters in caps and gowns directly to speech therapists who teach them how to use their vocal chords which have atrophied from years of non-use. Each grad will then be presented with a recording labeled "my first words."

"Guess the Political Affiliation of Your Favorite News Person": Since every reporter and anchor seems to be biased these days, your station should set up a "voting booth" in which viewers can decide if the on-camera talent bleeds blue or red. Any reporter whose "don't know" votes outnumber the others gets an award designating him as an actual journalist.