Friday, June 1, 2012

You ingrate! How dare you look for another job and try to leave this minimum wage ninth circle of hell!

In most businesses your last day at a job can be filled with parties, hugs and a big sendoff.

In television news, you may be unceremoniously escorted out the door (after all, you might say something negative about the station during a live shot) while someone dumps the contents of your desk into a box and drops it off on your doorstep during a thunderstorm.

Oh, and consider what you may have to go through to make a resume tape, sneaking into the building in the middle of the night, hanging by wires like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible while dodging infrared beams and a back door that records your every coming and going. (Don't forget the resume tape sniffing dogs that check your desk every once in awhile.)

It's silly, but for whatever reason it seems about half the News Directors and General Managers in this country think you're an ingrate if you a: try to improve yourself by looking for a better job, or b: actually get a better job and leave.  If you're the resident of a station that wants to keep you under a draconian contract on bread and water, you're probably wondering why the hell your managers are acting this way.

I've given my notice at several stations along the way, and the response goes one of two ways. "Get the hell out," or ,"best of luck, we'll really miss you."

Why is this so?

Let me explain the mentality (or lack thereof) of those managers who want to keep you locked up. They fall into several psychological categories:

-The green-with-envy manager: Got a manager who doesn't have much talent and has been stuck in said ninth circle of hell for awhile? Well, misery loves company, and if he's gotta shovel coal into the fire pit while getting poked with a pitchfork, so should you. You have a lot of talent? Don't be surprised that he knocks down your confidence with cutting remarks and constant negative feedback. If you don't think you're good enough to move on, you shouldn't even try.

-The hometown Palookaville cheerleader: Yes, your first job is in a market with two traffic lights in which a big night on the town is a trip to Wal-Mart on double coupon day. But your manager was born and raised there and cannot for the life of him understand why some kid from New Jersey doesn't want to stick around for the annual tractor pull. By leaving or trying to leave you're implying that his town isn't good enough.

-The revolving door stopper: Hey, it can be a pain to go through the hiring process as a manager. If you can keep people locked up with long contracts and rules against making resume tapes, you won't have to find new people.

-The tech-savvy revolving door stopper: I can't tell you how many clients I've had who need an act of Congress to make a dub. At some stations the archive process is so technically convoluted it would take an engineer from NASA to make a copy of your best stories. Trust me, that crazy archive system is designed to make it difficult for you to make a tape. These managers figure the best way to keep people from leaving is to make it impossible to make a tape.

-The old money beancounter: Yes, he makes plenty of money but will begrudge you even the slightest raise and is stuck in the belief that it is still 1982 and people can live on eighteen thousand dollars a year. Besides, he gets a bonus if he comes in under budget, and your leaving will make him spend some of said budget to find another person.

Get the picture? While moving on is part of this business, many managers simply don't understand it or don't want to deal with it. The news business is like baseball: you start in the low minor leagues and work your way up the ladder hoping to make it to the show. But that doesn't mean your managers will be cheering you on along the way. In many cases you have something they don't: ambition.

Got a guy who wishes you well when you move on? Count your blessings.

Otherwise, don't expect a brass band on your last day.


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Before you start applying for jobs, clean up your digital footprint

It's one thing to check references when you're trying to hire someone. It's another when you go on an Internet fishing expedition to see what you can dig up on a job applicant.

News Directors can be like Woodward and Bernstein when it comes to checking backgrounds. Yes, they can pay a few bucks to find out if you've got a lead foot and shouldn't be driving a live truck, or if you've got a police record. They can make you take a drug test.

But many times the most damaging things they can find are out there on the Internet.

If you've just graduated, now's the time to erase your wild party past and clean up your digital footprint.

Photos of you getting drunk at a frat house? Outta here.

Social networking sites talking about your drug use? Those had better be gone.

YouTube videos of you acting like a party animal? Erase.

Political or religious statements of any kind? Hit the delete button.

Bad language on a personal site? Clean it up.

News Directors want to hire adults for entry level positions, not college kids. They know that college is a place to let your hair down, but they don't want viewers to find out anything unprofessional about you. You may be the best candidate for a job, but if you come off looking like Charlie Sheen online, you're gonna have a hard time finding a job.


Sunday, May 27, 2012

The demise of newspapers represents a huge opportunity for local news

Maybe you caught this news the other day, maybe not. The daily newspaper in New Orleans, the strangely named New Orleans Times-Picayune, announced it will now only offer print editions three days per week. Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

The reason isn't as obvious as you think. Right away you know the Internet is the main culprit, and you'd be right. Throw in the higher cost of paper and ink. Then you've got gas prices... it costs a lot more to drive those newspaper delivery trucks. When I'm visiting New York it costs more to buy a Big Apple daily in Jersey or Connecticut than it does in Manhattan. Gas prices.

But the reason goes back to the early days of the Internet, and a meeting I attended many years ago. At that time a corporate guy was telling us to "drive viewers to the Internet." I'm sure print people heard the same thing. But all those corporate beancounters made one huge mistake. They made the product on the Internet free, assuming they'd make a ton of money off advertising on the net. And once you start giving something away for free, you can't start charging for it. Advertising on the net never reached the level of print and broadcast. For proof, consider that GM recently pulled its ads from Facebook, saying they weren't effective. For more proof, think about how many times you actually click on internet ads.

Now let's consider my late mom, who loved her daily newspaper. First, she had no interest in using a computer in her eighties, so letting her read the paper that way was out. So we had a print subscription to USA Today, which amazingly made it into our mailbox the same day it was printed.

I used to have a print subscription to the New York papers, but they'd take several days to get here. When they started putting stuff online for free, I cancelled my subscription, and read them online every day to this day. Would I pay for an online subscription? Absolutely. But they've never required one.

So what does all this mean for local news? Well, in the case of New Orleans, it means a whole lot of people will wake up on Monday hungry for information who won't find it on their doorstep. It means a whole lot of seniors and people who cannot afford computers and Internet service will have to look for another way to get their news.

It means they'll turn on the television.

It means that Madison Avenue and Nielsen now have to give more weight to people older than 49, because those people might not have a newspaper to read.

It means you had better beef up your newscast with different kinds of stories than most of you have been covering. Stories that really affect people, rather than scanner garbage. It means you consultants out there had better realize that the most-read section of any paper, the sports section, is gone, and that you'd better start adding to the sports coverage you've been dying to eliminate.

Does it mean longer newscasts? Maybe. Does it mean things like obituaries will now be run on a crawl at some point because locals can't find out till Wednesday that someone died on a Sunday? Possibly. Does it mean continuous news crawls all day long during soap operas? The possibilities are endless.

Newspapers have been in trouble for awhile, and television has one big factor that has kept us afloat. Political advertising. We all know for certain that will never go away. So while TV is not the golden goose it once was, it's in better shape than print. You can expect more papers to follow the lead of New Orleans.

But the bottom line is this: if people can't get their news from print, they'll look elsewhere. Radio news died a long time ago. And the Internet isn't for everyone.

So what's left? The answer is obvious. Local television news.

And if you (I'm lookin' at you, News Directors and consultants) are not seeing this as an opportunity, you're as short-sighted as those people years ago who put everything on the net for free.