Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Tim Tebow effect: bias creeps into the sports department

What's the difference between Tim Tebow and Michael Vick?

Right now Tebow gets more bad press.

Let me get this straight: on the one hand, we have a guy who did sick, twisted things to animals and on the other hand we have a squeaky clean kid who wears his religion on his sleeve. And the latter gets hammered in the media?

Tebow is not alone as far as "nice" athletes who get ridiculed for their religious beliefs. Olympians Lolo Jones and Gabby Douglas have also been victims of criticism simply because they believe strongly in a higher power and don't mind telling the world. Jones has the audacity to add that she's a virgin.

Meanwhile, Michael Vick, the guy who went to prison, the guy voted this year in a Forbes Magazine poll as the most disliked athlete in America, is a recipient of gushing praise from sports reporters. As if that stuff with the dogs never ever happened.

Tebow? He has the second best selling NFL jersey behind that famous ne'er-do-well, Peyton Manning. So obviously some media people aren't on the same page as fans.

Yet in an era during which politicians will tap dance and "do the little side-step" on any question while getting a pass from reporters, people like Tebow are criticized for what basically amounts to one thing. Being honest.

It wasn't too long ago that the sports department was immune to political correctness. After 9/11, only sports reporters and anchors were "allowed" to wear American flag pins. But now it appears that bias and agenda have crept into the sports section.

Funny, but every football fan I know roots against the Eagles simply because Michael Vick plays for them. I even know a guy from Philly who wants the Eagles to lose or trade Vick because he can't stand the fact that a felon is quarterbacking his team. Of course, you never hear any of that from the media.

Tim Tebow is an easy target because he's not going to hit back.

Lots of professional athletes have causes as they try to be role models. Justin Tuck raises money for literacy. Tom Brady has an organization for people with disabilities. Drew Brees runs a foundation to help cancer patients. These guys have a cause and use their celebrity to promote it.

Why is that any different from Tebow's cause?

And when did being a good person become something to criticize?

If you want to hammer Tebow because half his passes look like wounded ducks, fine. But if you're going to slam the guy simply because he lives a lifestyle you don't agree with, you're not a real reporter. And you're just as bad as the biased journalists who give our business a bad name.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Things you need to know when considering an agent

Lately I'm hearing a recurring theme from clients who have signed with the wrong agent. They're getting pressured to take a job they don't want. And that means they've hired the wrong agent.

So let's back up a bit and take a look at rule number one when hiring an agent.

The agent works for you, not the other way around. The agent is your employee, not the other way around. Since you pay the agent for a service, you're the boss.

I've mentioned this golden rule before, but sometimes people can end up with the wrong agent for other reasons. If you don't ask the right questions, and if the agent doesn't ask you the right questions, you're headed for trouble.

What are the right questions? Well, let's look at a common scenario of an agent calling an on-camera person out of the blue:

Agent: "Hi, I'm an agent with the Acme Agency and I saw some of your work recently and was impressed. I'd like to sign you as client."

Red flag! Any agent who wants to sign you without talking to you and finding out about your goals is an agent you don't want. How can an agent possible know where you want to go without talking with you?

I like to call these kind of agents "volume agents" since they try to sign as many people as possible using the "more hooks in the water" strategy. When I was a manager I would often get huge boxes of tapes from agents with a note to the effect  of "Here are all my clients. Hope you like some of them."

That's not what a good agent does. A good agent knows your personality, your goals, your geographic preference, how much money you need, and what kind of job you want. A good agent does not take a perky anchor with a morning show personality and send that person's tape to openings for a hard news reporter. A bad agent sends you out for everything. A good agent calls me and says, "I heard you need a female co-anchor, and I've got a gal who I think fits the style you like."

Here's another scenario: Agent signs client, agent thinks he'll have client in a new job in no time, but no job offer materializes. Agent then gets frustrated since he hasn't gotten a commission after three months and tries to pressure client into taking anything.

Agent: "Hi, I've got a job offer for you!"

Client: "Great! What is it?"

Agent: "One man band in Indianapolis!"

Client: "Uh, I told you I hate the cold and I don't ever want to shoot my own video again. And I'm already in a sunbelt market that's bigger than Indianapolis."

Agent: "But this would be a great career move..."

Red flag! The agent (your employee) has done the exact opposite of what you asked.

This endless parade of red flags can easily be avoided in your first conversation with the agent. Since you're the employer, treat it like a job interview.

Questions your should ask:

-I'm interested in (location and type of job). Do you think you can find an appropriate opening?

-Can I have the phone numbers of some of your other clients?

-How do you approach News Directors? Do have have personal contacts or do you simply send tapes in response to openings?

-What's your background in the news business? How long have you been an agent?

-Is your fee negotiable? (Remember, your agent fee comes out of your gross salary, not your take home pay.)

-What salary can I realistically expect?

-What happens if I find a job on my own after signing with you? Do I still owe you a fee?

-If I'm not happy with your services, what are the terms of the contract if I want to end it?

Meanwhile, there are questions the agent should be asking you:

-What's your long-term goal?

-What type of job do you want, and what jobs do you not want?

-What kind of stories do you like to do?

-What parts of the country are you willing to move to?

-How much money do you want to make?

-What's important to you as far as lifestyle?

As for contracts, some agents have them, some operate on a handshake. As with any contract, have a lawyer look at it before signing.

Finally, don't get stars in your eyes because an agent called you. I've seen some of the most God-awful tapes submitted by "volume agents" that simply sign anyone who's breathing. Having an agent doesn't make you talented. You need to realize some of these people are simply out for the money and have no interest in anything else.

Or you.