Wednesday, September 19, 2012

FIDO isn't just a name for a dog

"We don’t have long-term memory. We use the short-term memory. We call it ‘FIDO’ - forget it and drive on."

-NY Giants cornerback Corey Webster 

My Giants certainly needed short term memory this past Sunday. They stunk up the joint in the first half. Eli Manning threw three interceptions and looked like a rookie.

Apparently the team called on Fido during halftime and pulled out a win. In the second half, the Giants looked like a completely different team. Manning ended up throwing for 510 yards. If you're not a football fan, know that 500 yard days have happened less than ten times in the entire history of the NFL.

Short term memory is something that is often in short supply when it comes to young journalists. I often get emails that sound like this: "I've had some great stories this week but I screwed up a live shot the other day and I know my News Director must be ticked about it."

Easy solution: go back in time and re-do your live shot. Shove Rod Taylor out of the time machine, go into the past, and fix it. Feel better?

Of course you can't do it because a: you can't go back in time and b: your live shot is gone to Pluto, bouncing around out there in space with Voyager.

So what can you do? Call on Fido. Here, boy, c'mon. I've got a bad memory for you to erase.

It's human nature to dwell on the bad and overlook the good, and I've had plenty of bosses who did that. But that doesn't mean you have to. We've all made mistakes, all screwed up live shots, all made errors in stories. Hell, the networks make them all the time. But that does not mean one mistake cancels out ten good things you've done.

If you make a mistake, you need to do two things: learn from it, then forget it.

Forget it and drive on.


Monday, September 17, 2012

If you don't ask, we can't tell

If you're a Harry Potter fan, you know that old Hogwarts rule about help being given to those who ask for it.

The same rule applies to most television newsrooms and most of the people who work in them.

If there's a common denominator among people who work in this business it's this: we're not shy when we're holding a microphone or a camera. But back in the newsroom it's often a different story, especially among young people. We might take no prisoners in the field, but turn into shy wallflowers back at the station.

You see this quite often with interns and rookies. There's always a gentle tap on the door or visit to your desk followed by, "I hope I'm not bothering you." When the kids have a question, they're often afraid to ask.

And if you don't ask, we can't tell you anything.

As my first News Director said, "The only stupid questions are the ones that aren't asked."

We don't expect you to know what IFB means, how chromakey walls work, how to put a reflector back in the sack, or why pointing a microwave at someone can do interesting things to that person's family tree. What we do expect is that you not go out into the field with knowing the answers to the questions you want to ask.

If you don't know how something works, ask. Don't try to figure things out yourself out in the field and have things go haywire. Trust me, most of the people in this business are happy to spend time with young people and help them understand how the business works. Most of us dinosaurs are flattered when some kid asks for help or advice.

I'm often amazed at the emails I get with questions prefaced by, "I know you're busy and hope I'm not wasting your time." Uh, the reason for this blog is to answer questions. Don't be shy, fire away.

I remember one intern who was trying to fax a document. She had never used a fax machine but didn't ask for help. Finally the recipient called the station and told us he was receiving a bunch of blank faxes. She had been putting the page in face up instead of face down. All she had to do was ask, "How does this fax machine work?" but she was afraid of looking dumb. Instead, she looked dumb for not asking.

Don't worry about looking stupid if you ask what you think is s stupid question. You'll look stupid if you try to do something without asking.