Thursday, November 22, 2012

Black Friday book sale for starving journalists

Okay, you don't even have to get out of bed for this one.

Smashwords, the people who offer electronic downloads of my book, are offering 25 percent off on it thru Monday. The book is regularly $19.99, so for those who are math challenged that means you'll save five bucks. Help your career and have enough left over to buy a cup of overpriced coffee.

You can link to the page here, scroll down, and find the appropriate download:

Broadcast Journalism Street Smarts / Smashwords edition

Then enter ES34Z at checkout.

Meanwhile, Happy Thanksgiving!


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Who wrote this?

Those three words form the most common complaint I've heard from anchors over the years, and they usually follow something that makes said anchor look bad. Maybe the script is written awkwardly or not in the style the anchor prefers, maybe the facts are a little off. If you're an anchor who's said this, there is a simple solution.

Write the damn script yourself.

But before we get to the advantages of "writing the damn script yourself" we're going to explore the root of the problem.

"Stumbling anchor syndrome" is becoming a more common problem these days, and there are several reasons. (This also results in "rolling eyes anchor syndrome" which occurs during commercial breaks after an anchor has yelled, "Who wrote this?")

-Too many kids right out of college writings scripts. Yes, for some bizarre reason News Directors continue to put 22-year-olds in charge, and many of them are writing the scripts for anchors. Few young people can write well. (A lot of older people can't write either, for that matter, but for the most part experience does improve your skills.)

-Too many anchors still take two hour dinner breaks, then read their copy cold on the air, or after glancing at it once.

-Not very many people in this business can write well. Sadly, most of them are not writing anchor scripts.

-Anchors are not taking the lead in the production of the newscast.

Back to our original question. Everyone has a writing style, and it is a given that it is easier to read your own copy than that written by someone else. When you write your own copy, you're already reading it aloud in your head. You know what's coming, you know when you're turning a phrase, you know what tone to take, what inflection certain phrases need. When you write your own copy, you're less likely to make a mistake because you're more familiar with it; after all, it originated in your own head.

When you have someone else write your copy, you have no idea how they were reading it aloud in their own mind. They may have turned a phrase that you don't get, they may write a sentence that you interpret the wrong way.

If you're an anchor who either doesn't write copy or doesn't edit it before going on the air, you're asking for trouble. Trust me, writing your own stuff will improve your style and delivery, your stumbling will be minimized, and you'll get your information to the viewer in the way they can understand it.

And if you do it yourself, you won't be able to ask, "Who wrote this?"


Monday, November 19, 2012

Twinkie math: 80 percent of something is better than 100 percent of nothing

During the time I worked in my dad's store, I sold a lot of Hostess Twinkies. I'm proud to say that in eight years I never ate a single one of those things. For one, they were sickeningly sweet. But we also sold TastyKakes, which any kid from Philly knows is an off-the-charts great sugar fix.

So when the news broke that the Hostess Twinkie was gone forever, it didn't bother me a lick. If, for instance, news had broken that Ghirardelli was going to stop making chocolate, I'd simply check myself into an institution as a pre-emptive measure for the withdrawal that would be sure to come.

But I did feel bad for the 18,500 workers who lost their jobs. Once again, management and labor can't agree, nobody will budge, and everyone loses. I dare say a lot of those people would rather have a pay cut than no salary at all. Down the road someone will buy the company and relocate it to a place where they don't have to deal with unions, and 18,500 other people will have jobs cranking out junk food.

It's a great illustration of bargaining power in the current economy. If you're one of those people who faces a pay cut to keep your job, or you're thinking about playing hardball in your next contract negotiation, take a walk through the grocery story and look for a box of Twinkies. That could be you. You could be gone.

And if you're a long time "one market anchor" and think you can get a better deal elsewhere, you're really in for a shock. You may have been a big hit in one market because you've simply been there forever, but you're nobody in another market. New employers don't care if the people in Palookaville still like you, because you won't be in Palookaville anymore.

Think long and hard before playing hardball in any negotiation. Because unlike the managers who ran the Twinkie factory, broadcasting managers can always find someone else who will be thrilled to take your job at the salary you don't want.