Saturday, December 1, 2012

Buy a book, get a critique

Okay, class, time once again to support my fiction habit and in the process get some feedback on your career.

Here's my latest, a young adult novel called "Destiny's Hourglass" about a kid who can control the future. (Sorry, he can't find you a job.) If you've been going through Harry Potter withdrawal, or know a kid who is, this might be the perfect Christmas gift.

Same deal as before: buy a book, send a copy of the receipt (screen grab or whatever) to tvnewsgrapevine@gmail.com and I'll critique one package or one anchor segment free. Buy two books, double the freebies, etc. This applies to both paperbacks and e-books.

This one's only available on Amazon:



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Friday, November 30, 2012

Top ten mistakes people make when looking for a job

Hindsight is always 20-20. Over the years there have been plenty of times I've looked back and said to myself, "Why didn't I see that?" or "How did I miss that in the contract?"

So you need 20-20 foresight when dealing with management, especially when you're about to sign with someone new. Remember, any deal you take is always in management's favor, even though you may think it isn't. But you can make it a more level playing field with 20-20 foresight. It's your own little time machine designed to help you avoid problems in the future.

1. Have a lawyer read your contract. More people get screwed by the fine print in contracts than by everything else combined.

2. Remember that everything is negotiable. You may hear "We don't give outs" or "Everyone signs a three year contract" but that doesn't mean anything. Every person's situation is mutually exclusive.

3. Do your homework. Find out all you can about the ND, the station, the staff. Watch the product online before you send a tape. Track down former employees and contact them.

4. Make sure you're clear on EVERYTHING before signing. When do the health benefits start? Will you pay moving expenses? Do I get a hair and clothing allowance? Will you put me up in a hotel while I look for a place to live? Remember, you've got one chance to sign a contract, so make sure everything you want is in it.

5. Ditch the rose-colored glasses. Yes, you desperately want to get the hell out of Dodge, but taking anything can often land you in a bad situation. If you hear a lot of bad things about a station, just keep in mind that where there's smoke, there's fire.

6. Be clear on the job description. If you're applying for a reporter job and you hear, "You might have to produce once in awhile," run like hell. That's a classic bait and switch and you'll probably end up as a full time producer with no way to make a new tape.

7. Don't be afraid to ask for more, but do so politely. You don't have to take the first offer, because, it's just that, an offer. If you'd like more money, a shorter contract, etc. don't be shy. However, if you're looking for your first job, your bargaining position is pretty limited.

8. Don't sign a three year deal for a first job. Just don't. Please.

9. Consider the shift, especially if the job is for the morning show. If you're a night person like I am, trust me, the morning shift will kill you. And keep in mind that morning show reporter is the worst job in television because you rarely get to do stories of substance.

10. Make sure the job is one that will help you reach your ultimate goal. Think long term, not short term instant gratification.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Jedi Mind Tricks; It's not a coincidence if your contract ends this week

It's been a long standing belief that the hardest time to find a job in this business is in December. November sweeps have just ended, the holidays are coming up, people are taking vacations, the staff is a skeleton crew for a few weeks.

Naturally, if you're a News Director, you want the contracts for your people to end in November because it makes it that much harder for them to leave.

It used to be that no one got hired during sweeps, but that seems to have changed. I had three clients gets jobs this month, and the same happened last year.

Still, it pains me when I hear from people with contracts that run out on November 30th. You may say, "Well, that's probably because that's when they started, right?"

Uh, no. Once again, grasshopper, these aren't the droids you're looking for.

Here's the latest Jedi Mind Trick from those ne'er-do-wells who come up with these devious tactics. People are getting hired in the middle of summer yet getting contracts that run for very odd lengths of time. Like two years and four months. Curiously, these odd contracts all seem to magically end on the last day of November.

Since most News Directors like their new people to start before sweeps, this hampers their efforts to hire you. The end result is that you've gotten interest on your tape, but the timing is off. You end up being stuck, perhaps signing another contract (which will no doubt end on the same date) with a station you want to leave.

Beware of contracts with unusual lengths, and always pay attention to the end date. While the end of February or May sweeps is not a problem, the end of November is. If you sign one of these, you could be staying a lot longer than the length of the contract simply because of the timing.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Most arguments aren't worth having

If you're like me, and like most people in this business, you're passionate about what you do. You care deeply about the stuff you put on the air, especially if it has your name on it. And sometimes you end up in a disagreement over how to cover a story or what to put into it.

Over the years I've gotten into plenty of arguments over story coverage. We all have. And in most cases, reporters lose the argument to management. Looking back, it's hard for me to remember the stories I argued about.

In fact the only valid argument I can think of was when we once had solid information about a Presidential candidate that would effectively kill his campaign, and management killed the story. Had our info been about a candidate in another party, the outcome might have been different. That one was worth the argument, even though I lost.

In the grand scheme of things, you have to take a step back before making your case. Is the argument worth it, and will it do irreparable harm to your relationship with your boss? Do you have a snowball's chance in hell of winning the argument anyway, even if you effectively make your point? And finally, is the story that important that anyone will remember it a few days from now?

Remember, most stories are "gone to Pluto" the minute they air. Unless you're doing something major, you need to pick your battles, because when you take on management, the point spread is always in their favor before the game even starts. And you could end up in the doghouse for quite awhile.

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