Monday, January 7, 2013

The daily backup plan

If you've been a reporter for any length of time and worked for different News Directors, you know the story assignment process is never the same. In some stations you're required to bring two or three story ideas to the morning meeting, in others you're simply handed your assignment by a ND who is channeling a dictator.

But regardless, at some point you'll get an assignment that you simply don't want to do. It might be impossible to get video, ridiculously hard to set up, something with no news value, or something you find personally distasteful.

So you either complain or ask for something else.

And chances are you'll hear this. "You got something better?"

And if you don't, you're stuck with that loser of a story.

I've been on both sides of this argument. As a reporter, I learned real quick that I needed to have a bunch of story ideas in my pocket for days when I got handed an assignment that was a real dog. As a manager, I was always amazed that when I asked for "something better" I ususally heard, "I can find something."

Sorry, no time. So out you go to walk your dog.

Remember, the Assignment Editor is not your mother. In a perfect world, the AE is simply a logistical magician, one who pairs crews who like each other and makes sure they're not driving an hour out of their way for a v/o. But too many reporters rely on the desk to hand out assignments.

You're a reporter, so it's your job to find stories. The more you find, the easier your job will be. And the more you have in your back pocket, the less chance you'll get stuck walking the dog in tonight's newscast.


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