Friday, March 15, 2013

The "Hoosiers" factor

(re-posted by request)

If you've ever seen the Gene Hackman movie "Hoosiers" about a small town basketball team, you've gotten a subtle message about television news markets.

Toward the end of the film Hackman takes his team to the state championship. The day before the game he walks them around the court, takes out a tape measure and shows them that the basket is still ten feet high and a foul shot is still fifteen feet. It is the same, whether you're playing in a backyard or on the world's biggest stage.

The same holds true for television news. A package is a package, whether it is done in market 210 or at the network. In each case you still need good video, nat sound, strong writing and creative editing. Along with solid reporting skills, of course. Keep this in mind: I do EXACTLY the same stuff for the networks as I did when I was a rookie reporter.

So it makes me shake my head when so many young people think they have to start in a tiny market, or can only jump a certain number of markets for their second job. I'm not sure if college professors are telling kids they have to start really small, or if it is simply a myth that is so old it has become reality to some.

The truth: plenty of people have gotten their first jobs in New York or at the network. If you're talented, the sky's the limit. You have absolutely nothing to lose by sending your tape to any station. Limiting yourself to markets 100-210 can only set you back two years if you truly have talent. You may eventually end up in a small market, but you may not.

The same applies for a second job. If you can turn a package with the best of them, once again, take your best shot.

The rules of broadcast journalism don't change from market to market. I've seen great products in tiny markets and horrible ones in large markets. The business is getting younger, as veterans see the handwriting on the wall and bail out.

When someone tells you you have to start small, don't believe it. When you're told that maybe you can make it to market 50 in your second job, fuhgeddaboudit.

Talent knows no age or experience. If you've got it, aim high.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A job with no contract is worth its weight in gold

I'm seeing a trend recently. People who work in places that make them miserable get to the end of the contract and leave rather than sign another one to remain in the ninth circle of hell. They're taking a chance (though if they're talented, they're really not) that they'll land on their feet. Some move home while looking for work, others seek freelance gigs until they find something permanent.

And then I have a few clients working with no contract. They're more relaxed without  the noose around their neck, they have more flexibility when it comes to moving on. They're not going to face a "sign another contract or get the hell out" moment. I think of a line from a girl I knew who grew up on a ranch. "You ride a horse longer with loose reins." In other words, people without a contract might actually stay longer.

Contracts make things very tough on both parties. On the talent side, it seriously can hamper your options when wanting to move on. On the management side, you can either get stuck with someone you later discover you really don't want, or end up with an angry employee because you won't let that person stay when the contract runs out.

I can understand having contracts for anchors.  But signing reporters in their first or second job makes no sense. It didn't used to be this way, but for some reason companies now want to play hardball with kids right out of college.

That's why if you run into a job offer that comes without a a contract, you need to weigh it accordingly. It will give you unlimited options and incredible flexibility, not to mention the lack of stress.