Saturday, July 13, 2013

Sharknado copy

It occurs to me that with all the talk about the scientific possibility of a "sharknado" that stations need copy should this phenomenon occur. If you're gonna run a crawl about this, you can't simply wing it.

So here's a template you can use should the skies start raining sharks. And remember, there's a difference between a sharknado watch and a sharknado warning. A watch means conditions are favorable for a sharknado, while a warning means that flying hammerheads have been spotted in your area.


The National Sharknado Service has issued a sharknado watch for the following counties. (Insert counties and duration of watch here.) Sharknadoes can produce heavy rain, thumping music with gradually increasing speed, and flying sharks which may or may not include great whites. Should a sharknado occur you are advised to take cover, stay indoors and throw any raw steaks back in the freezer. If you are on the water in something less than a twenty foot watercraft, you're gonna need a bigger boat.


The National Sharknado Service has issued a sharknado warning for the following counties. (Insert counties and duration of watch here.) A sharknado has been spotted in (location) and is currently moving (speed and direction.) Sharknadoes produce heavy rain, flying sharks, cheesy movies, and Discovery Channel photographers busy collecting b-roll for Shark Week. During the first moments of any sharknado, a teenage bimbo will be eaten. During the middle of the sharknado, a push-the-envelope reporter stupid enough to stand on the beach will be swallowed during a live shot and Tweet from the shark's stomach. During the final moments of any sharknado, the biggest, baddest shark will either explode or be electrocuted.


Viewers can get immediate warning that a sharknado is imminent by signing up for an alert. When a sharknado watch or warning is issued we will send a thirty second clip of the theme from Jaws to your cell phone. If you don't take cover by the end of the clip you're already dead. Viewers who already use this as their ring tone will be doomed.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Another accident waiting to happen: reporters running their own live trucks

Every year I've run a warning about pushing the envelope during hurricane or storm coverage. A lot of people don't listen. Perhaps the sad fact that three storm chasers died recently might make managers and field crews put safety ahead of sensational coverage.

But there's another accident waiting to happen on the horizon. It's the disturbing trend of having reporters run their own live trucks. As if those who are one man bands don't have enough to do already, this will add another item to the list of duties. The problem is that this job requirement isn't an editorial one, but a technical one. And of all the dangerous things to do in this business, driving and operating a live truck is right near the top.

I was riding in a live truck many years ago when our mast clipped an underpass. Though bolted to the floor of the truck, it ripped those bolts right out of the floor and flew up between me and the photog so fast that we didn't realize what happened. Had either of our seats been directly in front of the mast, which was the case in our other truck, one of us would have been killed.

I worked with another photog who inadvertently put his mast up into a power line and was severely burned.

Driving live trucks is another story. I had to do it on many occasions, and always hated it because it was an unstable top-heavy vehicle. I had too many things to worry about while thinking about my story; don't drive through the tunnel because the clearance is too low, don't take turns too fast, don't go fast, period. While I never had to actually run a live truck, I know what goes into it. It's somewhat of an art, and, if you don't know what you're doing, it could be a deadly one.

So the beancounters out there who have come up with this crazy idea need to re-think it. Sure, you can save a salary by turning two man crews into one man bands, but you are putting way too much on a reporter's plate when you add live truck duties into the mix. I really hope I'm wrong, but I think it's only a matter of time before a reporter running his own truck gets seriously injured. While you're thinking about your story, what you'll say in your live shot, writing something for the web, Facebook, Twitter... your full attention cannot possibly be on operating something that absolutely requires your full attention.

If you're at a station that uses this practice, send out your tapes and get outta there. 

And if you're one of the people instituting this insane practice... you'd better be able to look yourself in the mirror when someone gets hurt. Or worse.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Top ten reasons your confidence is shot

Sometimes I think I should have taken a few psychology courses in college, since many questions these days have to do with the mindset of those working in newsrooms. Back in the day the young reporters were of the take-no-prisoners type, wannabe Woodward and Bernsteins who thought nothing was impossible and shrugged off criticism that wasn't valid.

Ah, but many of you are from the "everybody gets a trophy" generation, and if that's the case, you've recently discovered that you are not the center of the universe. You don't get a paycheck or a better job just for trying.

Look, I'm not Doctor Phil, but I've seen enough and heard enough to know what's causing such a lack of confidence that permeates the industry. When type A guys turn into the geeks on The Big Bang Theory or traffic-stopping women who could cut a man in half with a barroom death stare are reduced to shuddering lumps, there's a reason.

Guess what, much of it isn't your fault. (That should make those of you from the blameless society feel better.) Well, I said much of it. Part of it is your fault if you let outside factors chip away at your confidence.

So if you're feeling worthless lately, check this list and you might find the reason why.

1. Your News Director is a jerk. (Sure, there are more colorful terms I could use, and have used.) No matter what you do, you've done something wrong. Or your work is never good enough. Recognize this as an old ploy to keep your confidence down, make you afraid to send out resume tapes, and make an insecure News Director feel more superior. It might also make you feel you're not good enough to leave, and therefore sign another contract out of desperation.

2. You dwell on the past. You might have knocked out ten great packages in a row but that stumble during a live shot is making your forget all the good stuff you've done. (And if your ND is the type to harp on said mistakes, that takes your anxiety up a notch.)

3. You have no support system. This is typical of people in their first jobs. No parents to tell them how wonderful they are, close friends are thousands of miles away, and they're alone in a strange town. If you don't make friends with the people in the newsroom or get an objective veteran mentor, like an anchor, you're going to feel lost. Annnnddddd.... cue the insecurity.

4. News flash: Not all the people in the world are nice. Some are minions of the devil. The sooner you realize this, the better off you'll be. Many entry level people are shocked at how nasty co-workers can be. The smaller the market, the bigger the egos.

5. No response from your resume tapes. That doesn't necessarily mean your work isn't good. You may not have connected with the right ND.

6. You're assigned lousy stories, even though your bring great ideas to the table. (That doesn't mean you have to do a lousy job. If you're assigned a dog, figure out a way to impress people with the way you turned it into a great story.)

7. You're the newsroom whipping boy. Lousy assignments, the worst equipment, nasty remarks. Chances are the ND is hoping you'll quit by making you miserable. And if the ND isn't the one who hired you, this is pretty common.

8. You've been passed over more than once for a promotion. Doesn't mean you weren't the best person, you just weren't the person management wanted. If you're passed over twice, move on, because they'll never promote you.

9. You haven't turned a good package in awhile. And whose fault is that? A dysfunctional newsroom and a nasty ND don't prevent you from doing great work.

10.  You fail to consider the source of any criticism that isn't valid. So, the gal at the next desk who has less experience than you told you that your package was awful. Or your ND who has been fired from his last four jobs says you're worthless. When you accept criticism from people who don't have the credibility to dish it out, you're giving others the power over you.

Bottom line, suck it up and attack your job with a vengeance. Don't let others control your confidence. It comes from inside, not outside.