Stay in your lane! (huh?)

By: Mandy Mitchell

I am sure many of you have seen the video of the KRON sportscast floating around the internet the last few days. Even people who are not in the TV news business seem to be sharing it because it’s pretty much like watching a car wreck. (KRON has taken it down, but here is the story)

Let me first share my opinion of what happened here between the sports anchor and the news anchor on live television. This was ridiculous. Yeah- The sports guy said he was “playing,” but I am not sure what the viewer gets out of this. Keep the “jokes” for the newsroom or the commercial breaks. I actually found what he said pretty amusing, but it wasn’t the place for sure!

Screen-Shot-2016-05-23-at-8.13.59-AM

That opinion aside, I think there is really something we can learn from this incident. I got a tweet from my friend, and fabulous Phoenix producer, Kianey Carter. (Kianey also happens to be a contributor to this blog. You can read one of her great posts here). She asked “when is a sports story a news story and vice versa?”

I’ve actually spent a great deal of time thinking about this question and working with producers and management at my station to solve this issue.

I’ve seen far too many sports people who only focus on their 3 minutes in the D-Block. There is an attitude, and I’ve heard many a sports anchor say this, of being “out of sight, our of mind” as far as the newsroom goes. There is a tendency to hide out in the sports office and appear only when it’s time to anchor that 3 minutes. It’s like that chunk of the newscast is its own newscast. I wrote more about this in another blog post.

We need to do a better job of making the sportcast feel like more of a part of the newscast. That goes for sports anchors and news producers.

Sports people: Look at the rundown when you get to work. Is there something in there you were planning to run? Is there something that is NOT in there that you think should be a part of the newscast that the producer may have missed? Any new concussion news or domestic violence charge can be this kind of story.

Producers: If you are going to run a story that is about sports, just shoot the sports anchor a note. Our producers do this all the time now. For example, we all had a discussion about the two horses that died in races last week. That ended up running in news while sports focused strictly on the Preakness itself.

I think the problem comes up a lot in the late newscast. If a story airs at 5pm and in the sportscast at 6, a producer may just drag it over from 5 like any other story. Try to think more about this and if the sports anchor may have an interest in airing the story.

If a story is big enough to be a “news story” there are likely enough elements to share. Let’s say a local college quarterback is arrested for DUI and he is suspended from the team.

News can air the details of the arrest and the DUI and tease ahead to the sports person who can then talk about what the suspension means to the team. Is this the kid’s first time in trouble? Is he in trouble a lot? Can you list the times? Will he be benched?

This is how news and sports can cover the same story without repeating information.

Bottom line—We are all on the same team and should NEVER act like we are competing for information when we are on the air, even if it is a “joke.”

 

There’s no “I” in News

Guest post
Patrick Quinn is a Sports Anchor/Reporter at WNCT in Greenville, NC. He’s been in the business 4 grueling yet priceless years, always looking to tell stories that transcend sports. Follow him on Twitter: @patrickwnct.

You hear it. “Last night, I told you about the story of.”

You see it. “So I decided to give it a shot.”

The news industry is being overtaken by the individual. Okay. That’s probably a little hyperbolic, but you get my point. More and more, I’m noticing on-air talent putting themselves before the station…and worse…putting themselves before the story.

Let this blog post be a friendly reminder to you and me that…IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU.

DISCLOSURE 1: I get that establishing your brand is important. As competitive as this industry is…you have to separate yourself, prove to your current and future employers why you…and not the other guy/gal…is right for the job.

DISCLOSURE 2: I get that personalizing your stories allows you to connect with the viewers and assists in making a story relevant to your audience. Please don’t confuse this point. The grandmother at home gets a lot out of you putting on that fire suit to showcase just how heavy it is. It’s one thing to say that a suit weighs 45 pounds. It’s another to show it.

So, yes. You are important to this industry. But you ARE NOT the most important.

I recently asked my News Director about this trend, and she echoed these observations saying that more and more reporters are doing stand-ups for packages that simply don’t require one. Unlike what many journalism schools are teaching, not every package requires a standup. Why do a standup of something that you can simply track? So next time, consider taking out your 15 second redundant standup for 15 seconds of information that furthers the story. Another colleague added…be a story teller, not a story maker. You are simply a bridge from your subject to your viewer.

But…back to you. Yes, while there is no ‘I’ in News (sorry, I’m a sports reporter and I’m actually surprised I’ve made it this long without throwing in a cheesy sports cliché)…the individual is instrumental to the success of this business.

You’ve got to be confident, motivated, and selfless. Please don’t sacrifice these traits. Our ability to enterprise stories, envision their impact, and then execute those stories with a one-two punch of news value and entertainment…that’s rare.

And the moment we forget that…that’s the moment our stories suffer…and so do our viewers. Just keep it all in perspective. Like my craft beer addiction, it’s about balance. Constantly ask yourself, ‘What’s the essence of this story?’, ‘How can I best tell it?’, ‘Does it need my personal narrative?’…and maybe most importantly, ‘Do I need to pack the selfie-stick?’

Your ego may take a hit…but maybe…just maybe…that’s okay.

My commencement speech

By: Mandy Mitchell

Since it is graduation season, I wanted to share with you some things I wish I knew while sitting in my chair at the University of Florida in 2003. Take this as a brief “commencement speech” for journalists if you will.

Ladies and gentlemen of the class of 2016….

You have likely spent your entire lives hearing about the “real world” and all that comes with that. I want to talk to you about what it means to step in to an actual TV newsroom for the first time.

For the first time in your 22 years, you won’t be working for grades. You may go days…months…a year without a manager telling you where you stand. It is up to you to do your own grading.

Seek constructive criticism from peers. Watch your stories and your newscasts after they have aired. Get better even if it feels like no one is watching and no one cares.

There is one person in your class who looks like the “sure bet.” She is the superstar student who is beautiful and has network hair. She will be working in pharmaceutical sales by 2018.

Meanwhile, there is a guy who was average at best. He spent more time drinking beer than paying attention to the news. He will be a top 25 anchor by 2018.

So much of this business is random and based on timing. Don’t get caught up in who is where and how fast they got there. I assure you, that stuff will not matter once you have spent a decade working in TV news. Learn to focus on your own journey and don’t keep score.

Your quality of life is far more important than what size market you are working in.

Don’t ever do work to win awards. Awards are nice, but they are not life-changing. Do work that makes you proud and makes a difference. If you do this, awards will follow.

The crap that happens in your first job will provide stories and funny moments for the rest of your career. Try not to let the lack of money and the awful gear get you down. You WILL laugh about it later and it will be a source of bonding with other journalists you will meet on your journey.

We have ALL been there.

No one owes you anything. This goes from the moment you enter the newsroom to the moment you leave. This is a business that literally starts over every single day. Don’t expect work you did yesterday to be remembered. What are you doing today?

Don’t be a jerk. Remember to smile often and don’t take yourself too seriously.

Good luck.

 

Study a story: Boyd Huppert

By: Mandy Mitchell

One of the best things we can do as reporters is to not only watch good work, but to study why it works so well.

Boyd Huppert of KARE 11 in Minneapolis is one of the best storytellers in the business. Here is his latest story in KARE’s series “The Land of 10,000 Stories.”

Click here to see story

I really enjoyed the creativity of starting with the many charges against Danny while showing the beautiful shots of the town. Why does this work? It quickly sets up the story: Guy who has seen trouble is now overcoming that trouble.

We often complain about having a great story and no time to tell it. I think you can use this technique to save a few seconds.

Notice the NAT sound of the birds. This always shows “quiet” without having to say it. If this is something you want to get across in a story, it’s important to get that sound. Work at it.

The writing is great. Says “road to freedom” while showing the guy driving on the road. “Bicycle and candy bar thief”…very conversational and shows you how young the crime started. “Innocence is not a word applied to Danny.”…This is the line of the PKG. Good way to tie it all together.

I thought the part about Danny going to Walmart was absolutely perfect. What a great use of a soundbite to illustrate a much larger part of the story.

What makes Boyd’s work great is the attention to detail and the lack of truly flowery writing. He chooses sound carefully and stays out of the way. I think that’s something we can all learn from.

Study a Story: Steve Hartman

 

 

 

Podcast Episode 2: A focus on writing

Today’s Podcast features WBTW morning anchor Rusty Ray. Rusty has been at the station for more than a decade as an anchor and also worked as a reporter for many years. He taught a class at Coastal Carolina University on writing and is the creator of the popular Twitter account “Tired TV terms”.

rusty picYou can listen here.

If you missed our first podcast, you can check it out here. We talked producing in episode 1 with WRAL producers Miranda Dotson and Stephanie Beck.

Ask for forgiveness, not permission

Kianey Carter is a producer with nearly a decade of experience. She’s worked in newsrooms in Fresno, Raleigh and now Phoenix while working just about every newscast possible. 

on-air-1185887

Ask for forgiveness, not permission. This is a message I learned from an anchor a few years into my young producing career. It is quite possibly the best advice I ever received.

As a young producer, I was eager to distinguish myself and show my worth. I worked on a 5 hour morning show and was always looking for ways to help make our show better and to not be repetitive. I would dream up ideas and then throw them out at planning meetings. Many times I got good feedback. Many times I was told no or to try and “cook” my idea more and go over it with my EP later.

After one of those meetings, I was really defeated. It seemed like all the other producers had these fantastic ideas that everyone loved and mine were just so-so.

My anchor, seeing me defeated, pulled me aside and asked “Why do you keep asking permission?” I looked at her puzzled and said “Isn’t that what I’m supposed to do?” She replied “yes and no” and then proceeded to tell me to be like Nike and “just do it.”

Later that week, I had an idea to help spruce up a segment. I planned it out on my rundown and the anchors, director and crew just went with it.

Lo and behold, it worked out and everyone liked it. No one made a big deal out of it, but recognized it was different and appreciated my creativity.

From that moment on, I realized I just have to trust my instincts and creativity.

Sometimes my ideas are great. Other times they’ve been flops.  This isn’t to say I just do whatever I want when I want. There are plenty of times when I’ve asked for help from my EP or director or fellow producer to fully “bake” an idea or see if my vision would truly work. For me this is the art of producing. It’s about collaborating with others on an idea to make your newscast stand out.

I was lucky to learn this lesson early in my career. You don’t have to always ask to do something.

You were hired because someone thought you were bright, intelligent, creative and would make a great asset to the team. Trust that person’s judgement and your own. If you have doubts or questions, ask. I’ve never been reprimanded for taking a chance on something. If my ND didn’t like something, they’ve always told me, but they’ve never asked me to stop trying. That’s the key. Don’t stop trying. More managers are willing to work with someone they see is trying to make their product better than someone who is just happy doing the same thing over and over.

Toolbox for recent Grads

By: Mandy Mitchell

graduation-1311237

It’s graduation time and a lot of J-School students are heading out into the “real world” for the first time. I wanted to create a post to get you ready for what’s ahead! If you are already in the biz, please pass this along to a newbie you know.

Here is a guide to dressing sharply and cost-effectively from WYFF Sports anchor Marc Dopher.

Here is a guide for the ladies from KWCH morning anchor Jenn Bates.

Alex Carrasquillo of WJCL details what it’s like to enter the newsroom for your first job as a producer.

Starting in a small market? (Who isn’t?) Check out this guide to a successful start from WBTW morning anchor, Rusty Ray.

Wondering how to survive on that low salary? Here are some tips.

Why enthusiasm matters

woo-hoo-x-jump-1432224

By: Mandy Mitchell

I was giving a talk to a high school journalism class recently when I got a question from one of the students. The young lady asked “what makes someone stand out in the TV news business? I don’t mean talent. I mean what makes someone different?”

Good question! I thought.

We’ve all been taught to focus on our resume reel and how the first ten seconds mean everything.

I thought about telling the girl how standing out early in your career is about “looking the part” and “having confidence.” (This is important, by the way, but that’s not how I answered)

After all of that went through my head, I answered “enthusiasm.” I kind of surprised myself with the answer, but the more I have thought about it, the more I believe it to be true.

You will eventually get a call from a news director who, not only liked your first ten seconds, but liked your entire reel.

You will get hired and you will go through the first few days of “training.” After that you will either blend in or you will bring enthusiasm and truly stand out.

It is very very easy to blend in in a busy newsroom. It’s easy to come in and produce your newscast without typos or fact errors. It’s easy to get a story in the morning meeting, go out and shoot it, do your live shots and go home.

What truly makes one stand out is enthusiasm. The people who do well are the ones constantly bringing ideas on how to improve the product.

The producers I have seen move up the quickest are the ones who are always looking for great cold opens. They are getting things pre-produced and looking for custom graphics. They are moving anchors around.

Reporters who get the best assignments are the ones who have a constant flow of story ideas. 

They want to do live shots. They want to be on the big stories. They pitch sweeps piece after sweeps piece.

The truly good ones are the people who never fall victim to the negativity of the newsroom. A newsroom has a funny way of sucking the enthusiasm out of anyone.

We all have bad days and even bad weeks. When you are going through those times find a way, even if it’s small, to spark your enthusiasm.

People tend to notice.