A thumbs up goes a long way!

thumbs-up-1154101

By: Mandy Mitchell

TV news is a truly thankless job. In fact, it’s one of those jobs where you are more likely to hear what you did wrong than what you did right on any given day and we all know viewers are happy to e-mail in with helpful suggestions on what to do with you hair the next time you’re on TV!

That’s why it’s important to support your co-workers. If you see a live shot you loved, don’t just think to yourself “wow that was really creative,” go ahead and send her a note and let her know you were watching and appreciated the effort.

If you are in the field and the producer rocked it as far as making sure you stayed informed during breaking news, send him a note and tell him you really felt comfortable and appreciated the information in IFB.

I can remember every single note from a co-worker I’ve gotten in the last decade.

Not too many people take the time to do it. I get that. You are busy with YOUR story and YOUR deadline and you don’t often even see other stories. But you do see some and I guarantee you like some of the stuff you see.

So say it! Take the 30 seconds to say “loved the tie!”…”Great question in that press conference!”…”Wow that standup was great!”….”That story was so well shot!”

Praise from a boss is always nice, but praise from a peer can be even better. It also shows you are engaged in the product and not just focused on yourself. A thumbs up goes a long way!

 

Don’t simply build a wall

bricks

By: Mandy Mitchel

You may have heard some variation the simple story of three bricklayers in your life.

A man was walking along and saw three men laying bricks. He wanted to see what they were building, so he asked.
The first man said,  “They pay me to lay bricks, so I am laying bricks.”
The second man said, “I’m building a wall.”
The third man said, “I’m building a cathedral.”

You get the point. The first man is earning a paycheck while the third man sees the bigger picture. I’ve always heard this story to illustrate attitude and how a task can be viewed in very different ways through simple changes in how we look at that task.

I am currently reading the book Grit by Angela Duckworth (Highly recommended for those interested in achievement). She used this story to illustrate something else: Passion.

The second guy in this analogy is who most people in a newsroom can identify with.

He’s the guy who comes to the morning meeting with a solid story idea. He’s not all that excited about it, but it will be good enough for management and will likely be, at least a starting point, for the day. He knows he has to do the story and make slot because it’s part of “building the wall,” which in this case is the newscast. He comes in each day to build the wall and then goes home for the daily post-work beer which seems to get him ready for the next day and the next wall and so on and so on.

This will eventually get old. It’s fun to build a wall when you first start out. Eventually, 5…10 years down the road, it just feels like another wall.

The people who last in this business are the ones who identify with the third man.

He is the one who sees journalism as a calling. He is the one who finds story ideas that he truly believes in and fights to do them. He is the one who jumps at the chance for breaking news and wants to tell stories to inform and to help, not just to fill a spot in the newscast.

Does the third guy have bad days? Of course. But when he does he thinks about the bigger picture. He’s not just building wall after wall, he’s building a cathedral. He has a passion for the work that goes beyond the day.

If you don’t have this passion, this business likely won’t be worth it. You, like so many hardworking people I know, will do this for a decade or so and then get a “normal job.”

I don’t think you can force yourself to be the third guy. You either have the calling or you don’t. If you do, don’t ever lose sight of what you are really doing.

We have tremendous power every single day to create change, to inform and to hold the powerful accountable. We should never view a newscast as a “wall” simply to be built on a daily basis.

 

 

 

 

Criticism: What to keep and what to throw away

By: Mandy Mitchell

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I sent my reel to a pretty high up person at a pretty high up place recently. I am often seeking feedback and advice and I am always trying to get as many tips as possible about my work and how I can improve. I assure you, this is the only way you will get better. Other people see things you simply won’t.

This time, I got the e-mail reply back and I laughed. I won’t explain what it said, but in my 13 years in this business I have never heard this particular criticism of my work. I didn’t want to completely dismiss it, so I asked a few people I trust what they thought. They all laughed.

Sometimes you will get feedback like that. It’s ok to reply “thank you so much for your time. I appreciate your feedback,” and not think another second about it.

In fact, it’s important to learn to do that and learn when to do that.

10 years ago, I would have let this e-mail destroy me. The advice, and this particular person’s issue with my work, would have become a complete obsession. Obsessing over this issue would have caused me to neglect other things. It would have caused a lack of confidence and a real problem with my ability to be natural on the set.

This business is so incredibly subjective that sometimes you have to simply let advice go. You have to be yourself and you have to work with the gifts you are given. Know your strengths and know your weaknesses and learn to work around them.

I knew a reporter at one of my old stations who was ALWAYS told he just “looked too young.” He was told no one would ever hire someone who “looked like that.” Well, he found a niche. He became an incredible writer and used his looks.

One person’s “too young” is another person’s “quirky.”

Criticism in this business is one of the hardest things to deal with. This is not the first time I have written about this. You can check out another post about the subject here.

The biggest advice I can give you, and please do feel free to throw this out, is to not get too worked up about anything anyone says. That goes for the good stuff and for the bad stuff.

You may be told you have a magnificent voice. That may make you feel really good and really confident. Problem is, someone else could think your voice is “a little too deep…and distracting.” You may be told how very pretty you are. You just have that “face for tv.” Another person could see you as “not credible.”

You will ALWAYS find someone who can find something wrong with every single aspect of what you are doing on air.

Be you. Learn what “you” really is and learn to politely throw out the advice that won’t truly help.

Mailbag: I never have time to eat

mail

By: Mandy Mitchell

Q: I am an MMJ and I am constantly being sent out on several stories a day. Sometimes it gets to be 3pm and I haven’t eaten a thing and most of the time I forget to eat. I don’t even have time to stop through a drive thru. Is this normal? Do you have any tips for taking time to eat?

A: First of all, this is COMPLETELY NORMAL. I am betting anyone who has spent any time in the field knows all about the days when you “forget to eat.” It’s simply part of the job. I have eaten more meals in my car driving to assignments than I care to count.

The thing is, this is not really healthy. We need food and we need water. You have to make it a point to make sure you are getting food and water throughout the day. The best thing to do is to get a big cooler and fill it with snacks. Almonds, fruit, pretzels. Don’t have money? PB&J. Two PB&J’s! Buy a nice water bottle. Buy the kind that keeps the ice all day. Drink water and stay hydrated. Snack as you move from story to story.

You will likely, even as you move to the big markets, never get a chance to sit down and have a real lunch or dinner. You have to become good at eating on the run.

Happy snacking!

Hobbies outside of work

fitness-series-1-1467452

 

By: Mandy Mitchell

TV news tends to be the kind of business that is all-consuming. You can easily go from college to your first TV station and then your second TV station without ever unpacking a box at your apartment. Those of us who really love our work (the ones who love it enough to read a blog about it) are generally pretty obsessive about it. I don’t mean obsessed in a bad way, but I mean the work is always on your mind. You want to do great work so you don’t want to let a story idea slip by. You don’t want to let a big assignment go to someone else. You are constantly checking your e-mail and your news alerts. I get it. I do that too.

In order to do that really great work over a long period of time, you have to have an outlet. You have to find a place where you don’t bring your cell phone and where you are not thinking about the news. It’s very important to find a hobby that has absolutely nothing to do with anything else you do on a daily basis.

For me, that hobby is fitness. In my first market I really didn’t see the benefit of this as a “hobby.” I would go to the gym, but I would fit that gym visit into my day between assignments. I would shoot a story in the morning and force a gym visit before shooting a minor league baseball game at night. Working out was a chore. I didn’t use it as an escape. As I have gotten more experienced I have learned to make my workouts “my time.” I can’t tell you how much this has truly helped me in my job.

For one, it is the one thing I have complete and total control of every single day. I don’t control breaking news. I don’t control my coworkers work ethic or if my boss is in a bad mood. I do control how far I run or hard I work when I am at the gym.

Having control, even if it’s for a brief period of time every day, is important.

I am a big fan of audible and I listen to audio books while working out. It allows me to completely escape the news and it helps me to focus on something and not let my brain wander into thinking about work. When I am done with my workout, whether that be a run, the gym, a bike ride or a long hike, I am much more focused and ready for my day.

If I don’t take the time to “get away” on any given day, I can tell. I am tired. I get burned out and work stops being fun.

It may not feel like you have time for a hobby. It may feel like work needs to be all- consuming in order to “get ahead.” I encourage you to make the time for yourself. Find time to read a novel (not the news). Take time to watch a episode of a show on Netflix.

A daily mental escape is very important to doing this job and doing it well for a long period of time.