Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Four Stories

One TV news employee claims there are really only four types of stories in TV newscasts. Might be a bit of an exaggeration, butsome of the satire rings true. Read here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

3D Football

It may look like the linebacker is crashing right through your screen. The NFL is planning a test of 3D technology.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Pulling Back the Curtain on Talk Radio

Former WTMJ News Director Dan Shelley has some critical observations.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

One Skill I Forgot to Tell You About

Walking backwards. Lenslinger Stewart Pittman explains.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Monday, November 10, 2008

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Newsrooms Could Learn From Obama

Gannett's Ted Mann says there are some lessons for newsrooms in how the Obama campaign used text messaging and iPhone applications.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I Wanna Be A Pundit!

OK, Jon Stewart is just toooooo funny.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Resume Tape Advice

What format should your resume "tape" be in? Here's some spot-on advice.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

TV News Job Losses Continue

The RTNDA news staffing survey shows these changes since January 1st, 2008:

  • 22.1 % of stations increased staff
  • 28.6% of stations decreased staff
  • 49.4% stayed the same

Researcher Bob Papper comments:

In an era of generally increasing TV news staff, those figures are comparatively depressing. Most years, the percentage of stations with increases would be 10 percent higher, and the percentage of stations with decreases would be at least 10 percent lower. This year, there were more layoffs than additions, far more people were cut than added, and some of those layoffs involved dozens of people at one time. In a number of cases, station cuts outside of news meant that the spared newspeople had to pick up the slack.

Stations that increased staff added an averageof 2.9 people (median 2); stations that cut dropped by an average 3.8 people (median 2). Subtracting gains from losses and projecting across all stations, local TV news, nationwide,has lost about 360 people since the first of the year.There are about 24,500 people who work full-time in local TV news.

Recession aside, news directors expect the remainder of the year to be far better.

Staff Changes Expected Over the Next Few Months

  • Staff Increase 17.9%
  • Staff Decrease 9.1%
  • Same 72.7%

While nearly three-quarters of the news directors expect no change in staff size, almost twice as many expect to add people as cut them.The industry-wide projection would be a net increase in TV newspeople of 151 through the remainder of the year.

It should be noted that these projections came before the financial meltdown of the past couple of weeks.

The full study is here.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Which Would You Give Up?

Young men say they would rather give up TV than the internet. Perhaps not too suprising. But this study shows that advertisers are still not embracing online.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Morning Meeting

Doug Drew talks about the Morning Meeting in today's Shoptalk newsletter:

One of the most important parts of a successful newscast occurs hours before the show. Maybe as much as 8 hours before the show! It's the morning meeting. A good morning meeting usually leads to interesting, content rich newscasts later in the day.

What to bring to the morning meeting

Each station organizes and formats it's morning meeting differently, but there is one thing all have in common: EVERYONE who attends should bring AT LEAST one story idea with them. Two is better, three is the best. You get the idea! And these should not be "pie in the sky" ideas. These should be stories you could turn today, for tonight's newscasts. Realistic stories that can be produced with the staff you have that day.

This is NOT a meeting where you sit and listen and write down lists of stories that will be covered that day as announced by the assignment editor. The BEST morning meetings are brainstorming sessions. You can't have a brainstorming session unless each person in the meeting shares ideas.

And don't clam up in disgust if no one in the room likes your idea. News people are hard to please and are often quick to shut down others' ideas. I don't know why that is, but it's true. Even if they don't have their own ideas, many news people are quick to criticize others. News people are naturally skeptical. So, don't give up easily if you get shot down, and if you aren't successful that's why you need a few other ideas. Also, don't expect to be able to do your idea THAT DAY. It may be a great story, but if it doesn't fit the mix of what's needed that day, maybe it's a story for another day.

Come in a good mood

The morning meeting should be fun. In fact, the best meetings start off with a general discussion of the hot topics. If it's a Monday morning, talk about what movies you saw over the weekend and ask others what they saw. If there was a big sporting event or concert over the weekend, talk about that event and if there are any follow ups. These kinds of topics get everyone "talking,'" and often lead to great ideas. If there was a concert, and you saw ticket scalpers standing outside, maybe there's a story about scalpers.

If you come to the meeting grumpy or unhappy, it brings others down. Come in with ideas that you are passionate about and sell them.


Another key to a successful morning meeting is if everyone is open and willing to discuss the ideas at hand. A quiet room does not produce good ideas. Don't be afraid to speak up. Share your thoughts. The news management will appreciate this. Even if you are just an intern. Pipe up! You are part of the demographic that station is trying to reach. Your ideas are important! Your ideas represent a portion of the audience that the news department is trying to reach.

So, what's expected?

It's pretty simple. If you ask most news directors what they'd like out of the people in the morning meeting they'd probably say:

People in a good mood
People who bring in story ideas
People who participate in the discussion
That's it. That's all it takes. If you currently attend the morning meetings, ask yourself if you can answer YES to all of those. And for people who don't normally come into the meeting because they are intimidated or just don't think it's important for them to be there, realize that those three things are all that's needed. If you can do those three things, news management would love to have you attend and the newscasts that day will be better because you were there!

Doug Drew is a morning news specialist who does reporter and producer seminars for 602 Communications. If you have an idea, suggestion or question, you can send them to Doug at ddrew@602communications, or send them along to me at Tom@TVSPY.COM.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Advice From the Inside

B-Roll.net is a sight primsarily for professional news photographers. One regular on the message boards there asked his colleagues to list the things they wish they had known in college about the business....and what advice could be given. Among the replies was this well-thought response from a poster called "newz2me":

1. You will not start out making $40,000 a year.

2. You will be working weekends and holdiays.

3. Try to make yourself stand out in the crowd and be confident but don't ever think you're God's gift to broadcasting and they can't do without you. No matter how good you are, you can be replaced.

4. A bad/snotty attitude will make for a big lonely newsroom for you.

5. There are people who have been doing this longer than you and know more than you. Listen to them and learn from any that are willing to teach you.

6. Understand that moving is part of this business especially early in your career. In order to make more money you need to move upward.

7. Market size doesn't always equal a better work environment or better equiptment or pay.

8. Thank God for the internet....Do a search on the ownership of the station you're looking at and try to determine if this is the place you want to go.

9. When going to personal interviews, look around the newsroom and see how the staff reacts. Are they calm/relaxed? What are the expressions on their faces? Do they look tired? If possible try to talk to a couple of them. What does the equipment look like(computers, cameras, studio)? Is the live truck 20 years old? Are they driving around in 10 year old rusted out Kias?

10. Your social life WILL suffer for a couple of years get used to it. However, you'll meet interesting people in the same boat as you and you will gain insight on life and maturity that you never expected.

11. Get used to covering the same story for days on end until you're sick of it.

12. Never trust consultants.
There's countless more but that's what floated to the top for now.

The rest of the posts are here, but I think this one is good enough to be thinking about for now.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Is It Any of Our Business?

The news about Cindy Palin's pregnant daughter is re-igniting discussion about what is fair game for reporters and bloggers...and what is not. Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass has a strong opinion. What do you think?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Getting a Job...or a Better Job

The photo at right is legendary former Chicago Bears Coach Mike Ditka.

There are coaches for broadcast journalists as well. Randy Tantano is one. And he writes what may be one of most useful blogs I've ever come across for TV news talent. His tvnewsgrapevine site is full of tips on how to get that first job, building a resume tape, acing the job interview, etc. He also has strategies for those moving up in the biz...things like negotiating a contract, when to use an agent, how to get ahead in the politics of the newsroom.

I suggest you read the archives. This is some good stuff!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

"Patronizing" and "Mind Boggling"

That's what PBS's ombudsman says about the decision by The Newshour with Jim Lehrer to not run a piece about John Edwards' infidelity confession. Here's the explanation. What do you think?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

TV News: The Tampa Rays or The New York Yankees?

Here are some interesting thoughts from Fred Young of Hearst-Argyle Television on the future of TV News. He uses the analogy of the two baseball teams' payrolls to explain what is happening within newsrooms right now.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Local TV News Has A Death Wish?

TV Consultant Dick Kirlander thinks so:

The death wish is most evident when actually watching a half-hour newscast. Local news is generally defined as crime, car crashes, minor house fires and endless weather hype. It's as if every day is a blank slate on the assignment desk. Whatever is easiest to cover with no real effort or manpower investment is today's news.

Read his full letter to the editor at tvnewsday here.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Lee and Gatehouse Struggling

The parent companies of most of Southern Illinois' newspaper properties are struggling with hard economic times and crushing debt. Lee Newspapers owns the Southern Illinoisan, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and about 50 0thers. Lee lost $713 million last quarter. It's stock price is down to $4 from $20 a year ago.

Gatehouse owns over 500 newspapers, including almost all of the smaller dailies and weeklies in Southern Illinois (Marion, West Frankfort, Benton, Murphysboro, Harrisburg, DuQuoin and several more). Gatehouse's stock has plunged 85 percent since last April.

More from the San Diego Reader.

What's the future of print journalism? I wish I knew.

Friday, July 4, 2008

45 Words

It's the foundation of what we do for a living. Moreover, the words of the First Amendment to the Constitution express the principles that defined our country from so many others...and still do today.

Have you read those words lately?

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Happy Independence Day!

Thursday, July 3, 2008


From Tampa comes word that the photo staffs of the Tampa Tribune and WFLA-TV will be merged. Photogs will have to reapply for their jobs. The story comes from St. Petersburg Times media critic Eric Deggans.

We'll be seeing more of this.

$38 Million a Year

Whether you love him or hate him, you have to admire the talent of Rush Limbaugh. For 20 years now Limbaugh has been the undisputed gorilla of talk radio. His new contract will pay him a base of $38 million dollars a year, not including signing bonuses, merchandise, and additional ad revenue.

Limbaugh is not only an accomplished broadcaster, but also a powerful influence on our political system.

The New York Times Magazine has this rare candid conversation with "el Rushbo."

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Audio Recorder the Size of a Pack of Juicy Fruit

I love my little Olympus WS-310M (the WS--311M is the current model) digital voice recorder. It captures high quality audio in the WMA format for radio or online audio pieces. I can also download MP3 files into it, so it serves as my poor man's Ipod for traveling. The battery case pulls off, revealing a USB plug for direct connection to your desktop or laptop computer.

Some editing programs will not natively edit the WMA format, so you have to convert the files (I use a shareware program called Switch to do this). But higher end editing tools like Adobe Audition will import the files directly. Audio purists might not like that there is no way to control the record level manually, only the built-in ALC. But
I find that to almost never be a problem for interviews or nat sound.

One weakness...the battery door falls off easily. So, I keep a rubber band wrapped around mine.

Thanks to Mindy McAdams for recommending this particular recorder. As you can see from this week's New York Times photo, it has become popular with journalists on the campaign trail.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Spanning the Globe

Today we pause from summer vacation to honor the memory of Jim McKay, a pioneering sports television journalist. McKay was best known for hosting Olympic Games coverage and for the long-running ABC's Wide World of Sports.

McKay won a dozen Emmys for his sports coverage, but also won a news coverage Emmy for his masterful anchoring of the coverage of terrorism at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Update: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Brian Burwell has this insightful column on McKay's legacy.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

A Fountain of Knowledge

Roosevelt University Professor John Fountain was the guest speaker in my RT 430 class on Friday. He showed examples from his reporting work for the New York Times, Washington Post, and Chicago Tribune.

Fountain reminded us that a journalist's first obligation is to report the truth.

It was a good way to end the semester with some thoughts to ponder.

Celebrating Excellence

Sorry i haven't posted here in a while. Between the National Association of Broadcasters Convention, visits by candidates for Dean, and the end of the semester chaos, I just haven't made the time.

We had a very nice Radio Television Department Awards Ceremony the other night. Students were honored for their award-winning projects or scholarships. Students of the year were also named in each specialization.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Connected Generation Not So Connected

Journalism Profession Ted Gup has this commentary about what his students DON'T know.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Live Shot Philosophy

Is it the process...or the product? TV Sports Photog El-Guapo has some musings worthy of Marshall McLuhan

Thursday, March 13, 2008

You're Listening to the World News Roundup

A tip of the hat to the CBS World News Roundup, now on the radio for 70 years.

Rant Mode On

So, I'm watching the 10 pm newscast on WSIL-TV 3. Their fourth story tonight begins...."We're learning more t0night about the call girl at the center of the prostitution scandal involving New York Governor Elliot Spitzer..."

Excuse me?

This is the fourth most important story for the Southern Illinois viewing audience?

Keep in mind the Spitzer story first broke four days earlier.

I realize there is interest in such scandals. But until TV news makes an effort to be more relevant to viewers' everyday lives, audience interest will continue to wane.

I'm not trying to skewer channel 3...I'm sure plenty of other stations were doing the same thing.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

This Job is Cr*p!

A political reporter's job is not glamorous.

Monday, March 3, 2008

What Exactly Are They Selling?

Billboard for the Fox Business Channel

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Hearing the Bad News From a Reporter

Here's one of the situations you hate as a reporter or a news manager. Unfortunately, it can happen to the most conscientious journalist.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Cookie cutter...parodies

Broadcasting and Cable magazine has some doubts about the future of TV news, if the present course continues.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Boys(and Girls) on the Bus

One of my favorite books is Timothy Crouse's The Boys on the Bus. It's about traveling with the candidates during the 1972 presidential campaign. CBS's traveling journalists have posted a video of some of the memorable moments from the current campaign.

By the way, if you're interested in the Crouse book from '72, here's an Amazon link.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

More on staging

We've linked before to veteran photojournallist Rick Portier. Rick has some thoughts about the accused staging incident talked about below. But I especially like this paragraph:

News is news, just like it happens. It ain't always pretty. It ain't always like we like it. But it's gotta be real. Creating an "impromptu" memorial wall is just as bad a carrying around accident debris in your trunk to scatter at your next accident vo. (Don't laugh, I know a stringer who did it.)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Fake Shrine?

In Mobile, AL there's controversy over whether a TV reporter staged a scene involving a shrine to four dead kids. By the way, Mike McCormick, the news director quoted in the story, is an SIU grad.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The National Association of Broadcaster is pressing the U.S. Senate to move on implementing a national shield law for journalists.

Obama Media

Interesting insight on how Barack Obama is handling the traveling press.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

When You're on TV, Your Mistakes Are Public

ESPN's Dana Jacobson has been benched for some remarks made at a roast. Was alcohol involved??? No matter. Your actions are under the microscope when you choose a high profile career.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Not an Old-Boy's Club Anymore

Mark Schwed of the Palm Beach Post points out how the gender balance has changed in the coverage of Presidential elections.

Eavesdropping on Katie

Wanna see behind the scenes as a big-time anchor does primary election night coverage? Here's Katie Couric between live shots. This is pretty typical banter off-air...but still fun to listen in on.