• Manager? or Leader?

    November 25th, 2008

    Are you a manager or a leader?  As we slog through this unprecedented tsunami in the broadcast business, it is time to ask yourself that question.

    I believe, now more than ever, it is time for leadership not management.  Managers keep things running, set schedules, and do all those mechanical tasks at a TV station.

    Leaders inspire, constantly communicate, and make everyone on the staff feel like “insiders.”  I have never seen so many nervous employees as I have in the past month.  Every day there are stories of layoffs and buy-outs, made worse by a roller-coaster stock market wreaking havoc with your employee's 401K's.  I have witnessed numerous anchors, reporters and producers saying, “Hey my contract is up in a few months, and I'm worried about getting renewed.”

    I have never seen so many distracted news directors.  Yes, these are tough times for those of you in the corner office, but you simply must make time every day to get involved in the news product, and to talk with your scared employees.  They need to hear your vision for moving forward.

    These times are when leaders emerge, and managers retreat.  Your employees are looking for a good word, a sense that we will get through this, and that they just need to hunker down and put out the best product every day so you can earn better ratings to grab those dollars as we re-emerge from this mess.

    They need your leadership to understand that the industry is rapidly changing, and if they really want to be valuable employee – then they must embrace multi-tasking.  Clearly explain the changing way news is delivered, and help them learn how to be part of this revolution.

    Are you stepping up?

    Jim

     

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  • Pooling Video? Great Idea!

    November 14th, 2008

    I’m sure that the news today that NBC and Fox have agreed to create an entity to shoot pool video in several markets has sent shockwaves through newsrooms across the country.  But I say take a deep breath, step back a bit and take a global view – and you’ll agree with me that this is a great idea.

    Is it really necessary for every station in a market to send a videographer to shoot the mayor’s ribbon cutting ceremony?   How does this give you a strategic advantage?   How does this set you apart from the competition?

    Take a look at your assignment board right now.  What percentage of your videographer resources is tied up in shooting photo ops?   One-half?   One-third?   Couldn’t you better utilize these crews for enterprise stories that will more directly affect your viewers and set you apart from the competition?

    All the assignment editors in your market could hold a daily conference call to divvy up the pool shoots for the next day.  You could also cover overnight news the same way.  Station A has the overnight beat today, station B tomorrow etc.

    Your producer will still write the VO copy in your own news style, and your editor will pick the video to be used.  It will be no different than what viewers will see in everyone’s newscast tonight from these photo ops.  The coverage will be similar but slightly different.

    Yes, there is the concern that your ownership group may take advantage of the pooling arrangement to cut back on your videopgraphy staff.  But at the same time they could make that decision today in these turbulent times without a pool deal.  If more cutbacks did occur, having a pool arrangement will allow you to better utilize your remaining resources.

    If I were a news director right now – I would be on the phone today trying to make this happen with my fellow ND’s.  What about you?

    What do you think about this idea?   Send me a comment and let me know.

    Jim

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  • Pooling Video? Great Idea!

    November 14th, 2008

    I assume that the news today that NBC and Fox are forming an entity to pool news video in a number of their markets sent shockwaves through newsrooms everywhere.  I say step back, take a deep breath and a global view – and you will agree with me that this is a great idea.

    Why should every TV station in the market shoot video of the ribbon cutting, the charity event, the shovels turning dirt for a new building?  What is the competitive advantage?   I believe it is a waste of resources.

    Take a look at your assignment board right now.  What percentage of your videographers are out shooting a photo op?    One-half?   One-third?   Think of the wasted time, manpower and gasoline for every station in town to be shooting the mayor's ribbon cutting today?

    Why not pool that coverage with every station in the market?  Your producer will still write the copy for the VO in your own style, and your editor will pick the shots.   So, just like it is without pool coverage today – your story will be similar but different to the competition's.

    All the assignment managers in a market could have a daily conference call to plan pool shoots for the next day.  You could divide up overnight coverage too.  Station A is on tonight, station B takes tomorrow night etc.  This will allow your crews to spend more time doing reports that are exclusive to your station and are much more important to your viewers.

    Yes, there is the danger that group ownership may decide that this kind of arrangement can allow them to cut some resources.  But, in today's economy, they could decide to do that without a pool arrangement.   And, if they do make more cuts, a pool arrangement allows you to use your remaining crews much more efficiently.

    If I were a news directory right now, I'd be on the phone today with my fellow ND's trying to talk them into such a pool agreement.  What about you?   Do you agree or disagree with my idea?  Let me know.

    Jim

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  • Pool Video? Great Idea!

    November 14th, 2008

    I'm sure that the news today that NBC and Fox have agreed to create an entity to shoot pool video in several markets has sent shockwaves through newsrooms across the country.  But I say take a deep breath, step back a bit and take a global view – and you'll agree with me that this is a great idea.

    Is it really necessary for every station in a market to send a videographer to shoot the mayor's ribbon cutting ceremony?   How does this give you a strategic advantage?   How does this set you apart from the competition?

    Take a look at your assignment board right now.  What percentage of your videographer resources is tied up in shooting photo ops?   One-half?   One-third?   Couldn't you better utilize these crews for enterprise stories that will more directly affect your viewers and set you apart from the competition?

    All the assignment editors in your market could hold a daily conference call to divvy up the pool shoots for the next day.  You could also cover overnight news the same way.  Station A has the overnight beat today, station B tomorrow etc.

    Your producer will still write the VO copy in your own news style, and your editor will pick the video to be used.  It will be no different than what viewers will see in everyone's newscast tonight from these photo ops.  The coverage will be similar but slightly different.

    Yes, there is the concern that your ownership group may take advantage of the pooling arrangement to cut back on your videopgraphy staff.  But at the same time they could make that decision today in these turbulent times without a pool deal.  If more cutbacks did occur, having a pool arrangement will allow you to better utilize your remaining resources.

    If I were a news director right now – I would be on the phone today trying to make this happen with my fellow ND's.  What about you? 

    What do you think about this idea?   Send me a comment and let me know.

    Jim

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  • Road Warrior Intel #2

    November 10th, 2008

    This is the second in a series of observations and ideas gleaned from my weekly travels across the country…

    Economy, Economy, Economy.  I have been ranting about the need to focus on economic news in your newscasts for months.   I am happy to see that most every station in every market I visit has now put a laser focus on helping viewers survive the tough economic times.   It is clear that giving positive ideas in this “economic tsunami” will help drive ratings for your newscasts.

    Money 9-1-1.  WFLA in Tampa has put together a strong series of reports for the November sweeps  helping real familes get through their economic problems.  They identify a family's issues and then get advice from Today Show money expert Jean Chatzky.  They call the series of reports – Money 9-1-1.  Real People.  Real Problems.  Real Solutions.

    Adding Viewers To Your Content Team.   AR&D's Media 2.0 unit has been hammering away for a few years now on the need to add viewers to your newsgathering process through User Generated Content (UGC).  It is part of the transparency viewer's desire, and enriches your content.  As I travel around, I am pleased to see more and more newscasts incorporating UGC for daily weather pictures and video as well as for breaking news stories.  Many newscasts now invite viewer comments on news stories – and get the responses on the air before the end of the newscast.  A few anchors are inviting blogs from viewers and blogging back to them during the newscasts.  If you are not on that bandwagon – you better jump onboard soon or you will literally be left in the dust.

    Web Site Host.   Most stations try to send viewers to their web site during newscasts.  WNCN in Raleigh has moved a step beyond with MyNC.com on NBC17 with Page Crawford.  She appears in several newscasts a day with video clips to drive viewers from the newscast to the station's unique stand-alone web site that is filled with rich, hyper-local information specific to towns and counties in their DMA.

    You Question.   WCMH in Columbus is engaging viewers with a special franchise on air and the web called You Question.  We Get Answers.  Viewers and web users are invited to email, phone, twitter or text questions about issues in their neighborhoods and communities.  The station digs out the answers and puts them in newscasts and the web.  The response, in a few short weeks has been terrific.  

    See you on the road.

    Jim

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  • And the winner is….CNN

    November 5th, 2008

    I nearly wore out my remote control last night – zapping from one channel to another on an historic election night.  In the end – I felt that nationally CNN provided the best coverage and graphics support to win my vote as #1 on this night.

    Yeah, the hologram interviews were a bit hoky – I felt that I had been dropped into a Star Trek episode – but you also have to admit it was pretty cool at the same time.  But, CNN also had some excellent supporting graphics throughout the night as they clearly explained what was happening as Obama marched toward the electoral vote victory.

    CNN's virtual capitol graphic that showcased the battle to control congress was excellent – a great use of technology.  They also used the “magic map” graphic to convey clear information.

    But what really sealed the win for CNN was what they didn't say.  CNN wisely said nothing for some 10 minutes after Obama's excellent victory speech – literally taking us to the emotion of the moment from one end of the country to the other – with nothing but natural sound – letting the emotional pictures tell the story.  This was great television.  The tears streaming down the faces of Oprah and Jesse Jackson – and many others – told the story of the night.  No words were needed.  Meanwhile CNN's competitors felt compelled to talk, talk, talk over those same pictures – ruining the moment for me.

    NBC/MSNBC had some very cool graphics too – especially the spinning column that came out of the floor and allowed Ann Compton to literally walk around it.  Their virtual maps were nice too – but the commentary was weak.  The pictures were pretty – but NBC's analysis got lost along the way.

    Fox News Channel's Megyn Kelly did a very good job using the “launching pad” to add perspective to the voting through exit polling.  She had fun with it – I really like her energetic, upbeat style of reporting.

    ABC had some good moments – and used their Times Square location to good advantage.  CBS's Katie Couric looked lonely on election night.  While CNN, ABC, Fox and the others had seemingly a cast of thousands on their sets – CBS (and I must admit I watched very little of their coverage) had Katie and two other people.  While the other networks looked like they had spent millions of dollars for special (and very functional) news sets and graphics – CBS look old-school.  I'm sure the ratings will reflect that too.

    I didn't watch much of the local station's coverage in my hometown of Dallas – but it seemed adequate – but nothing special.  Some of my client stations provided some nice extra elements on the web and on air.

    The Fox station in Green Bay – WLUK – provided a streaming webcast all night that featured local political experts, one of their anchors, and their assignment manager.  Compared to the national cable channels it was a low tech effort – but the content was live and local all night – with plenty of interesting perspective and updates on the local races.  Nice work!

    Jim

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