Nothing like two-a-days to get you in shape

You know things get serious in football when teams start with two-a-day practices to get in shape for the season. That means a practice in the morning and a practice in the afternoon. It builds stamina and gives team members something to look forward to: no more two-a-days.
Word on the street these days is that the reporters and producers down on the river have something to look forward to. Their news director who took over at the end of January requires reporters to turn two packages a day. I’m hearing that this move has inspired increased activity in the job hunting department among some folks. A shortage of producers means some are having to double up on the shows they crank out.
Cranking out two packages a day is standard operating procedure by reporters in some shops. It used to be the rule of thumb down on the river by a couple of previous news directors who wanted more product available for the newscasts. Both eventually backed off that requirement after complaints that quality suffered. Two-a-days actually teaches a couple of things. It makes reporters and videographers work faster as they attempt to meet the goal for quantity. The field teams learn to manage their time better and it’s harder for them to “hide” from the assignment desk,(not that this has ever happened in real life). Reporters and photographers tend to lose weight since they may not get time to eat lunch as they scramble to get their stories and that may help their health although the increase in stress may offset the gains. It also gives managers a chance to tell field crews to work “smarter not harder”. (Note to managers: those under you LOVE to hear that phrase…..NOT)
Some crews have less problems with this than others. Those most impacted by the two-a-days are the early morning reporters who, IMHO, traditionally get the shaft anyway. These folks roll in and may do multiple live shots during the morning show and depending on how “hands-on” the news managers may be, may not get their story assignments approved until 9:30 or 10 a.m. That means they may have to wait until they can get a videographer or they may not even be able to line up their interviews until the afternoon. It doesn’t take too many days of coming in at 4 a.m. and leaving at 3 or 4 p.m. for the grind to get old and for someone to begin re-evaluating career choices. Seeing the morning show anchors leave promptly at 12:35 and the frustration starts to mount quickly. A complaint to the managers may prompt a comment such as “if you want 9 to 5, go work in a bank.”
Producers eventually learn not to believe promises of help until the shadow of the additional worker actually falls across their desk. Even then that new person may end up taking over another show as illness or departures deplete the staff. They learn how to slap a show together. Just give ’em time for a smoke break.
Some enterprising folks may offer to work as a VJ or one man band if they only have to work one story a day. Some managers may take them up on the offer. Others know that the life of a news director is only about two years in many shops and they hope they can just hang on and outlast the ND. Still others will find that a kick in the rear is still a step forward.
But there is one positive note about this. When all is said and done, those in the newsroom will find they have done so much with so little for so long, that now they can do anything with nothing in no-time flat. Now, get out there and find some news, there are holes to fill in the newscasts.

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5 Comments on “Nothing like two-a-days to get you in shape”

  1. Average Guy Says:

    Well said from a reporter/producer perspective. From a management perspective, this business has changed. In the day of limited competition, one story was fine. In the day of TV having a monopoly on market revenue, more bodies for the sake of “quality” was justified. BUT, our business has changed. Not only do we have competition from the usual suspects but now we have internet sites, radio stations doing web casts, cable, satellite, etc — for that matter, newspaper is now doing video. From a management perspective, there are literally hundreds of hungry applicants for every on-air opening.

    A shop like WREG or WMC has a great benefit with the longevity of its staff. That benefit is also a detriment because it does breed a “around here” attitude and you do have people thinking they can out wait the latest management directive. Sometimes change is not only good but change is needed and frankly this change to leaner and meaner is needed. Being stuck in the past will not get most newsroom employees anywhere but the unemployement line. Our business has changed and we all need to change with it.

    The GM

  2. Joan Carr Says:

    Spoken like a GM, who apparently wants to remain anonymous. While it’s certainly true that “there are literally hundreds of hungry applicants for every on-air opening,” it’s not always true that those “hungry applicants” are qualified or can work as quickly and efficiently as “two a days” demand. And the attitude of “someone younger out there wants your job” really doesn’t apply well to producers. Let’s face it, the job calls for long irregular hours, hard work, low-pay and producers don’t get the ego boost of having their faces on T.V.
    News directors around the country are having a hard time filling those positions, but GMs insist that NDs should be able to hire cheaply. The result: producer jobs go unfilled for months, hell, even years, while other employees are rewarded for their loyalty by doing twice the work they were hired to do, driving many to look for work outside of television. Perhaps news departments should tap into the illegal immigrant labor force. After all, the President says those are the people who do the jobs Americans won’t do.

  3. Average Guy Says:

    I’ll concede your point on the value of producers. The “hundreds of appliants” are mainly for on-air positions. In my opinion, producers are the backbone of the news gathering effort and the toughest position to fill. Retaining a strong, talented producer is more important — in the long run — than recognizable talent.

    In regard to politics and the labor force, I didn’t bring that into it. All I suggested is that we understand that our business has changed much like our economy has changed. We compete with the world, not just within our borders.

    Anonymously yours,
    The GM

  4. Anonymous Says:

    The 2 PKG’s per day is nothing to get worked up over….it’s basically a tracked VOSOT….hardly any more work for any of us.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    I think everyone at 3 has learned that managers and producers do not care about the quality, just fill that hole – – make slot. Then afterwards, the chief photog will ask the photog why the story look so bad. Uh, maybe you have to slap crap together in such a short time to make slot.

    Plus, the producers just worry about their own show. They don’t care that a crew has to do a mini-pack for 4 pm and front a live shot and then have less than 35 minutes to write, voice and edit a package for the 5 pm and front that with a live shot. Who cares? Slap it together. Just make slot.

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