Worst or most thankless job in the newsroom.

Since Don Fitzpatrick died, Shoptalk www.tvspy.com has been on autopilot with nothing new posted except in the Watercooler section which generally provides a good read. I ran across the topic: worst job in the newsroom.
Only a handful of people had posted but they all tended to agree that the assignment editor was the worst job in the newsroom. One person also posted that the assignment editor was an entry level position.
I don’t know about “worst” but I think it qualifies as one of the two most thankless jobs in the newsroom.
The assignment editor is caught between the field crews and the news director. That beautiful, grandiose award winning story idea that was pitched at the editorial meeting by the reporter, assignment manager, news director or even the desk person himself may crumble into a mere shell of its former self in the field and requires more time and resources than are available if it’s even viable at all. The desk must then fall back to either juggle resources to make the story happen or find a new story to fill the “news hole”. Resources (warm bodies in the field) may be stretched thin for reasons ranging from people calling in sick to a clamp-down on overtime. Add into that mix any broken or damaged equipment, appointment at the doctor for field crews, traffic problems, the arrival of severe weather, a story idea offered by the GM (usually a must- do right then unless the ND has a backbone) or a suggestion by a consultant and you’ve got quite a juggling act.
Too many times, the folks working the desk who manage to keep all the juggled balls in the air don’t even get a pat on the back and an “atta boy” at the end of the day. But let one ball slip and there is hell to pay.
The other thankless job in the newsroom is the line producer. They have to deal with the egos of the anchors (he or she has more lines to read than I do), the reporters in the field (this is the most stupid live shot/story I’ve ever done/when do we get lunch) the assignment desk (we can’t do that, we don’t have the bodies or resources or the story has just fallen through) and the newsroom managers (this is the way I used to do it /this is what the consultant and GM thinks we should do).
Add to that mix a weathergasm or two at the last minute to throw everything into chaos.
I’ve always thought that if a person who works the assignment desk or works as a line producer in news applies for a handgun permit, they should automatically be disqualified. They might be too tempted to take care of business in the newsroom after a stressful day.

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4 Comments on “Worst or most thankless job in the newsroom.”

  1. Average Guy Says:

    Interesting perspective and insightful. I do disagree with the GM story ideas. Most GMs are too busy to be suggesting much less mandating story ideas.

    I used to believe the toughest job in the station was local sales manager. Today, I know it is news director. The ND has to straddle a barbed wire fence. Fall off one side and the GM/corporate crucify you. Fall off the other side and you’re fed to the lions of journalistic morality. Sales doesn’t look so bad.
    The GM

  2. Blake Johnson Says:

    The FCC doesn’t allow firearms on television station premisis. One would assume it is for the reasons that you mentioned.

    True words Joe.

  3. Joe Larkins Says:

    Yah, many GMs are too busy taking care of station business to bother with the newsroom. They actually let department heads run their departments. But then there are those GMs who have that micro-managing gene and will sit in on newsroom editorial meetings. I’ve seen it happen on a regular basis by one GM in particular. To me, that has the same effect on the ND as the ND going to the booth during breaking news and looking over the shoulder of the producer. I’ve never understood that mentality. People don’t react well or work well with the boss standing over their shoulder. It leads to second guessing and mistakes. Yah, a ND has a tough job, but they generally get compensated for it. The folks on the desk and the line producers don’t at most stations.
    As for the comment about firearms and FCC restrictions, I don’t know about that but a number of companies have policies against firearms. That’s why some of my former co-workers would leave their “hogleg” in the vehicle and never carried it into the building. Some did, but it was rare at least to my knowledge.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    I remember accepting an invitation to visit a friend at the station on the river. She was and may still be, the assignment manager. I thought I had it rough answering the phones and shuffling complaints, etc. My friend only had enough time to say “Bad day to visit!” As Paula Haddock added:”A mean job all around!”
    It was amazing how a “Beats me” would not get it.

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