Hey Joe, Where You Going With That Blog in Your Hand

I love things when they work and hate it when they don’t. I haven’t been able to post lately because of issues with Blogger. Some of you may remember a few months ago my blog disappeared altogether for about a week. I made the mistake then of trying to upgrade the blog site. Now it appears I may have no choice as Blogger is pushing the “new and improved” version. If I disappear for a while it’s through no fault of my own, at least this time.
I had lunch Monday with a former colleague who now works in a major market as a weekend morning show producer. This person is very good at what he does. Unfortunately I think he has become a victim of his own success which can happen all too often in the news business. Anyone who has ever worked a morning news show understands how the schedule can suck the life out of you. Some like the schedule and get used to it. Many more don’t. I liked it for the first eight or nine years that I did it at WREG. I actually didn’t mind the hours at first. But after a while, I found the sleep deprivation to be cumulative. Once you get tired, it seems you’re always tired. If the numbers look good on the show, then you end up pigeonholed. It makes sense that no one wants to break up a winning combination and this is whether you work in front of the camera or behind the scenes. So, when opportunities come for advancement, some managers will hire from outside the company. Those managers find it’s a whole lot easier to hire people to work normal hours than it is to find qualified people who work the overnight or early morning hours. That creates frustration among those folks who were told to work hard and it will “pay off”. The misguided managers end up creating disgruntled employees and no amount of “rah-rah” sessions that mornings are the new power slots will overcome those feelings of resentment. I hope my former colleague is able to move off the weekend mornings. He’s got too much on the ball as a news producer to keep getting dumped on.
Speaking of getting dumped on, I hear rumblings from DOTR that some producers are s0 tired of the double shows that it could get ugly. The NYTimes Broadcast Group has been trying to keep costs in check as they prepared for the big sale taking place around June so news producers have been doubling up on the shows they do. And when one producer takes time off for vacation or sick days that means more work for everybody else. Some might say the work isn’t hard. Others will disagree. I think the big fear among producers is that some of the long-timers who know the daily drill will leave for good and those remaining will have to pick up the slack even more. The reality is that anybody these days who has a job that has even marginal health benefits doesn’t want to lose those benefits, especially if they have children. They can’t afford it. And up until now, the NYTimes had very generous health benefits. If or when those go away, you may find some folks really searching for other jobs.

Speaking of children, the phone rang around 7:30 Wednesday morning at our house. An early morning phone call is usually not a good thing. I know when I was working the early morning shift DOTR and the phone rang in the middle of the night, I jumped out of bed and headed for the shower because it meant I’d overslept. That only happened once (me oversleeping) but if someone called in the middle of the night I would sit up in bed, even on weekends.
I was already awake when the phone rang Wednesday morning but let the answering machine pick it up. It seems I was needed to pinch-hit as an emcee for an event sponsored by Memphis City Beautiful that morning involving several hundred school kids. The person who was scheduled to emcee (a local weather guy) was needed to monitor the winter weather headed for the MidSouth. I don’t get too many calls these days from women who indicate they really need me. Besides chivalry is not dead in our household so I called her back and told her I would help her out.
At the function I ran into some videographers I used to work with and chatted with them briefly. I wished I could say I did the job the original emcee would have done. I’m not sure that I did. He’s very good at this. But I did the best I could and I think everybody went home happy. At least nobody threw anything at me.

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7 Comments on “Hey Joe, Where You Going With That Blog in Your Hand”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    If those producers at DOTR quit taking so many smoke breaks, surfing the internet to shop and look for jokes, read and send emails, and snack, snack and more snacking, they would not only have time to do 2 shows a day but three!!!! Hey, if they do 3, they’d be “On Your Side”!!!

    Now they know how it feels when they make crews do live shots and packages for back to back newscasts. All producers care about is their own show and they don’t care if it means jeopardizing another producer’s show or make it difficult for the crews to turn back to back packages.

    Producers, welcome to the real world of TV news!

  2. Joe Larkins Says:

    I wouldn’t touch that comment with a ten foot pole. I’ll let a TV news producer speak out instead.

  3. Joan Carr Says:

    Okay, I’ve got to take up for the producers. The post by anonymous sounds like it came from a bitter photographer or reporter who’s jealous of anyone who works inside where it’s warm all the time. But believe me, if they had to spend 9 or 10 straight hours in the newsroom every work day, they would run screaming. Yeah, sure, producers surf the internet and snack sometimes. It’s the way they escape the constant pressure to grind out vo or vosot after vo or vosot. They’re subjected to non-stop blaring police scanners and a complete lack of privacy and quiet. And while it’s not explicitly forbidden, newsroom management strongly frowns upon producers actually leaving their desks to take a lunch or dinner break. So think about that the next time you eat your leisurely lunch at Fino’s or Cracker Barrel and then take the time to run a few errands before you set up your live shot. We all know reporters and photogs do that stuff when they have time to, and nobody cares as long as they get the job done. So why don’t you cut the producers a break? They don’t have the freedom you have to escape the pressure cooker of the newsroom everyday.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    Oh, give me a break, Red!

    When do the photogs and reporters have time to run errands? Much less eating at a fancy restaurant?

    That’s the problem with producers and the assignment desk, they think the crews reach the scene in five minutes, shoot everything in five minutes, set up a live shot in 30 seconds, break down a live shot in 30 seconds, etc. Sorry honey, that’s not how it works. Many times photogs and reporters don’t have time for lunch or just go through drive-thru and eat in the car on the way to the next interview or scene.

    By the time those long drawn out morning meetings and if the reporters are lucky enough to set up an interview through the phone, some crews usually do not leave the station until after the noon news cause a producer put the reporter in the noon show. Then the crew has little time cause another producer put them in the 4 pm newscast with a live shot. Let’s see, an hour to log tape and write, an hour to edit and set up the live shot, that leaves less than two hours to drive to the location(s), shoot the story and try to get some lunch. Producers have no clue how long it takes to get all elements of a story. It all depends if it’s a one stop shop or not, when the meeting starts and how long it lasts, where the interviewees live, traffic, etc. Red, I’m glad you responded cause your post shows how cluesless producers are to newsgathering in the field.

    You know how to make management quit “frowning” upon leaving your desk to take lunch or dinner?? Put down half an hour overtime every day. If you are actually working at your desk while eating your lunch, that is not an official lunch break, you are working. And you know how management frowns upon OT.

    The blaring police scanners are pay back. Now you know how it feels when a crew constantly gets calls from producers and the desk about info on a story, is the package gonna make slot, estimate ETA to the scene, etc.

    How tough are writing vo and sot, when you rewrite vo’s from scripts from file stories and scripts from network pkgs, or make the reporter write a vo sot for you?

  5. Joan Carr Says:

    I appreciate your comments. And as not that many people call me Red, I think I know who you are. You’re right that there is a disconnect between the people who work in the newsroom and the people who work in the field. Producers and assignment editors really don’t know how long it takes to get to places and do the things you do. On the other hand, you guys really don’t know what producers do all day in the newsroom, so I think you often think we sit around watching TV or eating bon-bons.

    The truth is, there’s no cushy job in television anymore, whether you’re in the newsroom or in the field. Everyone is being asked to do more with less, and no one’s making more money as raises are rapidly becoming a thing of the past.

    I think the tension between those who work in the field and those who work in the newsroom actually plays into management’s hands. As long as employees are squabbling about who is working harder, they won’t unite to ask for better working conditions for EVERYONE. So keep on running the producers down. You’re doing exactly what the managers DOTR want you to do.

    By the way, I agree with most of what you say in your second post. But you’re wrong about one thing. Producers can’t put in for half an hour overtime everyday for the lunch they don’t get to take because producers are salaried. They don’t get overtime pay no matter how long they work. So you see, that’s another reason it sucks to be a producer.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    That’s my Red!!!

    I still love you, BA-BEEEEEEEE!!!!!

    How’s it going Ba-beeeeeeee!!!

  7. Joan Carr Says:

    It’s good to know I have fans!


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