How often do you “meet” after the newscast to talk about the day (or night or morning)?  Discrep meetings are an incredible opportunity to grow as a journalist.  But you have to structure them correctly and get into a proper mindset when going into the meetings.

Many stations have dumped discrep meetings because they do not want to pay overtime.  I am going to make a bold statement to you.  If that’s the case in your shop do them anyway and don’t charge the company.  Why?  The team needs them to grow as journalists and as a team.  These meetings are a type of insurance policy if handled correctly.  They are an incredible opportunity for training.  To put it bluntly the discrep meeting should be for you, and your team’s best interests.  Yes, the ratings should improve as a result and your station will benefit. Guess what, you will reap more rewards than your employer long term.  Every journalist needs training, no matter your experience level.  The beauty of this career is you never stop growing.  The best way to learn is from fellow journalists that are in the daily grind with you.  Problem is you don’t get time to talk because of the intense deadlines.  Then fatigue hits and you go home without really looking at your work.  Discrep meetings force you to change that.  They will force you to look at your work when you have a moment to breathe and take it in.  They will force you to take another look at your work and self critique with an educated perspective. So let’s talk about structuring discrep meetings, so you and your team can grow in your craft and improve as journalists.

The group pow wow

 

First let’s talk about the group style discrep meeting.  These traditionally are held after the newscast when opinions are fresh and issues are on your mind. The problem is many of these meetings are adversarial.  Everyone’s emotions are still raw and you often feel tired and defensive from the stress of the day.  So how do you change that?  My suggestion:  Use the meeting to list what areas of the newscast you want to review later for journalistic reasons, and systems issues.  Once a week, sit down and review those issues.  Have the EP and/or newscast producer, write down the issues. Then, sit down as a group and pick three topics and talk solutions.  This is a very effective way to improve communications between reporters, anchors, production crew, art and editing departments.  The faster you get those “systems” or mis-communication issues taken care of, the better your newscast will flow every day.  Then you can delve into bigger issues, like journalistic dilemmas.  Also, compliment at least one part of the newscast, where you feel the team won.  I am saying you, as in all participants.  It is just as important to hear what others thought worked, as didn’t.

 

Focus groups

These are a type of discrep meeting that should happen as needed to go over ethical decision making and writing style.  Most often this will happen between anchors and producers or writers.  Sit down and talk a situation through after a show or the next day before things get crazy.  Part of being a journalist means you will make a lot of ethical calls on the fly.  Some will be good calls, some not.  Use them as an extension of the training you get at many J-schools.  Talk the situations through.  Discuss what you liked and didn’t.  The key here is to go in ready to accept criticism and grow.   You need to set up these philosophical discussions in order to make sure you understand each of your news philosophies and mesh them with the station’s mandates.  If you don’t do this, you risk not making consistent ethical calls.  Viewers pick up on this.  They may not be able to explain that clearly, but they sense if your newscast and/or station is wishy washy.  That does not help credibility. Consistency is crucial.  It means open lines of communication and open discussions in newsrooms about philosophy.  Anchors, these smaller meetings are great opportunities to try and coach less experienced producers or associate producers. (See “Anchor an Alliance”)  Bringing up a lot of issues while grinding the show often not only falls on deaf ears, it can cause resentment.  Unless you are about to make a major factual gaffe, try and address issues after the show in a small meeting.  Producers will actually have the time to listen and if you don’t do it in front of the whole staff, may actually retain what you say.  Remember, your producer is constantly in power struggles to maintain control of the newscast.  This can even include struggles with management.  They need your support by talking in small circles about issues that could put them on the defensive.

Producers, use these small and larger meetings to make sure you are connecting with the people you manage.  Be humble.  Know you will take some criticism but that the knowledge you gain can make you a huge asset.  Just keep pushing yourself to grow.  Let others help you do it by mentioning these issues.  Encouraging open lines of communication will give you incredible insight you only get from asking for it. These lessons will help you make a name for yourself, not just at your current station.  You will gain a reputation for being a real leader and that will help you rocket launch your career.  All of this starts with effective discrep meetings.  So go for it.  Ask your staff to buy into you and your newscast, and reap many benefits.

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