We told you how to interview the station. Now let’s lay out how to identify a truly cool shop. Here are some clear ways to discover if the place you’re considering is a place where you would want to work.
Sit in the newsroom and watch how the staff interacts with each other. Are people smiling? Do you see some good natured joking around? You should look for a management team that encourages staffers to work together instead of competing against each other. Another way to tell if everyone’s there to work together is to attend a debrief after a show. Do people take ownership of any mistakes and work through the issues together?
Most good shops give you a writing test or quiz you on ethical situations in a conversational way. Then the manager lays out situations for you to problem solve together.
The best shop we ever worked in had a system in place to train and help everyone get better. When we say “train”, we’re not talking about about giving newbies a chance to sit with a veteran reporter, photog, or producer for a day. Mentoring systems were in place for all skill levels. Veterans were sent to workshops to build skills for future jobs, like management. There also was a review system that was used more than 1 time a year to help you goal set, both short and long term, so the job was not monotonous. There also tends to be a certain progression. Staffers start on weekend or morning shifts but move up to other day parts. Find out if this is the case in the shop you’re checking out.
A huge sign that this is an awesome shop: the same management team has been in place for years and at least one of those managers worked up from a regular staff position. Again, this shows teamwork is fostered and that people can grow as much as they want without having to move to a new city every few years for another opportunity. Usually, in awesome newsrooms, you will meet a staffer that left the station and then came back. That person will talk about how he/she learned that there were more opportunities at the shop and then returned there.
During your interview managers will ask you what you think of the place. What would you like to do to be part of the staff? How can management help you get wins at your job each day? These are signs the managers get it and will do what they can to help you succeed and grow. Happy employees who grow in their jobs are a key part of a successful newsroom.
Awesome shops often set up lunches with staff members on the shift on which you would work. This shows that the station strongly believes in teamwork and is looking to see if your personality fits the group. Often staffers are then called in to give their opinion of you. You want this situation. It increases your chances of finding that great fit we all dream about.
Often, really good shops are known regionally and sometimes even nationally for being coveted places to work. Others in the business will know of these stations. If you get a call from one of these stations, jump on it even if the work hours are not ideal. Others will be eager to take your place and it could be worth making the sacrifice and working your way up.
Another interesting trend we found, one of the star anchors at the station will at least seem very down to earth and do some mentoring. That person really leads by example and sets the tone for the newsroom even when management does have to come down hard.
Lastly, most of these stations are long time, powerhouse number ones in the ratings. Notice we said most of the time. With the introduction of people meters this is changing a bit. So, if the station has a long standing good reputation, but numbers have fallen a bit in recent years, still give the place a chance to impress you in an interview. This could be a small hiccup and the place is still worth your time.