Want to know a big topic that news managers sit around and discuss? Are journalists, producers in particular, are moving up in market size too quickly? Even more interesting, a lot of the managers I talk with, who think it’s a bad idea, moved up the ranks while they were young themselves.
Yep. Many were 2 to 4 years into the biz and EP’ing or taking gigs as small market AND’s. Others were producing main shows in top 10 markets by age 25. Why then are they so hard on the journalists who want to do the same?
Well, with experience comes wisdom. These managers know how hard they had to work to get that distinction of being the youngest in the newsroom. They also are still keenly aware of the hazing they endured.
Before you get annoyed at these “old timers” who “aren’t being fair” know this: While they often put a newbie journalist through the ringer in the interview process, they tend to be your greatest advocates once you “prove worthy.” Yep, they will give you a shot. They remember being hungry and wanting to prove to the world just how driven, talented and passionate they were. But when they cut you a break, they ask one simple thing in return. Listen when given advice. We crusty old timers who moved up the ranks really young (yes, me included) also learned that a lot of being a great journalist is simply grinding out the news each day, day after day, year after year. No matter how much raw talent you have, no matter how many “it” factors you have, gaining hands on experience is the best way to become excellent at what you do.
So, I am going to ask you to consider a different question: Are younger journalists, especially producers, mature enough to take constructive criticism from the “been there done that” set? Or, perhaps even more importantly, is that hunger and eagerness to push and be the best each day, better for a newsroom than the tired, set in their ways, group? If newsrooms focus more on getting people who think alike and can have mutual respect for each other, this debate becomes largely irrelevant. Newsroom managers usually hire younger producers to inject new energy and ideas into a tired, staid, news philosophy. Truthfully, many times the managers are being asked to change the way news is presented and are out of ideas. The trouble lies not in hiring someone too young, but in hiring someone who cannot define the type of news he/she loves to do. That’s the biggest risk in hiring younger journalists. If they don’t know what kind of product they want to put their stamp on each day, they will get bogged down on the wrong things. So crusty old managers, who came up the ranks young, often know to ask the pointed questions and make sure they see eye to eye with those up and coming journalists. When there’s a mutual respect, and an environment where younger and older journalists know they can and should learn from each other, great things happen. Those of us who came up the ranks ‘too soon” know it. That’s why the trend continues, and probably should.