How to handle it when asked inappropriate questions during an interview.

Job Interviewing, Picking A Shop Comments Off on How to handle it when asked inappropriate questions during an interview.
Oct 192018

Recently FTVLive reported that someone posing as a recruiter for a network and someone who actually is a recruiter are making uncomfortable statements and asking lewd questions to women being interviewed. Let’s talk about how to handle these situations, specifically blatant sexual comments and/or requests for sexual favors.

First, it’s ok to say the question/statement was not appropriate. Responding by saying something like “I am hoping I misunderstood that last question, but this interview needs to remain professional questions only,” is fine. Do it. Yes, this will be uncomfortable. But you have the right to defend yourself and let the person know that’s not ok. You are remaining professional. More on this later.

If you have an agent or contact at the company where the recruiter works, let them know about what happened. It is ok to report it to someone you know. In the case of an agent, the person should then go up the food chain to address the issue. In the case of a friend who works at the company, it will at least be on record then with someone who could report it with credibility. You might have to answer questions later. But it is important for all involved to know that you want a fair workplace. That is not unreasonable.

I have heard over the years about hiring managers, who have gone so far as to ask about a sexual act while taking a potential employee to a restaurant. That is scary. You are in a strange town and this is your ride back to the station after lunch as well as possibly to your hotel room. Here’s what to do. Say that the question makes you uncomfortable. Excuse yourself. Then go to the bathroom and call for your own ride to the airport or your hotel. To be clear, you do not have to go back to the station. In fact you could end up in another very uncomfortable spot at the station with that manager. If you need to pick up your stuff, go to the hotel and get it. If you’ve already checked out, head to the airport. Only go to the station if you need to get your stuff. And then stop long enough to pick it up, then leave. But no matter where you are going, get a ride. It’s worth the money to get out of the situation. If you want to really get the point across, invoice the bill for that ride to HR at that station and say you would like to discuss why your method of transportation changed.

If a sexual request is made at the station in an office, get up and walk out of the room. Go to the front reception area and call for a ride. Your safety is the most important thing. If you feel safe in doing so, you can also go to the HR office. That person should help you get a ride to the airport. It just depends on if you want to tackle the issue right then, or get out of the station first.

If you are worried about backlash, please know this: While there are still some creeps hanging around in these powerful positions, there are a lot less of them. And companies know they cannot risk a public scandal. Your worst case scenario is you will not be called back for that job, or reimbursed for that Lyft ride. But let’s be honest, do you really want to work for a boss who acts like that or a station who hides from this kind of behavior?

Right now there are several managers, all the way up to the corporate level that want to help crack down on this type of behavior. But they need evidence. If it comes out that you protected yourself, you will still get jobs.

If you have an agent, and that company doesn’t report what happened and demand some sort of explanation and guarantee that the situation will be dealt with, fire the agency. This is a huge reason to have representation. You need backing. The company might tell the agent where to go, but demand the agent try. Frankly, reputable agents will want to make those calls anyway. The station and company do not want word getting around in this very small industry that something like this could have happened.

If the person is just direct and rude about your answers, saying things like “That’s your answer really?” about a job scenario question, or “Are you stupid” or “I am only interviewing you because I have to” report those things too. Companies have to provide fair interviews. There are common practices that have to be done. Period. Be polite during the interview and then inform your agent or someone you know in the company about what happened. Sometimes managers need job interview training. In this case, going back at the person will not really help. Kill them with kindness as the saying goes. Then when its over, you know this isn’t the person to work for. And if it’s reported the issue should be addressed for future candidates. I am telling you this first hand from having to report when interviewers are inappropriate. The first question I get when stating a case is “What did the interviewee do?“  The right answer in all cases is remain polite. Even in the scenario of the rude request at the restaurant.  Do not scream. Do not cuss out the person. State that the request was not appropriate. Excuse yourself then calmly remove yourself from the situation. If that person sees you leaving. Just simply say, “I appreciate the interview, but this situation is not right for me and my career. Good luck in your search.” Witnesses help. Like restaurant management. 

Good luck. Stay strong. Stay polite but firm that you deserve respect. Because you do.

The Demo Reel Dilemma

Job Interviewing, Picking A Shop, Reporting Comments Off on The Demo Reel Dilemma
Jul 232014

Two seconds. That’s my personal news director record for the least amount of time viewing a reporter applicant’s demo reel. “That’s not fair,” you say! Well, trust me, the guy had NO business applying for any TV job, let alone a reporting spot in a top 15 market.

Then there was the reporter candidate who decided to start his resume reel with a boring 3-minute package. Seriously, what was he thinking? Didn’t anyone tell these people a news director has the attention span of a 5th grader? Didn’t someone warn them that a TV boss gets hundreds of demo reels for one reporting or anchoring job?

That brings me to my point: getting someone to click, then watch, then be impressed with your demo reel is not easy. It’s tougher than ever. Too many emails. Not enough hours in the day. Too many people sending bad material. So the reel, I mean real, dilemma is this: what can you do to up your odds?

I can’t speak for all news directors, but for me (and many that I know) the best advice would be don’t overthink this! You need to showcase your best work, and do it quickly. Start with a montage of your best standups, live shots and anchor clips. About a minute-long montage is fine. Anything longer than about 1:30 starts getting very repetitive. And some talent think they have to show an entire standup. That’s wrong! You want your montage to be fast-paced. Let the ND see you in different situations—on the desk (if you anchor), in an active live shot, doing a creative standup, answering a question from an anchor, etc. Quick clips. Some may be full standups, others may be chopped for time. Also try to include a variety of stories—hard news balanced with some lighter moments so we can see your smile or hear your laugh. The key is to put your very best material at the top of that montage. If a news director sees marginal quality at the top (including bad lighting or audio), he or she will click the stop button within 30 seconds.

After your montage, pick a great package or two to show. But again, make it your best work—is it an example of excellent breaking news coverage? An enterprise piece you did? A very good sweeps story? If it’s a pkg on the shooting-of-the-day with a cop bite and a neighbor who looks like he’s on dope, don’t include it! Be highly critical of what you’re including on your reel. Check everything—spellings on your supers, lighting, audio, editing.

And finally, wrap up your reel with other content. For example, you could show more of your anchoring with longer clips. Or a full live shot if it’s something you’re really proud of. Or maybe you want to end with that 3 minute sweeps story you did. Just remember, most NDs won’t watch more than a few minutes of your reel unless you’ve caught their attention at the top, they like what they see so far, and they want to check out more of your work in-depth. Total time for your reel? 5-8 minutes is plenty.

Lots of anchors and reporters also ask whether they should have one reel or two, if they do double duty (such as weekend weather anchor who reports 3 days a week). There’s no black and white answer—I’d like to see one reel where you show me how versatile you are (multi-skilled = more chances in today’s TV job world). “Wow, she reports and anchors and even does weather!” But you may also want to create separate reels so you can apply for specific jobs. A weather reel for weather-only jobs and a combo reel for other opportunities.

Do what feels right to you, but remember, YOU have to be your toughest critic. Watch your edited reel and pick it apart, then have a trusted TV co-worker or friend watch it and give you honest advice. Make sure the top of that resume reel is your best stuff. The goal is for that news director to watch the first 30 seconds and then say “Hmm, I like this person… let’s watch a little more.”

Steve Kraycik is a Talent Agent with MediaStars. He has 29 years of TV news experience and spent a decade as a news director in top 20 markets. He’s also the Dir. Of Student Television at Penn State University. You can follow him on Twitter @TV_Agent_Steve.

“Technical Difficulties”: A Sideways Live Shot Survival Guide

Honing Skills, Reporting, Survival Kit Comments Off on “Technical Difficulties”: A Sideways Live Shot Survival Guide
Jun 122014

Recently a reporter emailed “Survive” for advice on how to learn to ad lib while in the field. The main concern, how to get around technical problems.  So I asked a veteran reporter for advice.  Here goes…

History is filled with quotes about the importance of preparation from very brilliant, very famous people. One of my favorites comes from a B or maybe even C-level actor named Richard Kline. (Best known as “Larry” the neighbor on “Three’s Company”) Kline says, “Confidence is preparation. Everything else is beyond your control.” I like this one because it is perfect for live shots. If you are prepared, you should and will be confident. If there is one constant in live shots (as in much of life) it’s that something will inevitably get sideways at the worst possible moment. That moment is simply beyond your control so don’t sweat it. Just be as prepared as possible and chances are pretty good you will be able to get through it when something goes squirrelly.

In order to learn to tap dance your way through a sideways live shot, you first have to have the basics of doing a live shot down pat. I still remember the first time I knew I was going to do a live shot at my first real reporting job. I went to an experienced friend in the newsroom and asked for some advice. The advice they gave me was very basic and perfect! Best advice I’ve ever been given in my career actually. Do not script your live shot word-for-word. Let me say that again: Do NOT script out your live shots. If you script your live shot you will have to memorize it. This is a recipe for disaster! Ask anyone who’s done any acting what happens when you miss just one word in your lines. The answer: It generally throws everything off from that point on. Additionally, when you memorize a bunch of lines they are just that: A bunch of lines. You do not have near as much comprehension of what they mean. It’s just a bunch of words floating around in your brain waiting to come streaming out. Once they are out, so are the meanings behind them. More on retaining meaning in a moment.

First, here’s the key to basic live shots. Rather than memorizing a script, write bullet points. Each one should have a word or three for each key thought you’re going to present. Each of those bullet points acts as a memory trigger for the information you are imparting in your shot. You can then glance down at each bullet point and be easily guided through. You will also find that your comprehension of the subject matter increases too. You will not only have smoother live shots but also retain the meaning more.

Start trying the bullet point trick today. Do it every time you are out live. It will quickly become a natural way to do your shots. Eventually, you will depend on those bullet points less and less. Your live shots will also get smoother and smoother.

No matter how smooth you become on your basic live shots, at some point something will go wrong that you cannot control. A package will not run correctly; the wrong package will run; the video server will crash. If it can happen, it will. So how do you “prepare” for this? Try making some extra bullet points that sum up the package. Keep it on the next page in your reporter’s notebook after your life shot bullet points. Don’t try to quote the sound bites in the package though. Use your bullet points to help you paraphrase one or two of those bites. Do this and then if something goes wrong you have somewhere to go. Just pause briefly then look up at the camera and cooly say something like: “We’re having a little trouble with that story. But here’s what you need to know.” Then run through a few of those bullet points, sig out and toss back to your anchors. Don’t make it overly complicated. Keep it simple and smooth. Better to keep it short and clean than try to get everything in that was in your package and muck it up. Most of the time when something like this happens, viewers know something went wrong technically. They do understand and will forgive as long as you don’t compound the problem by stammering on and looking unprepared.

One quick aside. When something goes wrong do not refer to your story as a “package” or a “VO/SOT” or talk about “sound bites.” These are the terms WE use in the industry. Viewers do not talk like this and do not know what these terms mean. It will confuse them and then you have lost the battle.

Legendary writer Ernest Hemingway once said: “Courage is grace under pressure.” Use these tips to sharpen your basic live shot skills, then when the pressure is really on, you will come off looking courageous indeed!

For more advice on how to ad-lib read “Art of Ad-lib” written by veteran anchor, Cameron Harper.

Wait, you want me to story tell when I cover what?

Know Your Newsroom, Reporting Comments Off on Wait, you want me to story tell when I cover what?
Mar 262014

Roman poet Phaedrus once said: “Things are not always as they seem; the first appearance deceives many.”  So why am I quoting a man who was born in 15 BC in an article about 21st century TV news?  Because the central idea of the quote often plays a part in what we are asked to do.

How many times have you heard a news manager lament that reporters need to do more storytelling with the packages they produce?  And then how times have you heard those same managers send crews on stories that are not “TV friendly” and seem to have no opportunity for storytelling.  You know the ones I’m talking about.  These are the stories that have zero visuals, zero interesting nat sound and seemingly zero opportunity to “story tell.”  Most of us hate them.  But by the same token, most of us have to cover them from time to time.  So what do you do?  Do you just curse those managers who send you on these stories and then “mail it in” by turning a TV news “report” rather than a piece of storytelling?  I certainly hope not for a couple of reasons.  First, you should always have more personal pride in the work you put your name on than to do that.  Second, you can almost always do some storytelling no matter what kind of dog of a story you are assigned.

I can hear the groans and grumbles right now!  Stop cursing at your computer (i.e. – me!) for just a minute and open your mind and I will show you how to do it.  It’s pretty simple really.  One little word is all you need to remember: Writing  Yep, it’s all in **how** you write that package.  Earlier I threw out the term TV news “report.”  A “report” is a bunch of facts and words put into a package with little or no cohesive narrative and no relation to the video on screen.  It’s boring television and should never be what you aspire to produce.  “Storytelling” on the other hand is exactly what it sounds like.  It’s telling a “story.”  Stories have a beginning, a middle and an end.  They also have characters.  In TV news a “story” also, ideally, has great visuals and nat sound.  (Remember, the beauty of TV news is in blending visuals, sound and words in a way that makes the viewer feel as if they as “there” where the story is happening.)  Sometimes those elements are all there, sometimes they are not.

So, what do you do when they are not there?  Let’s talk about it.  One of the most common retorts I get when I say “You can story tell with just about any assignment you get.” is “What about when we get sent to a boring meeting?”  Again, it’s all in the writing.  Suppose you are told to package a government council or commission meeting where they are going to be talking about some sort of tax hike.  You get there and it’s immediately apparent that there are not going to be any fireworks from the assembled crowd… but you still have to package it.  You can still tell a “story.”  First, figure out who the main person involved in the tax hike issue is gonna be.  Make that person your first “character” and center the piece around them.  If there is someone, anyone, there that has an opposing view, make them the “antagonist” in your piece.  Voila!  You now have the beginnings of a true “story.”

Ask the videographer you are working with if they could please get a little extra b-roll of your protagonist and antagonist.  When you interview them, don’t ask questions about the facts.  That’s what your reporter track should do.  Ask questions that get at the emotion behind their support for or opposition against the issue.  Hopefully, going at the interview this way will get you some marginally less dry sound than you would’ve otherwise gotten.  It does not always work though.  But don’t fret.

Now it’s time to write.  Don’t just set the boring scene and put the boring video over it:

“EXAMPLE COUNTY COUNCIL IS TALKING TAXES THIS NIGHT… BLAH… BLAH… BLAH.”

Instead, use your characters:

[VERY SHORT NAT BITE (3-SECONDS OR LESS!!!)]

“JOHN COUNCILMAN NEVER THOUGHT EXAMPLE COUNTY’S SEWER SERVICES HAD THE PROPER FUNDING AND IT REALLY STEAMS HIS SHORTS.”

[SUPPORTING BITE WITH JOE]

“JANE COMMISSIONER ADMITS THE SEWER SITUATION STINKS.”

“BUT SHE BELIEVES IN HER HEART… THERE’S A BETTER WAY TO FLUSH THE PROBLEM BESIDES A TAX HIKE.”

[SUPPORTING BITE WITH JANE]

Bam!  You are now producing a “story” rather than a “report.”  And, even if you don’t have any compelling visuals or nat sound, your “story” will be more compelling to watch than your competition’s “report” any day of the week.  It’s not perfect, but it’s better than it would’ve been had you just mailed it in and it does not really take much more effort if any at all.  Plus, you prove old Phaedrus right yet again and justify why we continue quoting him all these eons later.

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This article is written by a veteran reporter who has worked in small, medium and large markets and has won multiple awards for storytelling.

The One Criticism You Never Want To Be Told

Getting Along With Peers, Political Hotbed Comments Off on The One Criticism You Never Want To Be Told
Feb 132014
It’s a fact of life, in news, that your work will be criticized a lot.  It can be hard to take, but you must if you want to succeed in the business.  However, there is one criticism you never want to be told:  That you blame others for your mistakes.  If you do, you will quickly be labeled a  complainer, trouble maker and bad at your job.  You cannot afford to have this label.
So what do you do to get around?  For starters check out our recent “Take Ownership” article.  Next, do not complain, about how the newsroom runs, to other staff members.  I recognize this is a tough one, because news people are infamous for their after hours gripe sessions.  It is VERY hard not to engage in the complaining and you may even feel alienated at first.  But believe me, it is worth it to not get involved.  Remember a key staffer will be at the gripe sessions:  the newsroom snitch.  Any complaints you make will be reported, and if you directly complain about how others are doing their jobs, and that it’s keeping you from doing yours, I guarantee that it doesn’t matter whether you have a valid point.  You will be labeled a complainer who passes the buck.  Also, there are many times your coworker is not your friend, says a few more generic complaints to get you rolling, then uses your words against you later in front of management.  End result:  You look like a complainer.
Blamers do not get as much leeway.  They do not get a benefit of the doubt.  If you are known for passing the buck, management will build a file on you quickly and work to get you fired or banished to the one shift no one wants, so that you hopefully just go away.
The final thing you can do to avoid this horrible label is this:  When you have a complaint in your mind, think of proactive solutions you can help implement.  That way if you get cornered at the station party or management backs you into a corner with an intense line of questioning, you can try and deviate the attention away from you and toward a solution that builds team.  If my EP just disappeared when I had to make key decisions, and I got called on the carpet, instead of saying “Joe EP is never around to ask.”  I would say, “I think I need to go over potential pitfalls in my rundown a little earlier when Joe EP is less busy.”  This raises the issue that Joe EP is not around, without me calling the person out as slacking off.  If management asks “Where is Joe EP?” say “Not sure, at that time of day. I just try to execute what I am asked as best I can.”  Let the managers duke it out.  Meantime you look like a solution finder instead of the dreaded blamer.
If you sense you are already labeled the complainer, stop your gripes immediately and have a clear the air session with your immediate supervisor.  Look that person in the eye and say, “I am here to help this newsroom by doing my best each day.  I want you to know I am glad I am here and will do all I can to help.”  Then do what you are asked and keep your mouth shut.  You can turn this reputation around as long as you do not let it linger long.  It is worth the extra effort, remember being labeled a “complainer” can be a career killer in this ever competitive business.

How To Deal With Conflicting Messages.

Management Issues, Political Hotbed Comments Off on How To Deal With Conflicting Messages.
Jan 082014

Unfortunately many newsrooms struggle with clearly defining their news philosophy.  This can be very confusing and frustrating for the journalists in the trenches.  So how do you survive when your ND, AND and EP all have different philosophies?

The first step is looking at who has the most hands-on influence on your work each day.  If your EP is next to you in the trenches all day, and the AND and ND only sometimes step in, do what the EP asks.  If you call in to the AND for script approval each day, do what that person expects.  This will not protect you every newscast, every shift, but it will lessen your being in the middle of conflict.

If you are executing what that main manager asks and another manager steps in and asks you to change it, it is ok to say “I can do that, but (EP/AND/ND) asked me to do this. Which should I do?”  If the person now asking you to do something opposite outranks the other manager, do what he/she decides.  But you should mention to the lower ranking manager that you changed it specifically at the other manager’s request.  Most of the time, the lower ranking manager will acquiesce.  If you are told to change it back, tell that manager that you need management to come to a consensus on this issue.  You really do not have a choice.  If the manager just storms off, do what the highest ranking manager asks.  Make sure you document what happened in case you are asked later.

If you are called in to the news director’s office and asked why your reports or newscasts are not meshing with the stations news philosophy, do not lose your temper and yell that everyone needs to get on the same page.  (Yes, it is true, but remember from the “Taking Ownership” article, you still have to be a team player and leader even when you are put in extremely unfair situations.)  Instead, say “Can you please define that philosophy for me in a sentence or two, to make sure I am clear on it.”  Often the ND will then say what the philosophy is.  Say “thank you for clarifying.  That will help me bring up specific coverage questions as we design our coverage each day.”  Then try and get the hell out of the office.  If you cannot get out, and are asked “Now I want to know why you did not understand that?” simply say that there are some conflicting messages but you will do all you can to be true to the news philosophy just defined to you. Again, try and get the hell out of the office.

The one thing you must do no matter what is document when you are told to execute different things.  Try and show a pattern.  That way if you get a bad review and truly feel you are in danger you can use this information to try and show that you are getting conflicting messages and need clarification so you can fully do your job.  A response to a review that includes documentation like this does get serious notice.

If you are brought in to the AND’s office and you and the EP are grilled about why you are not executing certain things, stay quiet as much as possible and let the EP handle it.  After all, this issue is really between the managers.  You can only do so much.  If you are pushed by them, it is o.k. to say  “I want to give you all 110 each day.  I need a consistent message to do that.”  Then, leave and let them have it out.

The biggest thing to keep in mind, as frustrating as dealing with these mixed messages can be, is that you can survive it.  Most of the time, managers are more at risk in a “confused” newsroom than staff.  If your EP is rebelling against the AND and ND, a time will come that the EP pays for that.  Same with an AND who wants to work against the ND.  Just do the best you can and try and let your frustration go, with the knowledge that the odds are in your favor and that you will end up best off.

 

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