What do we do when this pandemic is all over? Why it’s not too early to start planning transition coverage.

I recently posted an article on lessons learned while covering the midwestern flood of ’93. It was an intense time for much of the region. We lived and breathed coverage for months. But luckily for me I had a news director who also understood that we had to help the community rise out of the floods with coverage of some stories that were not flood related. 

This newsroom, like many today did not have a lot of resources. And we were budding journalists, so source building was not something we really knew how to do. Our news director leaned on the management team to help coach and find those other relevant stories. At first it was a couple a week. Then one a day, and slowly as the water receded and people started rebuilding, our newscasts took on a new shape as well. Many of us feared that once you covered something that frankly was so easy to go out and find information about, it would be hard to transition into showing viewers we could find highly relevant stories on other subjects. But the prep work our managers did planning and coaching on beats helped make the transition easier.

Your newsroom is likely filled with more seasoned journalists than mine was back then. But I am going to argue that if you take a moment and really think about the last few years of news coverage, your room lost site of finding the very important factual events going on in your community. A lot of the industry has turned to reactionary coverage, often influenced by what’s trending online. What if, as you start to transition to more ‘normal coverage,’ you take the time to let some of your source builders look for great gets? I know we are entering surge time for COVID-19 in many areas of the country, but I want to plant this seed early. Once there is a dip, do you have reporters ready to tackle other relevant stories? Education, economic, financial and housing stories are going to be very important in the months to come. Why not take a   crew out of rotation every day or two and have them start gathering information and sources on these key subjects? Maybe they turn a vo or vo/sot now. But once the surge ends you can lean on them for key coverage.

Chances are you have a lot more viewers sampling your newscasts and websites than usual. As important as it is now to “own” coverage, you will only have a small window to win over those samplers and turn them into loyal viewers once COVID-19 coverage winds down. It is crucial to come up with plans to transition out of the coverage in terms of manpower and relevant stories. These samplers came to you for facts. Many are not loyal TV news viewers. But desperate times set off a deep psychological need for information. Look for ways to help some of your star reporters find informative, compelling stories that they can run with as the coverage eases up. That way your momentum stays up. The viewers see that you can bring all kinds of important information to them even when there’s not a pandemic. We cannot assume they think that now. Too many polls have shown that Americans have lost faith in news. It’s time to try and bring them back. Start having some key people in your newsroom source build and gear up to be ready while others continue with daily coverage. 

The stations which plan ahead and come up with transition scenarios to maintain high quality enterprise stories that show deep community roots will win. The stations which fly by the seat of their pants will showcase that flaw as the news of the day gets more run of the mill again. A little organization will go a long way to keep more of that sampling audience. So start thinking transition now.

The Best Job Security A Reporter Can Have

The best job security a reporter can have comes down to one word. Sources. Time and time again I hear about the “untouchable” reporter in a newsroom who can’t ad lib, can’t write, can’t dress, can’t get along with people, yet cannot be fired. The reason, sources. The reporter has so many contacts and so many ways to get relevant information on a dime, that they away with murder day-to-day.

Now, if you are the person with the great sources, hear this: I am NOT suggesting that you act like a jerk in the newsroom. Even the most “untouchable” person can go too far and pay a hefty price. But if you love where you live and want to stay for the long haul, do not underestimate the power of a strong source list.

Simply put, too many people think their looks or on-air abilities are enough to keep them around. These traits are easier to find in the biz, than a die hard reporter with a true pulse of what’s happening in the community and who’s behind the power struggles, conflicts and movements. Your looks can fade or a station can change it’s mind about on-air presentation styles. No matter what, all stations and all news philosophies in all markets need journalists who can call on a hunch, turn a lead story and do it consistently.

So next time you think you are too tired to make that follow-up call, or reach out on a new lead for a potential source, remember, giving that extra effort could make you an invaluable resource. It is worth it. (If you don’t know how to source build check out Cultivating Sources and How to Generate Story Ideas.)

Is Enterprising Stories A News Philosophy?

Recently I addressed the importance of defining your news philosophy to end up in a station where you can really flourish.  When I ask journalists to define their philosophy the most common answer I get is “enterprising stories.”  Let’s consider that for a minute.

Enterprising stories is not a philosophy.  It is the result of source building.  However, it is what you should be doing anyway as a news reporter.  Again, “enterprising stories” is not a news philosophy.  A news philosophy defines how you present information to the community to inform, empower and educate.  It includes writing style, graphics presentation, and topic selection.  It delves into which of the 5 W’s and 1 H you focus on the most.

Stations may emphasize unique stories as a key part of coverage.  It can be part of a news philosophy.  But it is not the whole of a news philosophy.  Remember, part of serving the public is covering the issues and events of the day.  You cannot always enterprise every element.  You can look for impact elements others do not have, but the basic facts must still be present in order to serve the public effectively.

Here’s one more thing to think about: Nearly all newsrooms aspire to have some sort of “enterprise” unit no matter their stated philosophy.  (Conan recently reminded us how rare it really is.) Aspire to break this mold.  Delve deeper into issues to find the unique elements.  Source build so you can learn what the reality of a situation really is, and use those skills to define your philosophy.  Think of “enterprising stories” as a means to the end, which is, your news philosophy.

 

LinkedIn: How to guide to finding sources and exclusives.

For years, LinkedIn has just been an online placeholder for my résumé. I didn’t really think about it much and rarely went on there.

However, two things recently happened to change my view of the site.

The first was when my news director assigned me to do an investigation into privacy concerns regarding drones and Ohio leaders’ efforts to snag one of the nation’s coveted slots for a drone testing program.

Although GE’s jet engine subsidiary is headquartered in Cincinnati, aerospace is not something that gets a lot of coverage in my market. So when it came to looking for sources in the drone industry (its executives prefer to call them “unmanned aerial vehicles”), I was starting from zero. One day, I thought, “I wonder if I can find someone to interview by searching LinkedIn?”

Within seconds, I found an executive at TechSolve, a company that does consulting for the aerospace industry. I e-mailed her asking if someone there was doing any work on drones. She said her CEO would love to do an interview. It turns out, he’s one of the major players behind-the-scenes who’s trying to bring a drone-testing program here.

The other thing that made me start respecting LinkedIn more was a conversation with software developer Dave Hatter.

We were doing an on-camera show-and-tell one day for my morning show consumer segment and he had LinkedIn up on his laptop. I couldn’t believe how he was going on and on about it. So I asked him why he likes it so much. He showed me how LinkedIn isn’t just for your résumé anymore. He calls it a very powerful search engine for finding people and connecting with them. He even lands clients and speaking gigs this way.

“One of the key facets I think most people really overlook is the incredible power of the search engine in LinkedIn,” is how he put it to me recently when I asked him to do an entire segment with me about how LinkedIn can help those who are still unemployed find work.

The thing is, his insights are also great for broadcast journalists looking to make connections to move up the market ladder or, as I demonstrated through dumb luck, finding a great source for a story.

The key, he says, is using what LinkedIn calls its “Advanced People Search.”

For instance, in trying to find someone to interview in the aerospace industry, you could type “aerospace” into the keyword box and your station’s zip code in another box further down the left-hand side of the page.

I just re-enacted my search as I’m writing this. The executive I found earlier came up again. And I just discovered that if you click “similar” below her name, other aerospace industry executives and workers come up on another page. This will be really helpful when you get that dreaded “I’m on vacation” out-of-office reply from your first contact.

But say you’re not working on a story. You’re trying to build your personal brand. Hatter uses LinkedIn for that, too.

“There are over a million groups on LinkedIn,” he said. “Some groups have literally hundreds of thousands of members in them. By joining the group, you now have opt-in permission to share with that group.”

Don’t spam them, he warns. Instead, pass along articles or video links that would appeal to other broadcast journalists or television executives.

Hatter says LinkedIn limits you to 50 groups. That’s probably more than enough for most of us, though there are some LinkedIn power users who sound pretty upset about the cap.

You also want to post on your home page on LinkedIn. If you haven’t been to your account in a while, log-in and take a look. LinkedIn has basically created a professional version of Facebook. After getting Hatter’s advice, I try to post at least once a day on there and allow LinkedIn to send the message to my Twitter followers, too.

Finally, be careful with the recommendations you give others — and especially the recommendations you choose to publish on your profile.

Hatter is also a hiring manager and says it takes an authentic, from-the-heart recommendation on a candidate’s LinkedIn profile to make him take it seriously.

“If I go in and I give you a recommendation, you are going to show-up in front of my entire network as a recommendation from Dave,” he said. “Everyone in your network is going to see that I recommended you. But if I say something like, ‘Matt is an awesome guy,’ does that really carry any weight? And I think a lot of recommendations are pretty shallow and pretty hollow like that.”

Hatter also explains, in an extended clip we put on our station’s website, how to jazz-up your “headline” and profile info to stand-out from the crowd. The headline is really important because it’s what hiring managers see first in their search results, along with your profile photo. And please have a profile photo! I can’t believe how many people in broadcasting don’t put their photo up on LinkedIn.

Hatter told me having no photo is a quick way to get overlooked when a television executive is doing her own “advanced people search” in an effort to fill a job quickly.

In such a competitive industry, we need all the help we can get. So why not put more effort into LinkedIn? After all, it’s free. (Hatter advises against paying for the premium version.)

You can bet the other 90 TV anchor/reporters in America who look just like you will be using LinkedIn. So you’d better, too.

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You can connect with Matthew Nordin on LinkedIn and Twitter. He’s an investigative reporter at WXIX-TV in Cincinnati.  And if you want to learn more about how to use this site, check out the group LinkedIn for Journalists (http://www.linkedin.com/groups/LinkedIn-Journalists-3753151), which offers free tutorials.