Angry newsroom employees need to get over themselves

everybody's so angryDiana Marszalek’s entertaining “Job Quandary: Is there life after TV News” column in TVNewsCheck this week was a reminder to me of how deluded many (if not most) people are in television news. We actually think we’re important, and that would be funny, if it wasn’t so sad.

I learned my lesson on this one during one of the several times I found myself unemployed. The people in the mayor’s office in this city were my buddies, but they wouldn’t even take my calls after I was on the street. You know why? They were friends with my position (news director) and didn’t really give a crap about me as a person. I’d confused me with my job, and there’s a lot of that going around in the local TV news world. We think we’re so bloody important, but all we are is spoiled children who think the world owes us a special place among the minions.

So Diana’s piece attempts to have a serious discussion about the struggles of TV news people attempting to get a real job before the budget-tightening ax falls on them, but it just can’t seem to get there, at least not in my mind.

A married couple working in a Top 15 market (one’s a producer, the other’s an anchor) say they don’t see things getting better where they are now and are planning their exits.

“The sheen of TV is off for me,” the woman says. “In the 20 years that I’ve been in this business it’s changed so, so much, and the rapid deterioration really in the last five years has been shocking.”

Cost cutting has eroded the quality of newscasts — taking away the integrity of the job with it, she says. “It’s pretty bad for morale.”

With two TV news salaries supporting the family, simply walking away is not an option until something else takes shape. So both are hanging onto their jobs until their next careers — writing for one, voice work for the other — kick into high gear.

“It’s just a matter of when,” the wife says. But, hopefully, it will be sooner rather than later since the bad vibes permeating their newsroom are infiltrating their home. “It’s long overdue.”

I used to honestly think that what was happening to our industry was unfortunate and sad. I wanted to do anything I could to help the people trapped in its downward spiral, because I’d been through my own exit and knew what awaited everybody. I’d reinvented myself and had advice that I thought was useful. Few, however, wanted it and chose instead to just sit there and complain, like those in Diana’s article.

I started in the business 40 years ago, when most TV news people came from newspapers and wanted to explore this “new” medium. The numerator varied, but the denominator was wanting to make a difference. Then communications schools came along and made broadcast journalism a major, and we were off to the races. People “wanting to be on TV” forced themselves upon us (and we welcomed them), and the homogeneity of TV news in the midst of double digit revenue growth made everybody nice-n-comfy. “Little did we know when we became a profit center,” an old colleague noted at RTNDA many years ago, “that one day we’d have to play by the rules.”

So now we have an industry overflowing with those unable to cope with change, blaming everything and everybody except themselves, cursing because “the business” isn’t giving them the status and comfort they imagined. I’ve got three words for you: grow a spine.

As I tell my students, this is the most remarkable time in communications history. Nobody should be complaining, for it’s an era in which talented people can do anything. Oh to be young again, to grab a niche and run with it as the world of journalism is recreated. There’s a hilarious cartoon by Brooklyn Lee and posted at xtranormal.com called “So you want to be a journalist,” featuring a recent college graduate who insists he’s going to be a reporter for the New York Times. He refuses any other suggestion. In one especially revealing statement, he says, “I want to be in the newsroom bantering with my colleagues about the important things we are writing about.” Well, good for you.

Matt Ingram wrote an interesting piece this week: Now that we have the Web, do we need the Associated Press? Good question. Meanwhile, AP union members are protesting a pension plan freeze and increases in medical payments by more than 40 percent. What’s wrong with this picture?

Angry and helpless news employees blame the economy, their managers, their owners, Wall Street, consultants and their audiences, when the reality is that, in life, shit happens. Deal with it.

And to the married couple in Diana’s piece, your plan has a flaw. Money is tight for any kind of writing or voice-over work, too. You may want to start a neighborhood blog instead, or go to work for somebody who has money, a local auto dealership, for example. They want to be a media company. You can show them how to do it. Suddenly, all those things you’re complaining about will become your best friends.

And so it goes.

Comments

  1. This is quite interesting. Communicating the right things in the right way is the most hilarious task on earth.

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