Category Archives: layoffs

Local Newsers: Miserable on the Job, Desperate on the Beach, and The Return of Ramen Noodles

wisemug

John P. Wise

This week’s deeply honest and revealing post by John P. Wise has gotten a lot of local newsers thinking about the atmosphere in newsrooms across the country–about how the pressures from the top to make that damned money machine work again has trickled down to the producers and overnight editors and reporters and photographers and control room crew, making everyone flat out miserable.

And when I saw a tweet online from a Pacific Northwest winery about their upcoming employee summer Barbeque, complete with ribs and Pinot Noir, I was reminded of what it was like to work in local news just a few years ago:  at times, it was a hell of a fun place to be.  Then travel budgets evaporated, photogs lost their overtime, and along with that came a make-sure-the-crew-gets-lunch-even-if-you-miss-the-interview mandate and, as John so brilliantly described it, a complete lack of interest in the people doing the work.

Welcome to San Diego!  Clothing Allowance?  Ha!  No.  But Hey, Here's Your Camera and Tripod.

Welcome to San Diego! Clothing Allowance? Ha! No. But Hey, Here's Your Camera and Tripod.

Today, a post about one-man-bands in San Diego is good reading, as is the photo that goes along with it.  A reporter who’s just landed that San Diego job at a top station, only why is this woman not smiling? Not long ago, snagging a gig at KGTV would be a pretty sweet move.  Now, it’s almost a one step forward two steps back maneuver, with reporters arriving from smaller markets only to find the first part of life in the big city:  learning to shoot your own stuff.

And then there’s life after the job, after the layoff, after the cliche-ridden conversation with a manager who’s gotten too bored letting people go to even bother coming up with a new, personal way to talk to someone.  And in a flash, you’re on the beach, as they used to say in better times.

But as Gina Callaghan tells us today, it’s a scary place to be, where talent, skills, and smarts don’t automatically translate into paying work.  I think all of us can help each other out, and I urge you to visit LocalNewser’s companion site, CoachReporter, where we’ve just posted an article from a business coach on a key topic:  how do you take a resume that tells employers you’re absolutely qualified to work in a dying industry, and translate that to the emerging digital industry that’s replacing it?  We know we can do the work, but how do we show that?

Other coaches will be offering advice and suggestions on rebooting careers and, as Ann Nyberg says, navigating the change that’s surrounding us.

946pw8001DISPATCH FROM THE FRONTLINES:  Gina Callaghan

I hope that package of ramen noodles in the kitchen remains sealed.

In a strange way, keeping those noodles together means the strands of hope on which I base my future employment will also remain intact.

In June, I was laid off from my job as a Web producer at a local TV station. Between the festering stench that is the American economy and a contracting media industry, I didn’t harbor any great sentimental thoughts about the business. That chapter is finished, so move on.

But where does one move?

Many employers in the “real world” value writing skills, the ability to work in a deadline-driven environment, flexibility, multitasking, good time-managers – all attributes found in your run-of-the-mill newsroom staffer.

However, many of those same people will balk at hiring a newsie for several reasons.  A common red flag is when interviewers ask, “You are used to a fast-paced newsroom. Do you think you can adjust to a different way of working?”

Oy! The unofficial motto of the media business is “adapt or die.”

Of course, the above only applies if you are lucky enough to get an interview.

Then, there is age. One recruiter, impressed by my resume, looked off to the side and said, “I don’t want to get sued but I think my client might say someone with your, uh, background might find it challenging to work with people just starting out. And the site is all about music and pop culture.”

Huh?  Never mind the fact that I worked at Fox, home of “American Idol” and did a stint on the National Enquirer’s copy desk.

“How old do you think I am,” was all I could blurt out. Didn’t get the job. (By the way, I am over 30 and nowhere near death).

Sure there are some relevant job postings out there. I sit home, chain-smoking in an old bathrobe, zipping resumes to that black hole called: resumes@thiscompany.com.

And then there is the rest of the day. I recently started a blog about cats, did some gratis social media consulting and enrolled in a class. Perhaps most importantly, I have learned that generic orange juice is $1.99 as opposed to the $3.99 and up for brand names.

Whether my next job is in media or a real-estate office, I realize this period is a good time to take stock of personal passions and chart a new course. However, like many laid-off news types, the more pressing issue is navigating the choppy waters of daily survival – and keeping those ramen noodles in the pantry.

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Filed under Cutbacks, Furloughs, layoffs, Local News 2.0

Will Report for Food

jshop logo temp2 08.02.09We may not be exactly beloved by the community at large, but damn are we journalists resourceful, especially when the mortgage has got to be paid.

A group of laid off Los Angeles Times journalists has banded together to create The Journalism Shop, a collection of stellar reporters left on the beach by cutbacks and buyouts who want just one thing:  to work.  “The Los Angeles Times’ loss can be your gain,” the site’s ‘About Us’ reads. “Our interests range from freelance magazine journalism to book writing, deep project research to report design and writing. We encourage you to tap into our vast reservoir of experience and skill to bring to your own projects the caliber of journalism that helped make the Los Angeles Times one of the nation’s top newspapers.”

Award-winning journalists hanging out a shingle and saying, simply, “hire us.”  It says a lot about where we are as an industry.  A similar site, ProPhotographyNetwork, offers the same services, or as Matt Randall says there, “We will shoot anything, anywhere, for anyone.”

Do local television types want or need to do the same?  Are we on camera types satisfied with the work our agents are doing?  Would a “TelevisionProducersCollective” help?  These are the kinds of ideas we can talk about at LocalNewser’s companion site, where I hope to offer peer coaching and mentoring to journalists who could benefit from a little guidance given the crazy world we’re working–or, like the ex-Timesers, not working–in.

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Report: TV News Job Loss Slows–But at What Cost?

U.S. DEPRESSION BREAD LINEThe headline, surely, seems encouraging– TV Job Losses Could Be Slowing.

For those of us hanging on to local news jobs–or hoping to find one–any sign the storm is letting up means we can envision climbing up out of our storm cellars, evaluating the damage, and beginning to rebuild.

But I question whether the study reported by MediaJobsDaily can really be described, as Rachel Kaufman suggests as “signaling good news for all who are still hanging on.”

The research, by Vocus, a company that specializes in selling software to public relations companies, suggests that from January to June, “on-air TV news experienced a net job loss of 401.”  Great!  Then, the details:  “1,006 fewer TV journalists were working,” (Not Great) “while 605 entered new positions.”

Here’s where the rainbow over the hill starts to fade, at least for me.  Who lost those 1,006 jobs? From my own direct experience, I can tell you many of them were among the most talented and experienced broadcast journalists working in the country.  And from reading the “Who’s News” posts on ShopTalk and elsewhere, I can tell you the people who seem to be finding work are, predominantly the just out of college or just-jumped-150-markets-from Eau Claire” variety, and that means while job losses may technically be slowing, the overall picture remains bad.

Experience:  out.  Salaries:  headed down.  And there’s little to suggest that will be slowing anytime soon, if ever.

846251932_45052f2773.jpgLet’s crowdsource this. Leave a comment below if you’ve had layoffs and hires at your station. Did green replace gray?  Go ahead and name the vets, but let’s not pile on the newly hired kids, who can’t be blamed for jumping at a chance of starting in a big market.  Let’s leave their names out of this.

But we can tell a bigger story if we all report what we know directly from our own newsroom families.

So…are the job losses slowing?  And even if they are, is this “good news?”

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Lost in the Layoffs: The Non-Reporters, Non-Anchors Who Don't Make the Paper

Sony_MVS-8000a_lgI can’t operate a switcher to save my life.  In fact, in all the years I’ve been in and around control rooms, they’ve never failed to give me the creeps (the low light and monitors, glowing buttons and standys and takes and, of course, all that shouting) I’ve always been far more comfortable out in the middle of a hurricane or elbowing my way into the pack to get my mic in front of some indicted public official.

But the honest truth is this:  if I lose my job, odds are it’ll get mentioned in the newspaper (I treasure my New York Daily News headline:  No More Joyella in Mudville upon my departure from WNYW).

But lay off the entire control room, and not only will the newscasts look darn bumpy that night (you can just forget that quad box and custom wipe you were hoping for), but the people who lose their jobs will almost certainly not be mentioned in the next day’s paper.

Unless, of course, it’s “15 laid off at Channel 6–but fear not, it’s nobody you know…the wacky weatherman’s safe, the salty and avuncular anchor’s hanging on for another day, and that cute morning traffic girl will be back in the morning in that news-director-ordered tight sweater. The layoffs?  Just some, you know, behind the scenes people.”

Very rarely does the firing of a longtime but unseen employee merit mention in a newspaper by name.  It happened recently when Alan Henney, a weekend assignment manager at WUSA/DC put himself on “permanent furlough” and left the station with a blistering memo that suggested that the station’s longstanding tradition as a home of serious journalism was in danger, if not dead already.

It happened again when KARE/Minneapolis parted ways with a behind-the-scenes player considered the “heart and soul” of the KARE newsroom, Senior Executive Producer Lonnie Hartley.  His layoff was made newsworthy when the entire newsroom, led by talent with connections to print writers, voiced their outrage.

For most, though, it’s pink slip, then silence.  You walk out the door you’ve been reporting to for decades, and as far as viewers know, nothing’s even happened.  I know it’s part of the downward spiral stations across the country are in.  Only the lean have a shot at surviving.  Got it.  And yet, there’s something about all the pity pouring out for the poor dethroned anchors and reporters, who, after all, have their name to fall back on.

On this blog, the most popular comments continue–even months after the fact–to involve a laid off weatherman in Denver, and fired reporter/anchors in Washington, DC and Tampa.

DeDapper Media CEO (and ex WNBC reporter) Jay DeDapper

DeDapper Media CEO (and ex WNBC reporter) Jay DeDapper

This week the New York Daily News reported that former WNBC reporter Jay DeDapper’s started his own production company, DeDapper Media.  I applaud Jay and wish him well.  I’ve done the same thing myself, and I’d be the first to admit that having any kind of “name” is one card to play when you’re up against it.  “The jobs, they’re not just disappearing and they’ll be coming back; they’re disappearing permanently,” DeDapper told the Daily News’ Richard Huff. “There will be very few places in journalism on television for good people.”

The advantage to having a name, is being able to use it to find the next thing.  “The idea is, basically for 20-some-odd years, what I’ve done more than anything else is tell stories for a living,” he told the News. DeDapper has contacts and he’s a known entity.  And when a guy like Jay DeDapper decides on a new path, that itself becomes worthy of a news article, which never hurts when you hang out a shingle and start looking for business.

The laid off TD isn’t so lucky.  Brilliant in those dimly-lit control rooms, working magic on a Sony MVS 8000 (“I can give you eight boxes, but we don’t have eight live sources”) but separated from the control room, then what?  No newspaper mention, and no clear next step.  No, they’re not storytellers like reporters, who can find other ways of assembling information and telling stories, whether its for a production company, a PR firm, or as a TV pitchman.  Had there not been an injustice of Epic Proportions, I’d be playing the role of a TV type on the new season of HBO’s True Blood (I’m not bitter, mind you, just disappointed.  I don’t carry a grudge).

So how does the live truck op, the satellite engineer, the camera operator or the TD sit down, stare at their resume (which shows a clear flow from college to today that screams “I’m damn good at what I do!”) and think, this only gets me the job I just lost?

30shift2_190

Rebecca Zucker

Rebecca Zucker

Rebecca Zucker is a San Francisco based executive coach and partner at Next Step Partners, a firm that specializes in guiding clients through career transitions.  She says in the current business climate, about a third of the firm’s business involves helping clients answer that question, “now what?”

“Formulate a hypothesis,” she says.  “Even a crazy daydream.”  What was it you wanted to do before you ended up in local news?  Actor?  Pastry chef?  Try and remember.  Zucker asks her clients to think back to the peak experiences–outside of work–in their lives.  “A time when you felt like you were thriving, alive, confident, competent and at the top of your game,” she said.  The exercise involves looking at those times and figuring out what made them so special.  Was it intellectual or artistic challenge?  Was it cooperation or collaboration?  Whatever it was, these are the keys to your own personal satisfaction, and knowing what they are will help you figure out what kind of work will make you happy.  “The reasons (those experiences) felt so great were because you were completely expressing your own values,” said Zucker.

Zucker urges clients to read Herminia Ibarra’s book, Working Identity, which offers tips for mid-career professionals on reinventing themselves–and enjoying the result.  Key piece of beginner’s advice?  “Don’t try to analyze or plan your way into a new career,” write Ibarra.  (Take that you over-analytical technical directors and producers!)

Zucker suggests trying out new ideas, even a bunch of new ideas.  If you think it could be pastry chef, figure out who you can invite to lunch for an informational interview.  Does it feel natural?  Could you see yourself doing that kind of work?  Attend a conference or a class.  Small steps.  “They’ll find out which doors they want to shut, and where they want to dive deeper,” says Zucker.

Oh.  And here’s a big one:  don’t obsess about what others are telling you.  What would you do for a living if your friends, former co-workers, spouse, and family didn’t get a vote?

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Lost in the Layoffs: The Non-Reporters, Non-Anchors Who Don’t Make the Paper

Sony_MVS-8000a_lgI can’t operate a switcher to save my life.  In fact, in all the years I’ve been in and around control rooms, they’ve never failed to give me the creeps (the low light and monitors, glowing buttons and standys and takes and, of course, all that shouting) I’ve always been far more comfortable out in the middle of a hurricane or elbowing my way into the pack to get my mic in front of some indicted public official.

But the honest truth is this:  if I lose my job, odds are it’ll get mentioned in the newspaper (I treasure my New York Daily News headline:  No More Joyella in Mudville upon my departure from WNYW).

But lay off the entire control room, and not only will the newscasts look darn bumpy that night (you can just forget that quad box and custom wipe you were hoping for), but the people who lose their jobs will almost certainly not be mentioned in the next day’s paper.

Unless, of course, it’s “15 laid off at Channel 6–but fear not, it’s nobody you know…the wacky weatherman’s safe, the salty and avuncular anchor’s hanging on for another day, and that cute morning traffic girl will be back in the morning in that news-director-ordered tight sweater. The layoffs?  Just some, you know, behind the scenes people.”

Very rarely does the firing of a longtime but unseen employee merit mention in a newspaper by name.  It happened recently when Alan Henney, a weekend assignment manager at WUSA/DC put himself on “permanent furlough” and left the station with a blistering memo that suggested that the station’s longstanding tradition as a home of serious journalism was in danger, if not dead already.

It happened again when KARE/Minneapolis parted ways with a behind-the-scenes player considered the “heart and soul” of the KARE newsroom, Senior Executive Producer Lonnie Hartley.  His layoff was made newsworthy when the entire newsroom, led by talent with connections to print writers, voiced their outrage.

For most, though, it’s pink slip, then silence.  You walk out the door you’ve been reporting to for decades, and as far as viewers know, nothing’s even happened.  I know it’s part of the downward spiral stations across the country are in.  Only the lean have a shot at surviving.  Got it.  And yet, there’s something about all the pity pouring out for the poor dethroned anchors and reporters, who, after all, have their name to fall back on.

On this blog, the most popular comments continue–even months after the fact–to involve a laid off weatherman in Denver, and fired reporter/anchors in Washington, DC and Tampa.

DeDapper Media CEO (and ex WNBC reporter) Jay DeDapper

DeDapper Media CEO (and ex WNBC reporter) Jay DeDapper

This week the New York Daily News reported that former WNBC reporter Jay DeDapper’s started his own production company, DeDapper Media.  I applaud Jay and wish him well.  I’ve done the same thing myself, and I’d be the first to admit that having any kind of “name” is one card to play when you’re up against it.  “The jobs, they’re not just disappearing and they’ll be coming back; they’re disappearing permanently,” DeDapper told the Daily News’ Richard Huff. “There will be very few places in journalism on television for good people.”

The advantage to having a name, is being able to use it to find the next thing.  “The idea is, basically for 20-some-odd years, what I’ve done more than anything else is tell stories for a living,” he told the News. DeDapper has contacts and he’s a known entity.  And when a guy like Jay DeDapper decides on a new path, that itself becomes worthy of a news article, which never hurts when you hang out a shingle and start looking for business.

The laid off TD isn’t so lucky.  Brilliant in those dimly-lit control rooms, working magic on a Sony MVS 8000 (“I can give you eight boxes, but we don’t have eight live sources”) but separated from the control room, then what?  No newspaper mention, and no clear next step.  No, they’re not storytellers like reporters, who can find other ways of assembling information and telling stories, whether its for a production company, a PR firm, or as a TV pitchman.  Had there not been an injustice of Epic Proportions, I’d be playing the role of a TV type on the new season of HBO’s True Blood (I’m not bitter, mind you, just disappointed.  I don’t carry a grudge).

So how does the live truck op, the satellite engineer, the camera operator or the TD sit down, stare at their resume (which shows a clear flow from college to today that screams “I’m damn good at what I do!”) and think, this only gets me the job I just lost?

30shift2_190

Rebecca Zucker

Rebecca Zucker

Rebecca Zucker is a San Francisco based executive coach and partner at Next Step Partners, a firm that specializes in guiding clients through career transitions.  She says in the current business climate, about a third of the firm’s business involves helping clients answer that question, “now what?”

“Formulate a hypothesis,” she says.  “Even a crazy daydream.”  What was it you wanted to do before you ended up in local news?  Actor?  Pastry chef?  Try and remember.  Zucker asks her clients to think back to the peak experiences–outside of work–in their lives.  “A time when you felt like you were thriving, alive, confident, competent and at the top of your game,” she said.  The exercise involves looking at those times and figuring out what made them so special.  Was it intellectual or artistic challenge?  Was it cooperation or collaboration?  Whatever it was, these are the keys to your own personal satisfaction, and knowing what they are will help you figure out what kind of work will make you happy.  “The reasons (those experiences) felt so great were because you were completely expressing your own values,” said Zucker.

Zucker urges clients to read Herminia Ibarra’s book, Working Identity, which offers tips for mid-career professionals on reinventing themselves–and enjoying the result.  Key piece of beginner’s advice?  “Don’t try to analyze or plan your way into a new career,” write Ibarra.  (Take that you over-analytical technical directors and producers!)

Zucker suggests trying out new ideas, even a bunch of new ideas.  If you think it could be pastry chef, figure out who you can invite to lunch for an informational interview.  Does it feel natural?  Could you see yourself doing that kind of work?  Attend a conference or a class.  Small steps.  “They’ll find out which doors they want to shut, and where they want to dive deeper,” says Zucker.

Oh.  And here’s a big one:  don’t obsess about what others are telling you.  What would you do for a living if your friends, former co-workers, spouse, and family didn’t get a vote?

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On the Links: Innovation (Not TV) and Layoffs (TV) Anybody Seeing a Pattern Here?

OntheLinksThe future–and the fallout–on the links today.

A few stories on innovation, and as I’ve been telling you, they’re not coming from local TV:  newspapers, and (seriously?) the oldest of the old line, the AP.

And in fallout, more layoffs, layoffs, layoffs, and another new Content Center.  If there’s one thing I’d bet on, it’s that anything in TV called a “Content Center” will not be a Google-like hub of innovation, but rather a Kafkaesque exercise in overworked, underpaid newsworkers churning out the unwatchable on air, and the unreadable online.

Simon Owens at PBS’ MediaShift reports from Miami on an experiment in hyperlocal community reporting/blogging underway at the Miami Herald, where the paper teams up with local bloggers.  Again, don’t count newspapers out in all of this.  They’re doing way more experimentation (out of necessity, sure) than TV stations.

Ian Crouch at Neiman Journalism Lab reports the AP’s acting all new media-ish with plans to crowdsource its coverage of Sonia Sotomayor’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearings next week. (Not sure what crowdsourcing is?  Oh.  What am I going to do with you?)

Paul Farhi at the Washington Post reports on a “reorganization” at WRC/DC that sounds so painfully familiar–the debut of a “content center,” and the layoff of legions of writers, editors and technicians.

Michael Roberts at Westword in Denver has the latest on talent and tech layoffs at KDVR, including top weather guy Chris Dunn.

James Rainey at the LA Times has a strange, but fascinating piece on the to-the-bone layoffs at FOX O&O KTTV:  “And now it must be said of the Fox News affiliate in Los Angeles:  So diminished.  So wretched.”

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WTVJ/Miami Local Newser: “I Hate Today, Hate It, Hate It, Hate It”

Seems Like a Lifetime Ago Since WTVJ Was the Might Channel 4
South Florida media blogger SFLTV has had plenty to write about in Miami/Ft. Lauderdale over the last year or so, from a potential Post-Newsweek eat-and-destroy operation involving NBC O&O WTVJ, to the standard SoFla anchors acting strangely.  (See SFLTV for ongoing coverage)

Today, SFLTV put the latest this way in an emotional tweet:  “WTVJ is dead.”

As the site quoted an unnamed WTVJ staffer about the day’s developments: “I hate today. Hate it, hate it, hate it.”

WTVJ, rich with a storied history of journalism dating to the earliest days of broadcast news, is not, technically dead.  The onetime mighty Channel 4 became the not-quite-as-mighty Channel 6 in a misguided signal swap years ago, but the real destruction was more recent. The looming–and ultimately failed–effort by Post-Newsweek to buy WTVJ and create a major market ABC/NBC duopoly led to a mass exodus of talent.  Many saw Ocean Drive-style neon writing on the wall, and decided to get out before they were fired when the new guys took over.

In the end, the deal collapsed.  But WTVJ remained understaffed, fueled with a sense of uncertainty, and a melancholy for the end of a long run of big names doing big, real news.  Suddenly, WTVJ seemed like any other station, or worse, like a really bad one.

Today, SFLTV reports, an anchor layoff involving longtime morning anchor Kelly Craig, news reporter-turned-sports anchor Andrea Brody, and reporter Joe Carter.  The blog reports the station’s weekend morning news may be eliminated as well.

WTVJ:  Selling Its Experience (Ah, How Times Have Changed)

WTVJ: Selling Its Experience (Ah, How Times Have Changed)

I’m not ready to throw an epitaph on the mighty TVJ calls.  But it’s obvious to anyone who follows local news what happens to a strong station that is let to decay through lousy management, underfunding, and, in NBC’s case, a seeming lack of interest in being in the O&O business anymore.

The Miami market (where I’ve worked two tours at Post-Newsweek’s WPLG) had long been a destination market:  a place where young reporters could land and learn to be fast, talented, and worthy of a trip up the market ladder:  a market that made careers.  It was also, and maybe more importantly, a market where those Miami-bred network newsers could come home to, sink some roots and do solid, serious reporting on issues ordinarily ignored by flashy, cotton-candy local news.  A faded newspaper ad puts it best:  once upon a time, WTVJ bragged about the longevity of its people:  “Our 11 o’clock news team has lived here for years.  So it’s only natural that they have a better idea of what’s going on.”

When did that idea get stale?  Is Miami now nothing more than a stepping stone market?

The Who’s Who list of heavyweight reporters and anchors who rose to the top, then returned to Miami is long and filled with bold-faced names.  Sadly, the trend seems to be coming to an end, and the sending of three more TVJ-ers to the loading dock to pick up their Emmys and plaques says it all.

Can anyone build a real career in any market anymore?

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