Tag Archives: mark joyella

Why I’m Questioning My Career, Questioning Myself, and Perhaps Unfairly Angry at Alan Ball

Alan Ball:  Unfair, Yes, but Its All Your Fault

Alan Ball: Unfair, Yes, but It's All Your Fault

Alan Ball probably doesn’t even know I’m angry. I mean, why would he? But I can’t shake it. See, I loved “Six Feet Under,” and have always considered Ball to be one of those unpredictable, bold, and truly brilliant storytellers that are just so rare in film and TV today. When Ball’s new show, “True Blood,” hit HBO, I watched, and thought it was amazing. Weird, funny, unforgettable.

So why am I mad? Oh yeah, sorry. Well, since I left my nice warm reporter’s job in Miami at WPLG, I’ve been blogging away and engaging with new media gurus and pondering a digital future–all from my perch here in Brooklyn. Exciting, rewarding, but financially draining. I’ve put in hours freelancing at the New York Post, and started work on a new online channel devoted to wine and travel that will launch this summer, but as for the bottom line, well, it’s been tight.

How is any of this Alan Ball’s fault? Sorry. I’m getting to that. You see, I’ve been swimming in the ice cold water of New York’s media world, where there are lots of journalists on the verge of hypothermia, but not many rescue boats with warm blankets. Nobody’s hiring. And the gigs that come up–the interesting ones–well, they don’t pay. (You know that “next financial model” stuff we’ve all been talking about? Yeah, well, the folks out there experimenting and trying new things…they’ll let you in on the proverbial ground floor, and you’ll feel connected to creativity and the thrill of maybe discovering a new way of telling stories, but the cell phone bill still won’t get paid.) And that brings me to Alan Ball.

I’ve tried everything. I’ve met with marketing and ad agencies, figuring a good storyteller is a good storyteller, and reporters know how to boil things down and explain them, and the good ones really know how to write, right? Well, try telling that to someone even at a funky SoHo marketing shop. You get this odd stare and head tilt, as if they were a puppy that’s just heard a strange sound. “But… you haven’t worked at an agency…” And they can’t get past that.

Oh. Rats. Alan Ball. Sorry. I’m getting there.

A friend who was unceremoniously dispatched from his reporting job at WNBC recently shared his experiences finding work as a talented reporter and writer in this environment. He thought to himself, “if there’s one thing I know how to do, it’s look into a camera and talk.” He’s found work doing commercials and acting.

HBO's True Blood: I Coulda Been a Star

So there I was a week ago in the oh-so-strange world of waiting my turn to audition for Alan Ball’s “True Blood.” The new season’s in production, and one of the characters is a news anchor who does a weekly segment on vampires. Now, like my WNBC friend, if there’s anything I know how to do, it’s be a news reporter or anchor. I wouldn’t really be “anchoring” so much as “playing one on TV.” (And I wasn’t the only out-of-work local newser who had that idea. Scanning down the sign-in sheet for the HBO audition session, I noticed five well-known names who were also giving the fake news a try)

While I have no real acting training, I thought I sounded just like an anchor during my audition. The casting agent sent me off with a cheery “have a great weekend” and a reminder to leave my phone number so they could reach me over the weekend if I got a callback.

And you now see where this is going. No callback. And I’m left to wonder: am I not even qualified to pretend to be a journalist now? I can’t pass for one in fiction? I must admit it had me questioning everything, from whether I’d ever hold a mic in my hand again as a reporter, to whether I could hold out long enough for my inroads into new media to finally produce a paycheck.

Or, I could just blame Alan Ball.

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And Now, It’s My Story to Tell As Well

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My Last Liveshot for WPLG

Last night, toward the end of WPLG/Miami’s 6:00 newscast, I did a live package on Twitter, the hot social media platform, and how the station intends to use it to engage viewers.  

I’d been pushing to make Twitter a bigger part of the newsroom’s daily life for a few months, after seeing the power of the site to connect with people in Miami and around the world;  many with excellent connections, ideas, and stories. I also believe that getting up to speed with Twitter makes local tv newsers more competitive in an increasingly difficult economic environment that’s putting so many talented people out of work.

Fittingly, my story on Twitter was my last as a reporter at WPLG.  I wasn’t laid off, and I wasn’t fired.  Last fall, I approached my news director, Bill Pohovey to ask out of the remaining two years of my contract.  I had no new job, and no issues with the station.  I’ve been proud to be associated with WPLG and Post-Newsweek, and have benefitted from working alongside some of the most amazing journalists in the business, both in front of, and behind the camera.  My decision was personal:  I’m getting married.

My fiancee, Tiffanie Wong, also has a TV job she loves, as a technical director at CNN in New York. That’s home for both of us, and despite months of trying to sell a Brooklyn girl on the South Florida lifestyle, it became clear I would be moving.  And so, on Friday, I will.  I’m packing up and heading North, two dogs and a cat in tow, and becoming one of the many reporters, anchors, writers, producers and managers who never imagined a climate like this–more stations firing than hiring–but facing the cold reality of it.  I don’t know if yesterday’s story will be my last, not just at WPLG, but period.

Getting a Taste of Multiplatform Reporting on a Bus to DC, with WPLG Photographer Mario Alonso

Getting a Taste of Multiplatform Reporting on a Bus to the Obama Inauguration in DC, with WPLG Photographer Mario Alonso

New York’s going through a horrific period of layoffs and cutbacks, and as my fantastic agent has put it to me bluntly, there isn’t any work, and there is a phenomenal amount of talent sitting on the sidelines ready to jump at anything that opens up.  

My friend and former WNYW colleague Jodi Applegate jumped at a job anchoring the news at News 12 on Long Island. Asa Aarons, forever a consumer reporter at WNBC, has hired on at NY1. Jobs that once would have been “beneath” us are now seen as life rafts in seas that threaten to swallow us up.  

It’s scary.  My agent calls to “check on me” and tell me that no, nothing much is happening.  (Other than clients being laid off and let go)  I troll the job listings and send resumes, and find lots of not much.  I send resumes anyway, sometimes sending applications to listings that sound digital and interesting, even if I don’t fully understand what it is that the job entails.

And at the same time, I’m excited.  The business is changing.  I can stay in my comfortable, well-compensated job, wait for the wave to hit in Miami, and lose the woman I want to marry, or–I can take the leap.  And the net, as they say, will appear.

 

WTNH's Ann Nyberg:  One of the Smart People

WTNH's Ann Nyberg: One of the Smart People

I am so damn curious where I will land.  I don’t think it will be at a television station.  I don’t know that I’ll even be on camera. Fortunately, I’ve never been one of those get-a-reversal-and-a-two-shot-walking-down-the-hallway-and-make-sure-I-get-my-facetime reporters.  I’m a storyteller. I just love telling good stories.  And more than ever before, I believe storytelling’s not in danger. Local tv news the way I’ve always known it is.  For years I’ve had the job of my dreams, meeting people, crafting packages, and getting to air them on TV.  Every day a different challenge.  Now, I think my dream is evolving, as much as my life is.

Will I end up in PR?  If I can’t find a paycheck, I’ll definitely look into it. Will I try to shoot my own stories and find an audience for them? You bet I will.  Will I keep a close watch on the smart people I’m meeting on Twitter and elsewhere–people like Ann Nyberg in Connecticut and Matthew Roberts in Denver–to see which way they think the wind is blowing? Oh you can bet your life on it.

And I’ll still be right here.  I’m loving writing about this career I’ve had–and one way or another, will continue to have–and how it’s changing, at times so painfully.  The blog (oh Lord, if only I could get paid to write all day!) will grow and be a place to share not just how others are responding to being out of work, but now, how I am, too.

I hope you’ll be here with me.  I know this is going to be interesting.  And hey, no matter what happens:  I got the girl!

Life Calls--Even at the Worst Time to Leave a Job in Local TV History (Photo of Tiffanie and I in San Francisco by Anna Kuperberg)

Life Calls--Even at the Worst Time to Leave a Job in Local TV History (Photo of Tiffanie and Me by Anna Kuperberg/See more of Anna's amazing work at http://www.kuperberg.com)

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Thanks for Stopping By

There’s a lot to talk about in the local tv biz these days, and most of it’s rather depressing.  In a sense, that’s what prompted by lovely fiancee to suggest, just two weeks ago, that I put up a blog to talk about what’s happening:  the scary stuff, but also the inspiring things that are right around the corner for those of us who are willing to experiment, be flexible, and believe.

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5,000 Page Views Makes My Dad So Proud of Me!

Apparently, I’m not the only one.  In two weeks, this blog has had over 5,000 page views, and today, on a lowly Saturday, more people visited than on any other day:  nearly 500.  I am humbled–and excited.  I’ve heard from a lot of smart, insightful people and gotten to make connections in this business I didn’t have before.  I’ve been mentioned on sites I respect, gotten notes from well-known names who stunned me with word they’d been reading my stuff, and my baby blog even got a mention in the mighty New York Post.

I believe that if we share ideas, and stick together, we’ll not only get through this, but thrive.

So thanks for stopping by.  And please, pass the word to anyone who might want to join our conversation.

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Obama Bus Blog Creates Viewer Interest, But Does It Miss the Story? (Literally–I Mean, Are We Missing It?)

One Obama Bus Breaks Down, Forcing a Passenger Relocation--and Delay

One Obama Bus Breaks Down, Forcing a Passenger Relocation--and Delay

The details of our epic bus ride from South Florida to–well, Washington supposedly–have been detailed on WPLG’s website, justnews.  In nearly 30 hours on the road, WPLG/Miami’s intrepid bare-bones crew of reporter Mark Joyella and photographer Mario Alonso have riden in a cramped bus attempting to file packages via DV cam and aircard-equipped laptop, with limited results, followed by a string of road trip rough spots, including an ill-planned search for a restaurant “just off the highway” near Savannah, GA, followed by a blown compressor aboard the crew’s bus (result:  no heat, just an ever-more-frigid interior temperature), a tire blowout overnight in South Georgia, and finally, a snowstorm in the Carolinas that ultimately coincided with the failure of the Obama Bus’ windshield wiper motor.  The last event forcing a third of the 130 Floridians bound for the inauguration–including Mark and Mario–to squeeze into the remaining two buses, now running against the clock.

The most recent mileage sign:  Washington:  161 Miles.  The time:  around 10 a.m.  The math:  Not.  In.  Our.  Favor.  Even if you were just trying to cross the city line by noon, when Barack Obama will put his hand on the Lincoln Bible and be sworn in, it’d be tight.  But the city is locked down.  Entire sections of the Capitol area are now off limits due to extremely large crowds, and friends have reported to us waits of up to two hours to board sardine-packed Metro trains, which remain the only way into town, since vehicular traffic–including Obama Busses–can’t drive in.

What makes all of this interesting from a local newser point of view is whether WPLG’s low budget effort will actually have a bigger return with the misadventure… the humor of the blog effort (and we’re getting some amusing “we’re pulling for you” emails and Tweets, along with many snarky comments about bus rides, slow drivers, and incompetent local news crews) has taken on a life of its own that may be more powerful, ultimately, than seeing yet another package amid the crowds in Washington.

If we miss the Inauguration altogether, can we go directly on to the expense account lunch at Hawk and Dove?

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Obama Bus Blog Reveals Limits, Laughs of Going Guerilla on the Big Story

 

The "Obama Bus" in an iPhone Pic Filed by Joyella

The "Obama Bus" in an iPhone Pic Filed by Joyella

Photographer Mario Alonso and I set out at 6:30 a.m. Monday for Washington to cover the Inauguration of Barack Obama as the nation’s 44th President.  We don’t have credentials, we don’t have a hotel room, we don’t have satellite time, an uplink truck, a fiber link–we don’t really even have a “plan.”  What our station did send  us off with was a check for $360–payment for two seats aboard Charter Bus #007… one of a fleet of three carrying a group of 130 South Florida Obama supporters to Washington to see their candidate sworn in today.

So far, our backpack/guerilla efforts have put Mario and me in both the “hero” and “goat” position.  We blogged and Twittered for several hours as the sun rose Monday, and even filed a video story from the bus, shot on mini DV, imported into a Powerbook and Final Cut Pro, and than uploaded via an air card.  The 30 second clip took nearly an hour to file, but it was in the newsroom in Miami in time to be the second story at noon, and that earned us raves.  

Ah, how quickly they forget.  With the “Obama Bus Crew” filing “packages” from the road, producers and managers back in the newsroom fell immediately back into the “we have a crew on the scene mentality” and began asking that we send tease video… and even calling at 4 with ideas on “elements” for the “6 o’clock package.”  Well, as you might have guessed, there never was a 6 o’clock package.  As the bus rolled through rural South Georgia, cell service was diminished at best, and the :50 clip we’d intended to feed made slow to no progress for more than 90 minutes until it became clear the video would not be in house in time.  We did a phoner.

A stop for dinner outside Savannah landed Mario and me in a Houlihan’s restaurant–with Wi-Fi.  Success!  Heroes again!  Not only did we feed the 6 o’clock “story,” we ran outside, shot nighttime standups for an eleven o’clock story, and did interviews and shot fresh cover video… all quickly uploaded, then downloaded in Miami thanks to high speed wireless.

Since then, the Obama bus convoy was sidelined by a shredded tire… and then a failed compressor that turned the interior “heat” to ice-cold air conditioning.  Passengers–and us–bundled up and contemplated tears.  The windshield froze over, and the bus driver had to pull off I-95 to deal with the problem–all shot on DV and snapped on my iPhone, enabling me to file pics and write up quick blog posts to combine with phoners for the morning show.  Ah, convergence!

What will happen in DC?  Who knows?  I veer back and forth between hating this assignment and loving it.  Please share your thoughts!

Mark Joyella and Mario Alonso Aboard the Obama Bus

Mark Joyella and Mario Alonso Aboard the Obama Bus

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We’re All in This Together

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Whether traditional television stations recover from the advertising setbacks that have forced layoffs for tv newsers from coast to coast, or some of those stations instead decide to eliminate their newsrooms, and send even more good people out of work, I know this much: we’re in this together.

Since I started this blog all of a week ago tonight, I’ve been jokingly called a “harbinger of doom” for noting the names of the reporters, anchors and other tv newsers who’ve been directly affected by the cost-cutting that’s having such a dramatic impact on the work we do and love. Many of my friends are among those who’ve lost jobs through no fault of their own. When it came right down to it, talent wasn’t the deciding factor. It was money.

At the same time, I remain exceptionally hopeful about our business. I believe that there will always be a market for a person who can tell a story, either with a microphone and a pad, a camera, or, yes, both. I’m curious to know what local tv news will look like in just five years. I want to talk to the smart people and share their insights right here on this blog.

And I guess I’m not the only one. In 7 days, this out-of-nowhere blog got nearly 2,000 page views, and I heard from a lot of folks, some good friends, others just people with an interest in television news, and the news in their town most of all. I hope to make this site a resource, not just to talk about “doom,” but to brainstorm about what might be, for all of us, an exciting future, telling stories in ways we never imagined.

Thanks for reading the blog, and thanks for sharing your thoughts. I can’t tell you how happy it made me to read a Facebook message from Brendan Keefe, who wrote, “I had no idea this website was new! It’s great. Suddenly I’m the most informed guy in the newsroom when it comes to what’s happening in the business.”

Doesn’t get much better than that. Thanks, everybody. (Now I’ve really gotta bolt… “24” is on and I gotta watch me some Jack.

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