There’s no sense looking back — 2009 was just plain bad. But 2010 can be a different story. With some good economic trends, there’s optimism creeping back into view. So, in the spirit of the holidays and eager to see what’s ahead for our broadcast news operations next year, I blasted a bunch of e-mails to a cross-section of news people, news directors, agents and consultants to get their wish lists. Their answers range from the flip and funny to the serious and sarcastic.
This past year has been a tough one for all of us. Many are out of work. Every newsroom dollar is a struggle. Broadcast operations are in retrenchment mode. And for many, it’s hard to shake that nagging feeling that the newsroom is being reorganized around you — and maybe without you.
So it’s easy to be ticked off right now and feel miserable about the future.
But too many news people waste time looking over their shoulder and chewing over how much better things were “in the days when we ….” You can fill in the blank.
Face it, there’s no going back. Who wants to anyway? While there were good laughs and plenty of stories about double-lunch breaks, prima donna personalities and bloated salaries, the scratch-and-spit bravado of the old newsrooms, the “good ol’ days” also had a downside.
No matter, those days are dead. And I’m hopeful about what’s ahead. Things have got to get better. In fact, I hear bits and pieces about business picking up — at least stabilizing.
There’s optimism creeping back into view for 2010. So, in the spirit of the holidays and eager to see what’s ahead for our broadcast news operations next year, I blasted a bunch of e-mails to a cross-section of news people, news directors, agents and consultants.
I wanted to check out their wish lists for 2010. What are they hoping Santa will bring them and their newsrooms this Christmas? Here’s a taste of the return messages that run from the flip and funny to the serious and sarcastic.
Peggy Phillip, news director at Scripps’ KSHB Kansas City, Mo., says her wish is “to remember names, faces and telephone numbers the way I could when I was 30.
“For everyone else in the newsroom–BIG FAT RAISES. They’ve worked hard this year because we’ve streamlined workflow and transitioned to multi-media journalists with our reporters and photographers.
“And new Flip HD cameras all around!”
Good point about the memory, Peggy. For me, I just want to see people over 30 on a TV newscast.
Al Tompkins, at the Poynter Institute, says these are some of the wishes that he has collected from news directors:
- 18-49 year old male viewers.
- A Skype feed that does not drop out when we kick it on the air.
- A divorce from the publishing side.
- 25 percent profit margins again and I promise not to take them for granted this time.
- Great Nielsen meter placement.
- A sympathetic accounting department.
- A really nice snowstorm for the February book.
From Ed Esposito, vice president of information and media, Rubber City Radio, and chair of the RTNDF:
“Ha! I’ll tell you EXACTLY what Ed wants from Santa: a go-crazy, no-limit run through the BSW warehouse up the road from our offices. I’ll even settle for just a 15-minute quickie. That and a way to implant spell check and grammar check into all of our brains since layers of editing have been a casualty of repurposed newsroom staffing.
“I suppose I should include contributions to RTDNF, too, but you were asking what I want from Santa. Once you prove Santa to me, I’ll be glad to make another pitch!”
I would add one item to Ed’s list. This one goes beyond spelling and grammar. Let’s ban, outlaw and otherwise kill the use of “guys” from the vocabulary of anchors and reporters, particularly in those tosses, “Back to you guys in the studio.”
Pushing ahead, what does Steve Cohen, news director at KUSI San Diego want?
“I would like my sense of humor to return after a year of reporting on these hard times.”
How about Steve Herz, the president and founding partner of If Management:
“I wish Santa would bring newsrooms a sense that people are not interchangeable and a respect for individual effort and merit.”
That’s something I’ve heard from others.
Stacey Woelfel, associate professor at Missouri School of Journalism, and news director at KOMU Columbia and chairman of the RTDNA wants “a federal shield law signed by the president,” which he has been working diligently on.
Woelfel is also asking for an easy way for viewers to send videos to stations. “They’ve figured out e-mailing pictures fine, but getting anyone to get video from their cameras or phones to me is still next to impossible.”
Anything else, Stacey?
“Going back to my baby boomer childhood, how about some of those X-ray specs I could hand out to reporters so they could see right through PR flacks. A built-in lie detector would be nice, too.
“I ask for a helicopter every year, but Santa never brings it (market 137, you know). We did have a hot air balloon for a while — seriously.
“Finally, peace on Earth, meaning I would love to see Sony, Avid, Apple, Panasonic and everyone else agree on some common standards that would let me buy the gear I want and let it all talk to each other.”
Here’s one I know is shared by many NBC affiliates. It comes from a TV group executive who asked that I not use his name. “I’m already guessing I’ll want NBC to get some real programming!”
Kent J. Krizik, president of NewsProNet, wisely starts with the dollars on his list:
- An across-the-board 30 percent budget increase for 2010.
- Increased reporting staff to include one person for every ZIP code in the DMA.
- 24/7 live news coverage online … and 4-6 hours on-air each day, if you have time.
- An even split among all local news departments of the 45 percent of local online ad dollars going to Google each month. OK, maybe split by percentage of visitors to your Web site. Competition is healthy.
- Same thing for the local yellow pages dollars — in print and online.
- Free iPhone app development for everyone.
- Statistical analysis of your on-air and online viewers so detailed (without violating anyone’s privacy!) that you can identify the three people in your market who may buy a Rolls-Royce in 2010 — and be paid $3,000 for each name … by Bugatti.
- The number of your active and repeat advertisers swells to the size of…um…say, like … the phone book.
- That your news department wins every time period in which you compete.
Linda Levy at the NWT Group Agency sent along a poem:
We know the economy’s been somewhat rocky
And budgets all punched
Like players of hockey.
So our wish list is simple
And perhaps very Zen.
As we head into the New Year
of Two thousand Ten.
Pay raises for all,
Employee and Employer.
That would bring joy
(and if it’s a word, more joyer)
Let newsrooms not worry
About rumored layoffs.
Thinking instead of stories
Like political payoffs.
More rebounds for car dealers
And all sponsors alike.
With Sales selling newscasts
Whose ratings all spike.
So to all the hard-working folks
This is no hype…
Wishing you a Happy New Year
And to all
A great Skype!
Joe Rovitto, president of Rovitto & Clemensen, wants to get the year off with a jolt. “Replace the food with Zoloft in the station vending machines,” he says. “And instead of coffee, pass out free Red Bull in the newsroom.”
Here’s another one I’ve heard from a number of news people who want to dig themselves out of the hole of the past year. It comes from Gregg Willinger, president of the Willinger Talent Agency.
“What I hope that Santa brings to newsrooms next year is optimism. With 2009 soon to be behind us, perhaps the naysayers in the biz can get past the gloom-and-doom attitude that permeated too many stations this past year and understand that TV news is still an important and vibrant business — and can turn a profit too!”
Jim Willi at AR&D sent me a list of gifts that that Steve Safran, who heads up AR&D’s 2.0 division. Here are two:
“The Gift of Experimentation: Too often we hear about stations where it can’t be done because of various policies. It can be lots of things — trying new collaborative sites online, experimenting with new tools of the trade or using their own tech to contribute. Have a contest for the best experimental idea, and give a day off to the winner.
The Gift of Training: You have got to train your people more. This doesn’t have to cost much. Bring in a local journalism professor to talk about writing. Hell, you’re smart enough. Put together a few sessions yourself and put on that old, dusty journalist hat of yours. Get someone from the Web to hold a seminar on what they are up to and how their colleagues can help. Find the people who can truly educate and inform. That, after all, is what we do for a living.”
On Steve Safran’s positive note, here’s to better days ahead in 2010 and remembering that we educate and inform.
Enjoy the holidays.
Tom Petner is an award-winning journalist and former local TV news and Internet executive. Most recently, he was editor of the broadcast industry newsletter, ShopTalk, and director of the Multimedia Urban Reporting Lab at Temple University. His column, Air Check, is all about local TV news and appears every other Monday in TVNewsCheck. He invites comment and ideas. He can be reached at [email protected]