Well, every year KVOE has our Brewers and Broadcasters Classic at the Emporia, Kan., Country Club. It’s a scramble-format tourney that uses a modified (maybe extra modified would be a better descriptor) Stableford scoring system.
It’s a two-day deal. It’s very popular, usually filling up a week or two before the tourney begins. And for us at the station, it’s all hands on deck.
ALL hands on deck.
We usually take a six-hour shift. For those of us who have a six-day week, we pick our day off. Which for means Sunday morning.
For the first few years, my job was to see which drives on a par-3 were closest to the pin. Closest got a prize. I’ve also spotted for closest approach shot for a separate prize.
The last several years, I’ve been on Hold No.5, spotting for balls leaving the fairway and heading into either “the deep spinach” or the row of trees currently behind me.
(Why spinach? Why not, oh, cabbage or Brussels sprouts or alfalfa? I digress. Actually, no, I don’t. We officially had to dig for a ball in the mushrooms today. The mushrooms!)
And here’s where GBLP comes into play.
It’s not an official statistic. At least, I don’t think it is for golf course workers. But GBLP is short, in my mind, for Golf Ball Location Percentage. And, as I said, mine is slipping fast.
Honestly, I have no idea why I’m on this assignment. My eyesight has never been good (some would say even with the thick or highly-adjusted lenses I’m currently using). Back when I used to live near a public 9-hole course in Omaha, my brother and I would return balls to golfers (and sell others left behind later). One of our unspoken contests, at least as I took it, was to see which one of us could find stray golf balls faster. He won repeatedly.
So, as you can see, I may not be cut out for this task.
As I write this, it’s 9:15 am. I’ve been spotting now for 90 minutes and I’m on my sixth (seventh?) group of the front nine. I have had my fourth close call (not quite a near-miss) from incoming missile attacks. And up until this sixsome approached, my GBLP went from 67 percent to 16 percent. I saw four of the six balls land with my first group and just one with my last group.
It seems like this happens every year. It’s normally a high sky, which doesn’t help, and today has minimal cloud cover.
As mentioned before, I haven’t had the dump-out-of-the-Gator scramble to avoid incoming attacks yet. But it’s coming.
Honestly, all of us volunteer spotters should eschew the orange vests and be outfitted with these T-shirts, courtesy of The Far Side:
And next year I’ll tell you about the GTVTR.
The Golf Tournament Volunteer Target Rate. Which just went up…
Part of that is just the nature of news. We have to get a lot of information out, and for broadcast — radio and TV — we typically don’t have a lot of regurgitation time (insert your own visual here). I’m fortunate in my current position because upper levels of management have given my department the leeway to give a 15-minute news hole for our featured newscasts. This means our staffers have the unmentioned go-ahead to flesh out stories with all the necessary details so our listeners and Web site readers get more details than other broadcast media outlets can provide. It’s not to the level of print journalism — again, the time factor rears its ugly head, especially with the number of stories we’re generating — but it’s one of the things I really like about small-town journalism in general and our station policy in particular.
But part of that is also a desire to, well, spice up the news. And, in some cases, that’s being kind.
I remember a TV news anchor in Omaha from the late 1980s who relayed all information — all information — in the most dramatic terms possible. Car crash? Disastrous, even if it was a fender-bender. Fire? Always destructive — which technically was true, but obviously there are different levels of destruction from such incidents.
It didn’t take long for said anchor to depart the TV station for greener pastures and more mundane news writing (and news delivering) to return to that station’s airwaves.
The problems with dramatic news writing, especially for basic and breaking news, are severalfold. First, it’s distracting to the listener and to the Web site reader. Second, it’s numbing to the audience, especially when people eventually figure out the adjectives and the actions don’t match.
Problems don’t stop there on the broadcast side because a dramatically-written story automatically causes an anchor to change his delivery emphasis — and in some cases to leave what’s actually important underemphasized.
News stories written with a lot of flowery language may generate more online clicks for a certain period of time. However, once readers realize there’s much ado about very little, they will find other news sources that focus on the truth, regardless of how boring the details may be. And your news operation will suffer a damaged reputation as a result.
As far as I’m concerned, a news department’s focus should be in the following order.
Truth in all aspects
Engage with details
Entertain if dictated by content
As you can see, embellishment of details is nowhere on this list. However, go back to the paragraph about online traffic. Once grandiose language is allowed and online traffic seems to increase, a news reporter can be easily tempted to either write things out of context, blow things out of proportion or write things that simply can’t happen just so more people come on board the Web site. Many have taken to the temptation…to the detriment of the profession.
After having seen dramatic language — both elsewhere and, unfortunately, in my department — and after hearing from people over the course of time, it’s my experience that the story content drives readership and listenership far more than how dramatically it’s presented.
Basic is boring when it comes to news writing, especially for hard news. There’s no doubt about that. But given the choice between dramatic and dry, basic is also best.
Shortly after noon today, I saw a headline that went something like this: “Phillips was explosive on the field, troubled off it.”
It would have been entirely appropriate to consider Lawrence Phillips explosive wherever he went.
If you wanted a case study for a “talented but troubled” sports figure, Phillips was your man. When Phillips took to a football field wearing Nebraska’s scarlet and cream, you knew he would deliver. Need six yards to move the chains? He’d weave through the line. Third down, 18 inches, tight game? He’d bowl you over. Screen pass as a change of pace? Not his forte, but he’d get the job done.
Off the field, he was a mess. And that was before college. But man, could he run. Power, grace, fluidity, and anger all in one sculpted, 220-pound package.
But nothing could uproot that anger. Not the national championship at Nebraska. Not an NFL career. And not even prison.
A lot of us wondered if death in prison would be where the Lawrence Phillips story would end, especially as the physical violence incidents continued and escalated. That’s what I thought. But it’s hard to imagine the immediate subplots leading to today. Phillips faced death row — death row — for allegedly killing another inmate.
From the cheers of 77,000 people to death row. And then to possibly suicide.
I’m having a very hard time wrapping my mind around what I saw at Memorial Stadium 20 years ago and what I’ve been reading today. It’s mind-boggling that one character trait that can make you great in one arena — in Phillips’ case, his deep-seated anger — could eventually kill you.
Following the unfortunate passing of music icon David Bowie over the weekend, I figured I’d better roll out my second list of musicians I’d like to see come to Emporia, Kan. (in some cases before the pack everything away).
I was first introduced to Heart through its mid-1980s pop phase, but I have always liked the band’s original blend of roots rock, classic hard rock and — yes — country. I had seen some rumblings the band may be closing down its illustrious music career after releasing an album later this year, which would be a shame. They still play a lot of arenas, so honestly the 800-seat Granada may be too small for their tastes.
Sellout chances: Guaranteed Song I have to hear in concert: “Barracuda” (with “Magic Man” a close second)
Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band
Still going strong — and still filling arenas across the country — Seger would be another tough get for Emporia just for the arena size. Given Emporia’s love for classic rock, however, the area would make it worth Seger’s while to play for a couple hours.
Sellout chances: Again, guaranteed Song I have to hear in concert: “Like A Rock”
You may not know the name and you may have forgotten the band Brother Cane, which gave us the grunge hit “Got No Shame” and the alt-rock song “I Lie in the Bed I Make,” but since Brother Cane’s demise Johnson (the lead singer and a guitarist for the now-defunct group) has been touring with Alice Cooper and Thin Lizzy among other bands. He can come to town with those groups or on his own. I don’t mind.
Sellout chances: Impossible unless he’s part of a more well-known group. Song I have to hear in concert: Let’s go with “I Lie in the Bed I Make”
If you follow fusion jazz at all, you know Marcus Miller is a baaaaaaaaaaaad bad man on bass. I watch him on YouTube and realize there is absolutely no way on God’s green earth that I could do some of the bass tricks he whips out with ease.
Sellout chances: Not great unless it’s through the Emporia Arts Center’s Performing Arts Series. Song I have to hear in concert: “Hard Slapping”
The Fabulous Thunderbirds
Haven’t heard the Thunderbirds since their massive run in the 1980s? Well, neither have I. But they are touring — actually venues the Granada’s size or smaller — and you know they would rock the house.
Sellout chances: Fair Song I have to hear in concert: “Powerful Stuff”
Trust me — I’ve got more bands and acts I’d like to see. So expect Round 3 down the road.
About the only thing I can think after Saturday’s legendary meltdown by the Cincinnati Bengals is it was bound to happen to some team at some point.
There is so much blame to spread around, and regardless of where you apply your industrial-strength spatula you may not get it all. However, the Bengals not only failed on the field in their 18-16 loss to the hated rival Pittsburgh Steelers. They set themselves up for failure well beforehand.
You can’t miss the blatant self-control problems displayed in the final minute by Vontaze Burfict and Pacman Jones. The potentially crippling shoulder-to-head hit by Burfict followed by Jones losing any semblance of cool immediately afterward were the final straws in the Bengals clawing defeat from the clutches of victory.
But there’s more. Coach Marvin Lewis lectured his players, notably Burfict, about maintaining composure as the game teetered in and out of control in the second half. Yet he put Burfict — and Jones, a noted hothead — back on the field at the game’s most critical point.
He had to. Or at least he felt he did. Despite their emotional control problems, Burfict and Jones are among football’s best defenders. And talent rules more decisions now than any other factor in sports. At least in most cases.
But Lewis and the Cincinnati coaching staff, try as they did, could not get those two players to play under control when it was most desperately needed.
So there is that failure.
And there’s more. Burfict and Jones, who have both had more than their share of Meathead Moments in their NFL careers leading up to Saturday night, were pursued by the Bengals because of their talent and potential. It was a calculated risk, weighing potential against potential — the potential for brilliance (witness Burfict’s interception that seemingly sealed a win with under two minutes left) against the potential for catastrophe (which is what most of us will remember from the game). Other players were available that could have made plays and kept their cool. The Bengals decided against those options.
Somebody was bound to lose a playoff game in this fashion, this ugly, unhinged manner that we saw unfold like a train wreck Saturday. It didn’t have to happen, but the Bengals primed themselves to be that team well before this weekend.
Eleven years ago, my wife Ginny and I had our first formal date as a couple. I asked her to a Kansas City Royals game against Cleveland and I was pleasantly surprised when she accepted.
The Royals were bad that year, miserable bad, sweat-on-sunburn-painful bad. Bad enough where outfielders looked at each other during a fly ball, jogged in for the third out and had the ball land behind them. Bad enough where a first baseman got eaten up by a tarp…not really, but you get the picture. Bad enough where fireworks were touched off when a batter walked. (OK, they didn’t all happen that year, but after a while the cumulative effect just rolls together into one mind-numbing nightmare lowlight). Bad enough where our attention wasn’t on the game but on developing the Ballad of Coco Crisp. I forget how that goes.
Last night, shortly before midnight, we cuddled up on a couch and watched Wade Davis close out the New York Mets for a World Series crown.
And what a crown. And what a team.
The never-say-die attitude of the Royals was discussed at length, especially as the comebacks started to mount. The reasons behind the comebacks were also given a lot of air time as the World Series continued and eventually culminated. One of the reasons I haven’t heard mentioned, especially about the Royals hitters, was what can best be described a lack of baseball ego. Think about it. The Royals sometimes had some pretty poor at-bats early in playoff games this year, but go back and follow the ABs in pivotal situations. There were very few wasted plate appearances, very few wasted swings, even if they weren’t all productive.
Dale Sveum’s “keep the line moving approach” demands that hitters make contact as often as possible. But it dictates an unselfishness among batters, urging them to put their individual wishes aside for “the big hit” — namely home runs — for the greater good of a hit, a baserunner, an increase in pressure on the defending team.
Under that pressure, Royals opponents cracked, buckled and eventually caved.
Look at the Mets as a classic example. Look at how the deciding rallies started in Games 1, 4 and 5 to prove the point. Rushing on defense led to critical errors, setting the table for possible victories — but the Royals also took advantage, which is the big thing (and what had a lot of us worrying about the team’s postseason fate back in September when KC wasn’t finishing off teams).
The Royals weren’t clean by any means in this World Series — two potentially costly errors by Gold Glover Eric Hosmer and a fielding brain fart by pitcher Franklin Morales that locked up the Mets’ only win. Doesn’t matter. Not with this team.
As an aside, I have to credit the Fox broadcast team for their Game 5 coverage. As unabashedly biased as Game 1’s play-by-play went, the crew of Joe Buck, Harold Reynolds and Tom Verducci changed their tune by Game 5 and were about as fair and balanced as you can get. Kudos there.
Back to the team that matters.
This was a team that has been labeled as destined to win, and not just because of what outfielder Alex Gordon called a cockroach-like inability to go away. It was a team brought together by the heartbreak of losing the World Series last year and fused by the unfortunate passing of Mike Moustakas’ mother and Chris Young’s and Edinson Volquez’s fathers. The word team often blends into the word family when it comes to championship-level sports. The Royals embody that blend perhaps better than any time I have followed for a long time, in part due to the losses that matter on the scoreboard and the losses that matter in life.
Speaking of the on-field losses, it was less than three years ago that Royals fans had enough of the team’s current direction. Myself included. And honestly, it was hard to blame us. Starting in 1995, the Royals dove into one of the most inept stretches of baseball, losing 90 or more games almost every season, looking bad on the field and lost off it. Starting the 2013 season, the Royals had to use a second-half shove to get into the playoff picture and give fans some hope General Manager Dayton Moore’s “Process” and Manager Ned Yost’s crustiness were worth supporting. Both were just about the door if the Royals had another lifeless summer.
If you want to look back, that walkoff grand slam hit by Justin Maxwell against Texas — one of the best non-playoff baseball moments I’ve ever seen, in person or on TV — was a feelgood moment to essentially end the 2013 season. But it also served as a precursor to what we saw this year.
If you want to look back, the 2014 Wild Card game was yet another prelude.
And now there’s no need to look back.
I was 14 when the Kansas City Royals slid past St. Louis in the 1985 World Series. Say what you want about the Don Denkinger call in Game 6 that year, but the Cardinals flat melted down in that inning and throughout Game 7. The Royals’ core from that team didn’t completely end its useful baseball life for several years, so I thought at least one more playoff push was in the cards. It wasn’t. Not for a loooong time. The team then got so bad and the front office so clueless I thought I would never see another title.
This must have been what the Israelites felt some 3,000 years ago criscrossing the Palestinian desert and then being told The Promised Land was in sight. It wasn’t 40 years in the desert, but three decades of mainly rudderless direction is plenty long enough.
There are a ton of questions about the 2016 Royals. Can KC re-sign Gordon to a deal and get Ben Zobrist on board for another year or two? How will the Royals handle Danny Duffy and replace Johnny Cueto? Can the Royals reclaim their magic from this year?
Right now, it doesn’t matter. I and millions of Royals fans have finally seen the baseball promised land.
Various and sundry thoughts while mulling the end of a vacation week…
The Kansas City Royals are primed to win the World Series. That’s something I didn’t expect at the start of the regular season, and it’s certainly something I didn’t expect after the Royals dug themselves a massive hole in the American League Division Series Game 4 against Houston. One thing that has highlighted this season is an ability to get big at-bats at big times, and that trend has been in full evidence against the New York Mets in the first two World Series games. The Mets rotation is designed to miss bats. The Royals hitters are now designed not to miss pitches, especially those in the strike zone. Mets pitchers are losing this battle in a big way. The other thing in the Royals’ favor has been underrated starting pitching. Edinson Volquez was every bit the equal of Matt Harvey in Game 1, and Johnny Cueto (and I can’t believe I’m typing this) simply outpitched Jacob deGrom in Game 2.It just has to be the nails.
After the All-Star break, while Ginny and Bella were getting their nails painted, my foster son asked whether I’d get my nails done. I said I’d get mine painted blue if the Royals got back to the World Series. Lo and behold, they did. And I had to remind the ladies of the home about this. Typically, I’m the one having to field the reminder on just about everything. Anyways, Bella was pretty giddy about getting to paint Daddy’s nails. As far as the on-field results, so far, so good. Just waiting to see what happens when I chip a nail.
If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything. Therefore, this will be the only mention of Joe Buck’s broadcasting, um, style, excellence, high-priced waste of air space in this blog post. I gladly utilized the six to eight seconds of delay between KVOE’s feed of the ESPN Radio coverage and the Fox TV picture for Game 2. It hurts the brain somewhat with that approach, but it sure eases the mind when you know you have an unbiased broadcast at the national level.
I just love how, according to Mr. Buck, Harvey was the perfect pitcher for the Mets to start the World Series…and then how deGrom was the perfect guy to get a win for the Mets in Game 2 after they lost in crushing fashion in Game 1. Well, obviously they weren’t because the Mets are down 2-0 for the aforementioned reasons. There weren’t any perfect Royals starters to be part of the World Series, the way it appears. Funny how that works out. And it’s funny how the backhanded compliments — “and those Royals, nobody knows how they do it” — just enhance the fact that they, not the other team are doing it in emphatic fashion.
Man, does Emporia State football have a big one coming up. And not against Northwest Missouri on Nov. 7. Archrival Washburn comes calling — on Halloween Day, mind you.
If you wanted an example of inconsistency, the Ichabods would be about as good an example as you could get this season. Defeat Pittsburg State, ranked in the top 15 at the time, lose to bottom-dweller Lindenwood. Defeat Missouri Western, a longtime powerhouse in the conference before quarterback injuries hamstrung the offense over the past four weeks, lose to Central Oklahoma, a team finding its way after being the pleasant surprise in the MIAA last year. A ton is at stake for the Hornets, who at 7-1 can still get into the playoffs with two losses — and just about everybody expects ESU to lose at Northwest Missouri. Losing to Washburn and to NWMSU, though, and it’s just about curtains for any postseason hopes.
It’s your archrival. Weird things happen against your archrival, especially in games where you should win — as Emporia State should on Saturday. It’s Halloween Day, the day of weird things. Hopefully the Hornets take all the strangeness out of the game early on, take care of business and move to 8-1 before a national broadcast in Maryville.
Mike Riley isn’t in trouble, but the Huskers are. Let me rephrase that: Mike Riley isn’t in trouble yet. There’s a big difference, but regardless, there’s no way NU should lose to Northwestern at home. It shouldn’t have lost to BYU, Wisconsin or Illinois, either. And there’s no business losing the way they have this season, whether through bad defensive positioning or shoddy play-calling or bad communication or, apparently against Northwestern, just a poor effort. For a team allegedly hungry to prove it can win two straight, it sure sounded full of itself until it was way too late.
What does this mean? Well, on the field it means this team had better cinch up the fundamentals and at least play solid football. Win or lose. That’s now the best we can expect as fans for this season. Which isn’t nearly enough for this program or its fans. We have come to expect more because we have seen it’s possible. And we were told solid football would be the basic common denominator of this program. So far, it hasn’t been.
Going into Riley Stardate 2.0, it should mean a purge of all the players who are demonstrating any unwillingness to buy into what Riley and his coaching staff are selling. If you’re not on board, find some place where you’re comfortable. It’s as simple as that.
Off the field, it means this can’t continue or else Riley’s seat will get extremely hot extremely quickly. So will the seat under his coaches, especially defensive coordinator Mark Banker. And so will the seat underneath Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst. The Riley regime didn’t have the talent of other Big Ten teams to start, so struggles were anticipated. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong’s skill set didn’t fit what Riley and offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf had in mind, and at times they have melded the separate approaches into something quite nice. Injuries haven’t helped. But the sheer sloppiness of things…it’s unacceptable. In all phases of football. And that should have been communicated to the coaching staff from somebody — Eichorst, football god Tom Osborne, an outgoing chancellor, anybody — well before now. Even after the mess of the Bo Pelini era, NU football has taken a significant step backward in the first year of the Mike Riley regime. It’s a step backward I didn’t expect. And it’s a step backward that I hope doesn’t mean leads to backing into the mud of mediocrity. If the program isn’t already there.
You can make a buffet out of anything. Ginny made the point abundantly clear this morning when I asked her what’s for supper tonight and she said, “We’re gonna have a leftover buffet.” Now that’s craziness. An all-you-can-eat buffet? Awesome. A pie buffet? Heavenly. But a leftover buffet?Now that you mention it, that pot roast from Tuesday night does sound pretty tasty.
Less than a week is left in the 2015 MLB regular season, and as the season steams to a close I noticed a couple things about my own baseball preferences which, quite honestly, disturbed me.
First off, and I can’t believe I’m saying this…I have been rooting for the New York Yankees here as the season ends. The fricking Yankees. The only team on the planet I despise more than anything associated with the University of Texas.
Yes. I have been rooting for them.
“Hello, I’m Chuck and I’m apparently a seasonal Yankees fan.” “Hi, Chuck…”
It hasn’t helped, at least for the most part. The Yankees, who led the AL East for much of the season, got passed by Toronto a few weeks ago and are now 5.5 games back with five games left. So they won’t win the division, although they do have a 3-game lead in the wild card race. Doesn’t sound that bad, except when you consider who the Kansas City Royals could face in the playoffs, either in the Divisional Series or the League Championship Series.
Put simply, the Royals match up much better against the Yankees.
The Blue Jays are the team nobody wants in this year’s playoffs. At any level. They mash the ball. Their pitching has improved. And say what you want about some of the whining antics or manufactured outrage coming from a Jose Bautista or Josh Donaldson…but the Jays play for each other very well.
One other thing you may have noticed since the trade deadline: if the Jays are involved in a close game, something now almost invariably happens to tilt the scoreboard in their favor.
Like I said: nobody — and this includes the Royals — wants any part of Toronto starting next week.
My rooting for the Yankees goes against everything in my baseball being. (Apparently this is more deeply-rooted than even I knew. Last year, my dad told me he wouldn’t have known what to do with me if I had become a Yankees fan growing up.) So that’s unnerving all by itself. But when the Royals went to Baltimore earlier this month, I had no rooting interest for the Orioles. And I’ve been rooting for them since 1975. The Orioles are the team I latched onto when I started learning about baseball — and now it’s just, well, meh.
Have the Royals finally become my favorite team? Initially, I’d say yes. However, the Orioles did next to nothing last offseason after the Kansas City sweep job in the ALCS. They hardly did anything near the trading deadline to improve the club and bolster a playoff push, even though they still were pretty much in the thick of things at the season’s midway point.
It’s almost as if upper management didn’t care. That spoke volumes to Orioles fans like me.
The Royals, meanwhile, did what they could — leading the division for most of the season and also adding pieces (Ben Zobrist, Johnny Cueto) designed to bring the trophy home. That hasn’t worked recently as the Royals have had a month-long slide, but it’s a push we Royals fans have never seen before — or least not in the past 30 years. That says a lot to baseball. And it says a lot to your fan base.
I’m still calling myself an Orioles fan, but I’m not sure my heart is in that statement. Ask me again when the Royals and O’s do battle next year.
Recently, I had the good fortune to rub shoulders with a couple sets of college journalists. We didn’t discuss a whole lot other than their assignments, but they seemed pretty into their work and eager to join the profession. I have to say I was pretty impressed with their drive.
Thinking about those encounters got me thinking about something else: exactly what young journalists need to know about the profession before they get into it. Honestly, I’m not sure what’s being taught in the classroom these days — especially when it comes to the day-to-day, common-sense things journalists have needed throughout history. And to tell you the truth, I never got that far in my formal college education to find out because I was already learning on the job and had made the fateful decision to pursue the position rather than the degree. Maybe that lack of a diploma disqualifies me from giving advice, but I think my 20 years in the field as a reporter, copy editor, page designer, play-by-play voice, color commentator and department director make me rather qualified for what I’m about to say in a bit.
(A foreword and an insight into my news coverage philosophy: On my Twitter page, I’ll often use the hashtag #SGGD when things are busy — like today, when I’ve written nine stories between 7 and 11 am. Translation? Stuff’s Gotta Get Done).
With that in mind, here’s my advice for those either set to enter the journalism field or those even considering journalism as a profession. Think of this as a guide to helping you be a better journalist, increasing your personal and news outlet’s credibility and keeping your supervisors gruntled (as opposed to the picture at the top of this post). As usual, there is no particular order to these different points:
Don’t ever underestimate the importance of breaking news. It may seem like this should go without saying, but if you don’t cover breaking news correctly, you and your station lose a lot of credibility in a very short time period. Just based on our website numbers, breaking news — even if it doesn’t turn out to be anything serious — will easily outpace your other stories that could well be of more importance to more people. If, by chance, you miss something like a crash or a fire, you’ll hear about it in house for a long time. And your bosses will hear about it from community members for a longer period of time.
You absolutely cannot have a lasseiz-faire attitude when it comes to breaking news. That can be reserved for others in your operation. But you have to think worst-case scenario until proven otherwise. Once you think you don’t have to go all out, especially in the first few moments of an event, you tend to miss something big. You don’t want to answer the questions that follow something like that.
Have what I call professional curiosity…or, related, Go beyond the assignment list. This is the journalism equivalent of playing through the whistle in sports. Has something come down on email or social media that wasn’t on your assignment list but you’re the only one on duty? See something like a water main break or construction around a previously burned-out building? Follow up and let your supervisor know. Few things aggravate superiors more so than egregious errors in your work…but high up on the list is having reporters know of stories and refusing to pursue them.
Speaking of the assignment list, follow that completely and let your supervisor or news director know if there is something you can’t get written up. It’s aggravating to see a story assigned with photos or a video and only seeing the story. There are reasons your supervisor has assigned those stories to you and given you related assignments like pics or videos as well. If you have questions about the train of thought involved, just ask.
Translate lessons from one situation to another. This typically comes after mistakes. The goal here is to learn what went wrong so it doesn’t happen again — and you avoid incurring the wrath of your supervisors for repeated issues or outright failures.
Don’ t pass your work off on anybody else, let alone your supervisor. Don’t be that guy (or that girl) who covers something but tells your supervisor something along the lines of, “I left that pic up on the desktop so you can load that later” or “I’ll let you handle that interview for (fill in the blank reason).” You didn’t make the assignment so don’t act like you did. You’ll be lucky to see it go online and you may get a rather sharp retort to finish your assignment.
Be prepared for some very long work days and work weeks. My work day typically starts around 4 am and usually doesn’t get done until around 2 or 3 pm — and that’s if I don’t have an evening meeting, breaking news assignment during our late afternoon newscast cycle or severe weather to handle. It adds up. My work week is typically in the 60- to 70-hour range, and during vacations it climbs to around 90 hours to make sure everything (or most everything) is covered. Take your downtime whenever you can. Find some way to get away, if only for short chunks of time. And make sure you get sleep when you can. Sleep becomes a priceless commodity in this business.
Put another way: your work day isn’t over just because your shift is done.
A broad range of interests can only help you. You have to cover everything from performing arts events to zoning meetings to school board budgets to deaths. The full news coverage pie is a meaty, meaty offering. It all needs to be covered to the best of your ability. Don’t get a reputation for fully covering only a small slice of your pie and leaving the rest virtually untouched.
What you say…or type…can come back to haunt you. You have to be on the level, whether you’re writing a story or talking about other matters. If you’re caught lying about off-work stuff, it automatically calls your credibility into question about what you write. Automatically. And heaven help you if you are caught lying about something you did or didn’t do for work.
Be ready to adapt at a moment’s notice. You may have to wake up at 5 am to cover a wreck when you just got back home at midnight after a long meeting. Severe weather may hit during a late afternoon newscast. Somebody notable to your area may resign or die and you don’t hear about until Saturday afternoon. You know it in your head that a lot of news stories don’t have a schedule, but you will have that lesson drilled into you during your first six to nine months on the job. You have to be flexible in this business.
Bottom line? Even in a small market, journalism is a field that mandates a high-revving motor. You’re going to make your mistakes. There will be stories or angles of stories you don’t immediately see. Even seasoned veterans have some major screw-ups or dumb thought processes (just ask NBC’s Brian Williams). You’ll get somebody mad at least once a week for how you write a story, no matter how fair you are. But nobody should question your work ethic. If you have a slow-running motor, it’s best to avoid this field even if you like to write and interact with people. If your motor runs high, then certain things you don’t do so well will at least be tolerated until you can bring those up to speed — and you will be expected to do so in short order.
#SGGD. And you’ll be hired to get that stuff done. Good luck…and may the news force be with you.
The author is the news director of KVOE Radio in Emporia, Kan.