In my 3 and a half years at KNTV, I've worked under 3 news directors. Each one very different. And although we're a 'roll with the punches' industry, changes at the top can be somewhat rattling each time. But such is life and I'm not asking you to cry for me, Argentina.
Our latest incarnation is an interesting one, as we are beginning a new national NBC brand campaign and attempting a fresh approach to how we cover news in the Bay Area. Already there are growing pains and plenty of back and forth about what's relevant, what's interesting, what people want to watch, what people are talking about and what we should pursue every night for our 11pm newscast. It's refreshing and freaky and challenging and uncomfortable and risky and every other adjective you would assign to the first time you try to do something new after doing it the same way for a while.
But you don't become a reporter to do the same thing everyday. You learn by conditioning how to evolve and live in ambiguity and go hardcharging into something and spin around and change direction just as you think you're about to cross the finish line. You have to embrace that there's so much around you that you simply can't control, and often, have no say in. You adapt or you don't. And when I have interns along or I'm professoring to USF students, I don't sugarcoat. The burnout is very high in this field, and after a certain number of years, and certain types of life changes, it can be be immensely appealing to move on to something else. I have seen it work out very well for many people who've left the business. But I also know what it feels like to believe the grass is greener, and then find out, nope it's the same, or it's Astroturf, or ohmygod why didn't I do this sooner.
In any case, things are shaking up everywhere. Yesterday we found out our friends at KPIX are facing a major change themselves. The station is reportedly offering buyouts to 12 staff reporters. From various sources, this is the deal: The offer is 125% of their severance. If they accept, they will be eligible for unemployment as well. They have until 3/31 to decide. If they stay, they will eventually become MMJ's. Multi-media journalists. AKA One man bands. AKA Something many of us did when we were starting out in this business. AKA What KRON does. AKA Tough decision. If they turn down the buyout and MMJ for a while, and then decide they want out, then no severance and no unemployment. AKA Messed up situation.
Does this mean the market will suddenly be flooded with great talent? Quite possibly. Does it mean we might try to pick up some of that talent? Maybe. Does it mean we may follow suit? That would be a reasonable guess, too. The movement toward MMJ's has been steady and pretty one-directional. Even if KPIX is doing a '6 month experiment with MMJ's,' I have never heard of a station that went back to traditional photog/reporter teams after MMJ's. Once you go ________, you never go ________.
So. That's what's happening here. What's happening in your neck of the woods?
P.S. Rich Lieberman is the pro at local media inside baseball. I'll be keeping an eye on his site.
P.P.S. Vancouver 2010 begins tonight. Go Team USA! And Team Vietnam. Oh wait, badminton isn't in the Winter Games, is it.