I'm going to be as non-specific in this post as I can, avoiding names of people and stations and even genders of people involved. I'm also going to reference a couple stations in town, based on what I've been told be people who work there as well. I'm pretty sure no one at my station knows about this site, but I'm hoping to not get fired before I get the chance to walk in (soon, I hope) and quit. This day is coming one way or the other; I'm going to get fed up enough to jump out of the plane one day in the near future-- I'm just hoping that enough time has passed that I can assemble a parachute before then.
I've made it a point to not turn this page into a place where I just bitch about my job. In my experience, the vast majority of people hate their jobs and would happily quit them about three seconds after winning the lottery, and really it's not all that interesting to hear them complain about them.
Recently, however, I have made the mistake of really reflecting on my current position and realized that this goes beyond the normal boredom and/or dislike that I have felt about jobs in the past. I'm coming home angry a lot of nights, simply based on the idiocy I'm seeing and dealing with on a daily basis. It's getting to the point where it's starting to impact my weekends-- by mid-afternoon on Sunday I'm already filled with dread about returning to work the next day.
I spent a summer during college working as an accountant. That, until recently, was the absolute apex of crappy jobs I've had. I have also had the good fortune to spend several years in jobs I legitimately loved; working in sports, covering teams I was interested in. I used to go in to work early and work several hours per day off the clock just because I really loved and believed in what I was doing.
Now I work in the news department of a TV station. Here's the problem: This is not only something I don't believe in (I haven't once watched one of our newscasts in its entirity, nor have I watched any local TV news program in several years), but something whose value is clearly almost nil for just about everyone who we pretend to serve.
Once upon a time, TV news was designed to inform people about issues and events that were significant to them. Over the years the news business has become pretty much 100% about money (ratings). I don't mean to be a Pollyanna... I realize every business is about making money, but I assume that most other businesses aren't as self-righteous and self-congratulatory every time they do even the smallest thing to benefit their customers.
A current example involves a local landmark which (we're told) is in danger of closing because of a roughly $5 million budget shortfall. The solution of one station in the market? Send a reporter out to the landmark with an empty fish tank, into which viewers can dump money. After four (I think) days, he has collected about $17,000. At this rate, he will collect enough to cover the annual operating defecit in about four years.
If you know anything about annual operating costs, they tend to be a problem each year. That would suggest that raising the money to cover them over the course of several years might not work. This has not prevented the station from constantly congratulating itself for "saving" this landmark.
This all comes from the top, of course. A leader who came to the station promising big things-- no gimmicks, no bullshit, just good journalism-- and has proceeded to do exactly the opposite of what was initially discussed.
During the key "ratings" months, the station has given away video game systems, vacations, and any other number of inane prizes. All of this is done under the guise of "viewer benefit" (We're helping you! We love you!), which natuarally is bullshit. It's gimmicky shit you pull when your actual news content is not substantial enough to bring in viewers. Of course, substance is typically the last thing on anyone's mind.
One phrase I've heard about a thousand times in the last few months is "the tease is more important than the story." Basically, this means that as long as you can tease viewers (running those little promotional spots during programming that say "coming up at 6" or whatever) into watching your story, it doesn't really matter if you give them something substantial. As long as they stick around to watch, who cares if they leave unsatisfied. You got credit for their viewership anyway.
One station in town is excellent at this. They promise "hidden camera undercover investigations!" and "you won't believe what's behind this door!" Then, they give you three minutes on how college kids drink a lot on campus or how high school kids are getting served at some bar.
At some point, one would have to hope that viewers get smart enough to figure out that you're not delivering what you're hinting that you will.
Tonight, one station in town is promoting a story about the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan incident. Never mind that there's no real reason to run a story: there's absolutely nothing new, it's not an anniversary of the event... it's just that the leadership decided that people are interested in figure skating right now and HEY! Nancy Kerrigan got attacked in this area! People find that interesting!
Of course, the same leadership is so damned stupid that they are running this piece opposite the end of the women's figure skating competition, so everyone who has even a passive interest in figure skating is watching a different station and never sees the promotions for the piece, let alone the piece itself.
Another gimmick that every station is in love with is "breaking news." This term used to mean "holy crap, something is blowing up right now! Huge explosions! People running for their lives!"
Now, thanks to an army of consultants who all say, "viewers will always watch breaking news," anything qualifies as breaking news. Minor car accidents? Shootings that happened four hours before the show? A garage fire in another city? It's Breaking News!!!
Last week, a producer spent the afternoon insisting that a certain story was breaking news ("There are still cops on the scene...") until two more legitimate breaking news stories happened. Suddenly, the first one wasn't breaking news anymore because "I don't want three breakers in a row. That wouldn't look right."
Eventually it gets to the point where you're somewhat surprised when something tabbed "breaking news" actually is something that's going on right then.
Again... viewers pretty much have to pick up on this at some point. No worries... every story is now "Only On (Channel Number)!" or "Exclusive!" or, my personal favorite, "First On (Channel Number)!"
Yes, by watching us, you learned about the car accident seven minutes earlier than if you had been watching the other guys. You're so welcome.
The best portion of all the Breaking News comes when one of the other stations dubs something breaking news and the leadership at my station laughs and points, "Haha! They're calling that breaking news! What a joke!" Then, they go back to trying to legitimize how we can call something that's every bit as old and outdated "Breaking."
The leadership is made worse by the fact that the person in charge is pretty much completely unable to make up their mind about anything.
Something will be done one way, only to have the person in charge (presumably noticing that the competition is doing it a different way) start yelling about how we should be doing it that way. Once that second way is implemented, the person will start yelling about how we used to do it one way and wondering why we changed it. You probably think I'm kidding or exagerating, but I'm not. It's completely insane.
Of course, the leadership-- being incredibly insecure (witness the constant indecision)-- has chosen to surround themselves with incompetents and suck-ups, so there is no chance that anyone in a position of authority ever gets called on their bullshit.
This insecurity also manifests itself in the leadership's complete unwillingness to confront others (over whom they are in a position of authority), regardless of how rude or miserable those people might be.
One producer at the station represents this better than anyone else. Basically, this person is insane; constant freak-outs, yelling and whining that the spineless middle-management finds it easy to cave in to. It's the "squeaky wheel gets the grease" phenomenon in action to a degree that I have never seen before. This, naturally, empowers this producer to do it more and more, since no one ever calls them on it.
If you're having trouble picturing it, try to think back to when a sibling was four years old and really wanted something at the toy store. The whining gets a little louder, the language slowly gets a little more pointed until basically you're witnessing an adult temper-tantrum.
If you put together a sitcom about this newsroom, critics would rip this person as too one-dimensional of a character. "No one is like that in real life!" Well... at least one person is really like that.
This producer has no problem telling people (writers, for example) that she doesn't want them working on her show. This is usually not done in a particularly subtle or decent way. In her mind, the (insignificant) marginal benefit of having one person do something far outweighs any interest in not being an outright bitch to one's co-workers.
Again, through the tacit approval of spineless superiors, this behavior ends up getting rewarded.
I'm just completely sick of it all and am pretty much ready to jump.
There are plenty of good, decent, hard-working people that I work with in almost every position (including at least one of the managers, who really doesn't fit the mold cast above). It's not completely without redeeming qualities... it's just not worth the hassle and the bullshit any more.
(I might decide to pull this post at some point... if it vanishes that's why.)