Tonight was the Michigan International Auto Show preview show. We did an hour-long live broadcast for the occasion. What this meant for me was an additional hour in the control room beyond my usual hour and a half that I spend switching the 5 and 6pm shows. It's ridiculous.
Ridiculous to make such a fuss over something that is so unnecessary, so trivial, and making it such a big deal as if people were dying or something.
Ridiculous to get yelled at because the animation didn't roll when I pressed 'play'. In all fairness, I was apologized to afterwards as well, but it didn't really matter at that point.
After doing an hour and a half of live news switching, I had less than 20 minutes to turn around and switch another hour's worth of show. I was aggravated with the talent out in the field, who are not much to look at, and read like they were reading off of cue cards; aggravated with the technical difficulties we encountered *RIGHT* off the top of the show; aggravated with the director who shot down my ideas over the weekend when we did a little test run of sorts of our duties for this particular show ... I think that is what irritated me more than anything. We were looking at some of the animations that were built for the show, and after I noticed they ended on a freeze frame after a few seconds, I said, "Why don't we have Trent loop them?"
You know what the response was that I got?
"No, we won't need to do that, we'll be off those graphics before they freeze."
I didn't think so. I may not have as much experience as Tom, but I've been in this business long enough to know that if you can get something like the graphics we were previewing to loop, then by God, get a loop. The reason for this is simple: we don't know what the talent and crew out in the field might be up against. What if the camera picture goes out while we're on the full screen animated graphic? Goodness knows that happens all the time in live news, or live events period!!!. It's just good sense. It gives you a safety net.
But no. Tom seemed to think we'd be just fine without that safety net.
Well, guess what happened???
The picture didn't go out, but the other, much more common occurance in live broadcasts happened: the talent rambled on longer than he was timed for. Or else his read was fine, and the copy was written for longer than the animation was timed for before the freeze frame.
Guess what else happened?
In a matter of seconds, with literally a few clicks of the mouse, a loop, which I requested DAYS in advance and was shot down for, was made. This was done in the middle of the show.
I couldn't hold back my ire. I said it right out loud, right in front of everyone in the control room (which included three producers, so I'd have witnesses): "You know, when we were looking at these over the weekend, I said we should probably ask Trent about making those loop, and I was shot down."
But Tom reacted quite defensively, like he always does, and made me seem like I was making too big of a deal out of something that was really quite trivial.
"Okay, calm down killer!!"
On the face of it, it wasn't horrible when the animations ground to a halt on the freeze-frame. But for all the work that was poured into making this production as slick as the cars we were profiling in this special, little details like that just drag down the overall appearance. To those scrutinizing, critical eyes sitting at home, watching our every move, it looks like we screwed up, and in a way we did, although not in a really *glaring* way. It wasn't as bad as Gerry's microphone shorting out every few sentences during a Very Important Live Interview he was conducting. That was just painful.
And yet for all our efforts, for all the money pumped into the production, for all of everybody's aches and pains, we can't even give our roving reporter a microphone that works. And at the end of the day, that's all anyone can remember: the animation freezing on-air, and Gerry's mic problems. It doesn't matter that we started preparing for this show weeks ago; it doesn't matter that, in spite of everything conspiring against us, we still managed to pull it off.
No, the Almighty Management doesn't see it that way. Every glitch, every stumble, every painful human error makes us all wonder and dread, is this going to be it? Is this going to be the day I lose my job?
What I want to know is, what is it going to take to make our fearless leaders take a step back and be able to say, "Okay, that wasn't perfect, but all in all, you guys did a great job! We're proud of your hard work, and we really appreciate the effort you put into it!"
Maybe that's what other people hear around here, but not me. No, my boss is going to want to know why, during a 12-month time period, why was my phone shut off for two hours during that time??? Because even if my phone is on and working, and the network is at 110%, the day they call me when my phone is down, that's what they remember.
And they wonder why morale is down.
"Well, I see here that over the past 12 months, you called in sick many more days than your allotted sick time."
"It was my doctor's orders. I was getting treated for depression. I was suicidal."
No, I'm not making that up!!! That is what my boss told me in my annual review last year.
"I see that you've been doing a really great job with getting the crew organized for severe weather cut-ins [one of the reasons we're number one in this market, by the way], but I'd really like to see you try harder. 110% just isn't good enough; do you think you can give 110.1% next time?"
Meanwhile, the guy 5 years younger than me -- biologically AND emotionally -- with piercings all over his head, chews tobacco and uses an empty, clear plastic, 20-oz. bottle as a spittoon which he carries around with him, openly criticizes co-workers who are never in the same room to defend themselves, proudly boasts how late he arrives to work, and how early he gets to leave to go home, proudly comments on how excessive his drinking habit is ... he was awarded a spot in the prestigious Circle of Excellence, and for his reward was sent on a luxury cruise vacation in the Bahamas with the other Circle of Excellence winners from here, as well as around the country.
But I'm "over-reacting". I'm also "NOT being discriminated against".
You gotta love a company with priorities.
"WOOD TV-8, West Michigan's News Leader, awarded 'Station of the Year' by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters ... "
Oh, and I'm not the only one with gripes such as the foregoing. There are other people right here at the station, people with higher intelligence, more courteous, and more talented than I who have been loyal to this company longer than I've been alive (some of them, I'm not kiddding: I'm 32), who just have that many more years worth of negligence and sometimes downright abuse. I've not only heard the stories; I've seen it in action with my own eyes. Not only is there no respect, there is sheer lack of humane treatment for these hard, diligent workers. Not all of them; but really, NO ONE should be treated the way some people, including myself, get treated around here.
What is especially hurtful is seeing how well the company's bottom line is doing. This station is the Crown Jewel of the Providence, RI company that owns us!!!
Don't even get me started on how the reporters get treated. The reporters are, in my estimation, the hardest-working, MOST underpaid members of the 'team' here!!! They run around all day long, here, there, everywhere, they don't get so much as a break to EAT FOOD, the producers have been historically really good at not listening to them for all their efforts, and when we are having technical difficulties behind the scenes, who gets hung out to dry -- they do, because they're the ones on camera.
No, a reporter's lifestyle is ANYTHING but glamorous!! I wouldn't trade places with them for all the money in the world (although at one time I had stars in my eyes about getting paid to write and front stories about real people, like they do). I honestly don't know how they do it, day after day, after thankless day. When viewers get upset over something they see on our air, who do you think they rant and rave at??? Not the ones they DON'T see working behind the camera!! No, no, no, they take out their frustrations on the poor reporters, because that's who they see, that's who is familiar to them!! The viewers don't know any better -- and the haughty management CERTAINLY doesn't take the fall for the reporters. Ever. Why should they, when they have a reporter to take the fall for them?
I don't mean to complain ... but where is the justice??? To what end are we applying ourselves when we don't care about the news we report -- no, the only thing management cares about around here is how many eyeballs are looking at Channel 8. And when the eyeballs start looking at some other station around here, rather than saying, "Well, people will do that, if they're that stupid to watch a news organization that doesn't care as much about detail and accuracy as we here at WOOD TV-8 do, then that's their problem," they start firing people. Oh, we're sliding in the ratings? We're not selling as many commercials as we'd like?? Time to give someone their walking papers.
If I ever live to see the day when management quits acting like unforgiving taskmasters, and starts acting like the mentors we deserve, it will be the miracle to end all miracles.