By Mark Willis, RTDNA Region 4 and 5 Director
I have worked in a number of newsrooms over the course of many years in the business; Some of the stations are no longer there, the call letters have changed, the people have moved on to other things and life goes on.
We all move on from time to time, but how you leave a place tells a lot about you and how folks are going to remember you. A friend of mine works for a news talk station in Florida and we reconnected at the recently completed EIJ12 conference in Fort Lauderdale. We both worked at another station a long time ago when splicing tape and CARTS were popular. For those of you new in the business, that was the technology prior to digital. Check the Smithsonian web site, if you're interested in learning about that.
Anyway, we were talking about some of the names we had worked with and one name in particular came up that
gave us pause to remember that person not for their journalistic accomplishments, but how that person simply threw up their hands and walked out. Gone. Simply put, that person just pushed themselves away from their desk, turned and was shortly after seen in their car driving away.
This person was a great reporter, news anchor, friend, confidant and all around good guy, The news business can be very stressful. It can raise your blood pressure, cause your hair to turn white and cause you to sleep in short cycles. How you manage that stress is one of the keys to long term survival in the business. It would be easy for me to say that the person who left should have at least given two weeks notice and worked out some type of exit strategy with the management or cut back to part time hours, if the work load was too much. But it would not be fair to that person that suddenly bolted to paint them with such a broad brush.
I wasn't a manager at the time, so I don't know if that person was experiencing trouble at home or some other emotional issues that they felt their only option was to leave their work environment. But it does point up some things that people can learn from with this experience.
We have to constantly 'feed the machine," but there are ways to make sure the machine is not feeding on us.
First, if you are feeling the pressure of constant deadlines or if you are on an assignment desk and are tired of arguing with reporters in the field or the constant drum beat of scanners is making your head pound, talk to someone. Seriously, sit down and talk to someone and tell them your concerns. If there is a senior member on staff, ask them how they handle the pressure. Ask them what they do to "'turn it off" and leave it at the office at the end of the Ten O'Clock or at the end of the morning drive news block at 9 am.
The person you talk with may be able to offer you some insight to make the process easier where you don't feel the weight of the world on your shoulders.
Also talk to your manager and express your concerns. Go to them with constructive ideas that may help make the process easier for all. You may have a great idea that they may not have thought of. If you simply walk in and just complain about the news gathering process, expect to be told to go back to work. Bring solutions.
And if you are a news manager, be willing to listen to those on the "front line" that are producing and executing your product. It is very important for managers to recognize when someone has hit a brick wall. I would rather be proactive and head off a problem with someone and keep them there for the long term, rather than have a revolving door shop
that is constantly posting help wanted ads.
I would love to get your feedback. How do you manage to balance the stress of the job with your home life or personal life? Are you at this stage of your career? Do you have a management team that is willing to listen? And if you are a manager, are you proactive in recognizing problems that may be developing with your team? Do you encourage open
Midwest Director Region 4 and 5 RTDNA
News Director/WIBW/Kansas Information Network
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