A weather newbie posted a request on a bulletin board I frequent. He wanted advice on putting together a tape for a first job.
Historically, applicants for on-the-air broadcasting jobs have sent audition tapes, usally containing some short snippets of ‘outstanding’ performance followed by full length reports (whether that be reporting, weathercasting or anchoring).
Though I think the concept of audition tape is outmoded, and random access digital media should rule the day, I thought I’d answer anyway.
Be confident. Be composed. You are on-the-air because you are an expert. I don’t want to learn anything from you but how to be prepared for the weather.
Don’t use jargon. I’m not impressed. If you use any term you had to identify on a meteo test or quiz, I will get a gun and shoot you.
Don’t let your appearance or actions distract the viewer from your presentation. You don’t have to be pretty, handsome, slim or have all your hair. If that’s what counted, we’d have the CBS Evening News with Daisy Fuentes. Just be neat and business-like.
Among the tidbits Don Fitzpatrick¹ had in his classic audition tape advice was, do not confuse a good situation with a good presentation. His example had to do with reporters showing the President coming to town. It’s a big deal and might show the pecking order at your shop, but local reporters never get anything meaningful in these brief controlled events. Seen one, seen them all.
For weather the analogy is: does your tornado coverage showcase you as well as airchecks from more normal days might?
There is an apocryphal story… though I believe it is true. Three decades ago, Mark Howard, trying to leave Hartford and go to Philadelphia, sent a tape of the show from hell! Everything went wrong. He told the potential news director, anyone can send a perfect tape, here’s what I do when skills are really needed!²
After you make your third, fourth, fifth dub of the tape, you will see every imperfection. You will anticipate that millisecond pause or glitch. Your tape hasn’t gotten worse. Trust me, no one else will watch it five times, even your folks.
In fact, the sad truth is, your tape is made or lost in the first few seconds. Put your best stuff first – right at the top. No one is getting to minute eight.
Finally, when you send your tape, don’t go after my job. The world is lousy with meteorologists who are younger, smarter, better looking and will work for less. I hate you all.
Of course I haven’t gotten a new fulltime job in over 20 years. What do I know?
I expect most of you aren’t in the ‘biz’ and will never put together a tape. For you, the sobering point to bring home is how little of a tape is watched before an initial go/no go decision is made.
Obviously, the final hiring decision takes a lot of time (because everyone is scared to make a wrong decision). Most people don’t get that far. I’ve seen tapes watched less than ten seconds before they were ejected.
Actually, I think solid negative decisions can often be made that quickly. Tough business.
¹ – There was an earlier reference on the bulletin board to Don Fitzpatrick, who ran an amazing talent search business in San Fransisco. Don was a trailblazer. He published advice for TV news applicants seeking a job, from the perspective of someone who truly had seen everything.
² – If someone knows Mark, will you ask him if this story is real? I’ve been telling it forever, but I just don’t know.