New results from a recent RTNDA/Hofstra University survey showing only 38% of TV and radio news directors say their staffs are “really on top of new technology and where they’re headed” is not encouraging for either management or people in the field, particularly for One Man Band TV journalists.
With the rapid adoption of one man band journalism, many senior news managers are finding themselves in uncharted territory. These managers never served as MMJ’s themselves because the job didn’t exist back in the day. With no “battlefield experience” to call upon, now they can only imagine what it might be like. (Hint: air traffic controllers at O’Hare aren’t nearly as busy).
Even so, newsroom execs recognize the gems in their organizations when they see them — those motivated one man band reporters who are aggressive and productive. These flexible masters of reporting, shooting editing and web posting leverage their new digital tools to routinely beat their traditional competition. Despite working alone, they turn up surprising elements in otherwise mundane event-of-the-day stories.
To develop a whole newsroom full of these performers remember this formula for the proper care and feeding of these unique news animals: Autonomy + Empowerment + Feedback = Motivation.
Autonomy: The most efficient MMJ’s are the ones you rarely see at the TV station because they are maximizing time in the field. The time wasted by traditional crews “gearing up”, “making calls,” sitting in morning meetings and otherwise being around the station is time a One Man Band can ill afford to lose . A properly equipped MMJ has no need to report to the TV station to get to work.
Loosen the management leash by:
- Issuing “take home” gear to MMJ’s and allow them to dispatch directly to assignments with no diversions
- Encouraging participation in morning meetings via e-mailed story pitches and phone calls, not in-person appearances.
- Encouraging editing in the field, and “snap feeding” by WiFi or broadband or live truck rather than returning to the station to ingest tape and produce.
- Allowing MMJ’s to clock out from the field, saving management the overtime required for travel back to the station to “gear down.”
These critical time savers provide the One Man Band the time needed to accomplish what used to require two (or three) individuals to do.
Empowerment: To be autonomous, One Man Bands need to be empowered with a full tool box, always on hand — and a team to back him/her up. Investments in “take home” vehicles and gear will return surprising dividends in productivity, overtime reduction and motivation. Arm them with the following:
- Camera, audio and light gear
- Laptop computer enabled with the following capabilities:
- Wireless internet access — broadband and WiFi
- Skype or other application that allows MMJ’s to stream to a web-based receiver live from any location with broadband, WiFi or network cable access.
- Editing software able to ingest recorded and live video from camera in the field.
- Applications allowing reporter to “snap feed” packages from laptop to the station via internet.
- Handheld device that is phone, Internet, e-mail and video capable.
- A team at the TV station to assist in developing information while the MMJ is tied up shooting and editing.
Feedback: Let your MMJ know you’re keeping track with occasional “‘atta boy” emails or calls — as well as instant feedback when he or she is not living up to expectations. Try to balance these categories carefully, as the stress level in the field is high.
- Critique stories frequently. Remember your MMJ is working alone. Without a partner to collaborate with in the field, management feedback is more important than ever.
- Track web postings. Did your MMJ file to the web first, before producing TV? Tracking is the best way to let him/her know this is a priority.
- Since you have assigned your MMJ take home gear, ask for a quarterly inventory of equipment and keep a watchful eye on gas and mileage. In return, support him/her with quick fulfillment of requests for tapes, batteries, reimbursements and other needs.
Motivation: Journalists are generally go-getters. Autonomy, empowerment and feedback breed a deep sense of internal responsibility to perform at the high level required for the extremely demanding role of a One Man Band. The best managers will be as flexible as the MMJ is in getting the job done.