Book Review: Knowing Your Value

I’m nothing if not a book nerd.  So when my dear friend Erica Nochlin recommended Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski’s latest book, Knowing Your Value, I immediately placed it on my library queue.

Brzezinski’s entire premise is this: Women don’t know how to negotiate in the workplace.

I think that’s a generally fair assessment.  Since Brzezinski and I share the same field, it was a particularly enticing read on several levels.  Where I’m really just a couple years into the media machine, she is a veteran. Though a career’s worth of experience separates us, I couldn’t believe how many mistakes she wrote of making, that I make myself, or see my peers make, all the time.  She quotes powerful women across many career tracks, all of whom at one point settled for less money than their male peers would have, neglected to haggle on contracts, and took on more responsibility than was warranted for their pay scale or job description.  Here’s the kicker: Her advice when negotiations fall flat?  Be prepared to walk, and do so.

This is where Brzezinski loses me a bit.  Working in media and keeping food on the table is a precarious balancing act. Even as a talented worker, that often means taking less than you are necessarily “worth”.  I’m well aware if I requested more money, was denied, and walked away, there would be dozens of qualified applicants lined up for my position the next day.  I don’t yet have the experience on my resume (or eight month emergency savings in the bank) that such a leap of faith would require.  But Brzezinski does have some valuable lessons that (I believe) go under-emphasized in the book.  Her point isn’t purely about money.  If an employer refuses to grant monetary raises, why not ask for changes such as a slightly better shift (a huge deal in TV!) or more lenient market out?  Probably a little more likely to happen for those of us who are slightly more disposable as employees.

It’s a book I’d definitely recommend to my female friends, especially those in media.  It’s a good reminder that, though we’re in a competitive industry, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t place value on our own work.

Workin’ on the Night Shift!

I’m writing this post at 4:30 a.m., EST, on my day off from work.  Am I an insomniac?  Not quite.  I’ve just recently moved to the morning shift!

When I tell people so, they usually say “Oh, I’m sorry!”  In television, AM shows often have the reputation for being the “B Squad”, where you go to prove you’re dedicated enough to the business to be placed on a nightside show.  I’m not going to sugarcoat it.  I worked the morning show at my first station.  It wasn’t pretty.  I had to wake up in the middle of my “night” (you know, noonish) for doctors’ appointments, trips to the bank, and story planning meetings at work.  My fragmented sleep schedule showed.  I gained weight, had no energy, and was depressed from the lack of a social life.

But this time I think it will be a little different.  A couple weeks in, I’m really enjoying it.  I sleep during the day, and my time management skills are a lot better now.  If an appointment needs to happen, I stay up “late” after my shift, get it done, and then head home to sleep away the afternoon and early evening.  Many of my a.m. show friends go to bed around 4 p.m., but that just doesn’t work for me.  Plus, if I sleep during the day and wake up around 6-7ish, I will allow myself the time to have dinner dates with friends, go to the gym, and watch the evening news, all before I head to work.  I get there feeling awake, caught up, and ready to roll.

Now that I’ve thrown myself into the night shift life wholeheartedly, I’m finding out that I love morning show people.  They’re slightly crazy, but in a good way.  You have to love what you do to get up at this time, develop a Vitamin D deficiency, and put the news on the air at a time it feels like the whole world is asleep.

This is not to say that I will want to do mornings forever.  I’m sure at some point, my body is going to demand that I cave in and sleep at a time predetermined by my circadian clock.  As I make a life for myself here in the Tampa Bay area, I’m sure I’ll start to miss more and more social events.  I’ll wish I had a normal life.  But that’s the thing about news, isn’t it?  You never really have that life, no matter what.

Cut the Chopper, Cue the Drones?

A few weeks ago, I had a great conversation with my friend and former co-worker, Matt Grant, now a reporter in Fort Myers, FL.  We were marveling over the latest push in newsrooms towards iPhone or laptop live shots.  Matt and I both spent our last few years in small markets where this sort of thing would have been a game-changer, not just for our stations but for our careers.  Small-market reporters are lucky to get a photog once a week, much less a live truck.  (I can just hear the pained laughter of all my MMJ friends out there.)  Now, you need neither.  Just a smartphone with Ustream or Skype, point it at yourself, and you’re set to go live from anywhere with WiFi or a 3G cell signal.

So imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon this article about a CNN reporter who bought a basic consumer grade drone, equipped it with a cheap HD camcorder, and sent it to get a birds’ eye view of the storm damage in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  For less than $600, he completed a task that would usually take a helicopter, pilot, and photographer to accomplish.  The reporter achieved a new, distinctive look; and his shots captured the state of the up-close destruction better than the sky views we usually see.  (Here is a generic chopper shot, managing to make chaos and destruction look boring.  Yawn.)

I’m not suggesting that helicopters can be totally replaced (case in point), but I am saying that a lot of their functions could be done with a drone cam.  Imagine tighter overhead shots with better control.  Aerial closeups for natural disaster sites, fires, and events with massive crowds.  All controlled by a photog or reporter’s iPad.  We’ve already sacrificed a bit of quality for iPhone live hits, so why not?  The sky’s the limit! 😉

Lesson Learned:

Always check Twitter before bed.

When I woke up Monday morning, I felt like the last person on Earth to find out U.S. Navy SEALS killed Osama bin Laden.  I had a text message from my mother (who, to be fair, is running on Mountain Time) alerting me to the President Obama’s announcement.  In the time it took me to find out, people had already celebrated in the streets of Washington and New York, passed out from elation and/or alcohol, and were having their coffee and aspirin.

Had I checked my Twitter feed prior to going to bed early, I’d have known to stay up and turn on the television.  The next day, I felt like I was in catch-up mode, flicking back and forth from my station to all the major networks as I brushed my teeth and put on some mascara.  Not a great way to start the day when your shift begins at 7 a.m.

I knew better.  Just a few weeks ago, I checked Twitter before letting my head hit the pillow, and saw the initial alerts about the massive earthquake off the coast of Japan.  I turned on the TV just in time to watch the tsunami rush ashore– live.  I’ll never forget watching that unfold at 2 a.m. EST.  Feeling prepared for my next day was worth the short night of sleep.

Day 1 of my news blog!

I’m no stranger to the world of blogging, but I’ve never before chronicled my foray into the journalism business. This spot will serve as a journal of sorts, to help me maintain my writing skills; develop my blogging prowess; and keep in touch with employers and coworkers, past and future.

In addition to the intrinsically narcissistic nature of a personal blog, my intent is also a little selfish. I want to improve myself professionally. If I don’t write things down and go back to take a critical look at my successes and failures, I’ll just spin my wheels!

What you can expect: Updates about new skills I’m learning. Brainstorming (bring an umbrella). Thoughts on industry trends and developments.

What you won’t see: Career-ending gaffes. I’ll leave those to others.