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Expect more from television reporters

October 13, 2010

Now I know the bar hasn’t recently been set very high, especially in this market, but that needs to change.

Helena and Montana in general is a starting place for many television reporters. It is the bottom of the barrel as far as DMA Rankings go. Out of 210 television markets, Helena ranks 206 just ahead of Juneau, Alaska and yes Alpena, Michigan. Where is Alpena? Well, Michiganders ask themselves that same question about Helena.

Television reporters are constantly chasing the next best market and the next two-year contract. So when someone moves here from Florida for their first job, Montana viewers shouldn’t expect them to stay long. The reporter wants to get to a bigger market where they don’t  make wages comparable to poverty level. Do I blame them? Heavens no!

I think the problem exists when viewers begin to expect a novice reporter, like myself, to do a sub-par job in the field.

Just because a reporter is fresh out of college, it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be able to ask tough questions, write a strong story and put together a meaningful news product. Unfortunately, this has become the norm and what is expected.

I acknowledge most reporters, like myself, who run through this market stumble and make mistakes. However, I don’t believe this should be the excuse for blubbering idiots and missing the point stories. After all, we did go to school for this, and Helena viewers deserve more.  Just because the viewers live in a smaller town, it doesn’t mean they are any less educated or their issues matter any less.

So, as a consumer of news, I urge you to expect more… and if we aren’t delivering you do have the remote.

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. MTSentinel permalink
    October 13, 2010 8:04 pm

    Let’s be honest. Most Montana press is really just conducting an extended job interview to work for a Montana Democratic Official or (the golden ticket!) for the Montana Democratic Party itself.

    If you really want to up the ante on the quality of reporting, dare to take a look in the mirror and investigate the revolving door between the media and the Montana Democrats. And you wonder why fewer people read and watch…

    • October 13, 2010 9:39 pm

      Don’t quite agree with that assessment, particularly in a small market state like Montana.

      I can think of a few media folks who have gone to work for GOP officials, by the way.

      TRUE media folks wouldn’t take a political gig anyway – the ones who do never had the “heart” to be a reporter, in my opinion, and are just following their fundamental love of PR and/or politics.

      • Margaret permalink
        October 13, 2010 9:59 pm

        I’m not sure it’s about having the reporting ‘heart’. The bottom line is broadcast reporters in this state do not make a living wage. Unless you’re married or have a hefty trust fund to help pay the bills — the reporting life is hard. Your heart is *undoubtedly* in it when you commit to report in Montana.

    • October 13, 2010 11:02 pm

      I have been wanting to do a story on why reporters segue (thank you Jim) into politics. I think that is fascinating. This comment has lit the fire under me to do it. Thanks!

  2. MTLiberty permalink
    October 13, 2010 8:08 pm

    Marnee – no one starts off at the top of their career. Everyone makes mistakes and hopefully learns from them. FWIW, I think you are doing a good job and you seem to really enjoy it – which is a big plus. Keep up the good work and keep learning.

  3. MTJumbo permalink
    October 13, 2010 9:16 pm

    I think this revolving door stuff is a little too conspiracy theorist. Next up, blaming people of a certain religion, or perhaps a particular sexuality. They’re all in the media, too – huh? Marnee’s post wasn’t about this, but I have to respond to it. Stop acting like conservatives are this minority that is unspoken for, that hold no power and face oppression from all directions.

    Marnee, you’re doing a great job. Helena is a funny town. We have some of the worst reporters in the state here working side-by-side with some of the best. From what I’ve seen, and in such a short time – you’ve got one of those investigative minds. That’s what true journalism is all about, and I hope we can keep you around for a while!

  4. October 13, 2010 9:46 pm

    As a viewer, I don’t expect you to do a sub-par job in the field. I expect you to work your butt off and do the best job you can do. You represent Helena. You represent Montana. You are my link to the TRUTH, if you report the TRUTH. The trouble is, news reporters are people and people have opinions. In reporting, it is best to leave your opinion at home. I don’t believe it is your job to persuade me one way or the other, but to give me the FACTS and encourage me to do a little critical thinking for myself to come up with my own opinion. As a TV reporter fresh out of college, you haven’t been brow beat by the masses to do their bidding yet and so it is the attitude of critical thinking that they cram down our throats in college that I expect. Do that and my TV remote will start collecting dust.

  5. Emilie Boyles permalink
    October 13, 2010 9:46 pm

    I have a very different take as a reporter in the smallest market in the nation, Glendive, market number 210 than you do Marnee.

    Television markets are based on population not national impact. In a state with still untapped resources in energy and agriculture, vast areas of natural and undeveloped land, and a long history of innovation Montana reporters have both the burden and the responsibility of writing this chapter of American history as it happens and audiences in large markets are regularly picking up the work we do out here.

    In no other market in the country other than the 200-210 DMAs will a reporter find easier access to national CEO’s and members of congress eager to speak with them nor will they find it more difficult to find appropriate local documentation. In either case, the unique daily combination makes for the equivalent of playing the top level of a video game.

    Whether it is the story of the modern cattle thief, the documentation of the birthing of a pipeline, a paleontological find, or service workers living in tent cities after being out-priced by highly paid rig workers, our job is onerous as, with the advent of the internet in this multi-faceted resource rush, we tell a story that has immediate impact locally and nationally despite small local viewship and whose work will judged decades if not a century from now for its accuracy and role.

    This is my second career after having left college well over twenty years ago. After four years in market 210, this job pays barely more than minimum wage – but it is not the money nor even the recognition that comes with being the voice of the news on two television networks and multiple radio dials in 13 Montana counties that keeps me here. It is the contentment each night when I fall asleep, usually with my head on my keyboard, knowing that I have accurately and efficiently recorded the events of my vast area in a way that my listeners and viewers can understand, remember, and apply today and well into the future.

    Jobs in our Montana markets should not be spun as a just-out-of-college job anymore than a company man working for an oil company without experience under his belt would be sent out the Bakkens. There’s oil out in DMA 210 – but it took a long time for me to refine it from the Underwood I learned to type on to to the old selectric to the sharp black print from my modern Dell. To the my young, dissatisfied, just out of college colleagues: Stay as long as you can. Latch on to every new investigative technique you learn. File every business card away. As you go to larger markets the methods and the contacts, as in any game, will be more difficult and less obtainable. When you do get to the top, you may find a longing to return to a small market and use your cumulative work to re-tell the story you didn’t have the skills for the first time around.

    • October 13, 2010 11:09 pm

      Emilie, you kick buns out there. I have no doubt you love what you do everyday. I would say you are a pretty rare exception to the rule. As far as television reporters go it is a revolving door here in Helena… newby after newby. I saw it growing up here. The face on my TV constantly changed. If there were more like you Emilie news would be a different business here in Montana!

  6. Jim Batcheller permalink
    October 14, 2010 6:39 am

    Hey Marnee, As one who has lived in both Montana and Michigan I have an appreciation for the hard work done by reporters in smaller markets. Keep up the good work! By the way, Segway is a brand name for one of those funny looking scooters. The word you’re looking for is Segue.

    • October 14, 2010 8:36 am

      Jim, I was born in Detroit! I too have lived in both places. However, I moved here when I was just an infant. So I consider myself a Montanan. I do have Michigan blood though!

      Segue… thanks for the correction. I learn something everyday.

  7. October 14, 2010 10:18 am

    EMILIE ROCKS. ‘Nuff said.

  8. October 14, 2010 1:53 pm

    Obviously I am very bias in my comments, because I am the father of the blogger. I believe she is doing a great job but then I am very bias.

    What concerns me is an underlying “issue” that doesn’t necessarily have to do with journalism but rather a greater or broader “issue” and that is this: IT JUST SEEMS TO ME THAT PEOPLE IN ALL PROFESSIONS AND JOBS ARE “SATISFIED” JUST DOING THE JOB. Where has the desire for excellence gone in the American workplace? It is not just journalism, it is ministry, it is being a checkout person at the local grocery story. It seems to me to be epidemic in our society. There is just a lack of conern for doing the best job possible. People seem to be content with just barely doing the job and getting the pay check.

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