TV or not TV?

Posted: December 7, 2011 by terryvandrovec in Uncategorized
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Get ready, folks: TV is heading to TV, making his live debut as a studio analyst for Midco Sports Net on Friday evening.

And, yes, TV just went all third person on you. He, er, I (enough already) figured that would be the appropriate way to start a post about becoming a television personality for a day. Just as there are plenty of stereotypes about newspapermen (crusty, out of shape, standoffish), there are no shortage of assumed knocks on TV folks – with some of the best ones being portrayed in the Will Ferrell flick, Anchorman. (“Hey, everyone: Come and see how good I look.”)

Milk was a bad idea.

And I plan to live up to as many of them as possible in the roughly 20-30 minutes I’ll be on air.

OK, not really. That just seemed like the Ron Burgandy thing to say. The truth is, I haven’t grown a mustache for the occasion and don’t even get to wear makeup.

All joking aside, I have put in some time in order to do work that’s somewhere between “palatable” and “won’t induce seizures.” I spent a couple hours in the studio last week observing what goes on behind the scenes. I ordered and watched game film from the four NCAA Division II basketball teams that will be involved in the broadcast. I did phone interviews with all the coaches.

If I’ve learned anything so far, it’s the affirmation that print folks have definite advantages in being assigned consistent beats. I’ve gotten used to knowing pretty much everything about every team I cover; it’s hard to have to pick up anything more than obvious insight on players, coaches and programs you don’t follow every day (or, well, ever).

To review, I’m taking on extra work that comes less naturally to me than my actual work. So why am I doing this again?

Most simply, because someone asked. They saw my multimedia content and liked it enough to invite me to give this a shot. Of course, I could have said no. But I didn’t. Why? A few reasons, I suppose. It’s good exposure to a new audience (that can’t hurt my print career); I’ll be getting paid (which will help offset a future furlough); it’s a new experience that has the potential to be fun (my temporary co-workers are good dudes); and to test my mom’s theory that I have a face for television (isn’t that the quintessential mom thing to say?).

Actually, there’s something to that last part. Plenty of people, including my mom, see television as a step up from print in the media hierarchy. Frankly, I’m not entirely sure why, although it probably has to do with the perception that there’s more money and fame involved even if that’s not necessarily true locally. This rings true at the highest levels. Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon were both brilliant and accomplished writers at the Washington Post, but remained relatively anonymous outside sports-nerd circles prior to breaking into television via PTI. (Sidenote: Wilbon now writes only occasionally, while Kornheiser has given it up all together, believing he lost his fastball.)

In a sense, this seems like what I’m supposed to do, the next step in my career. That’s sort of unfortunate. I have (and will continue to) embraced the online movement, the idea that newspapermen are now reporters who use a variety of mediums: Twitter, Facebook, blogs, podcasts, videos and whatever is next. When used properly, these tools can enhance our stories and – hopefully – help save our industry.

However, I do fear that I’ve become a jack of all trades and a master of none. I still make an concerted attempt to hone my writing – I really do. But there’s no question that the time available to do so is limited because I’m spread thin across multiple platforms. And I rarely have time to read anything longer than 30 inches. I know that’s not good for my development as a writer.

I doubt I’m alone in thinking this way, that the craft is writing is being neglected. Yet my response has been to take on a new task (this one-time TV gig) instead of simplifying, getting back to my bread and butter.

Of course, the situation could work itself out. If I stink on ice in a TV studio, then it’s back to the salt mines, so to speak, to frantically hunt-and-peck on my typewriter away from the light of day.

On the other hand, TV might be glorious on TV, more charming and manly in high definition than he is in real life. … Nope. Feels forced and downright untrue. You’re safe for now, Burgandy.


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