Thursday, January 29, 2009

There really is no better look to describe my feelings about my job than my profile pic - taken of me on my wedding day as a pin stuck me in the process of fixing a strap on my dress. Anticipation. Excitement. Pain. Emotions a bride can experience on her wedding day. Emotions I live through on the job. At the end of the work day though, the job isn't going to be sweeping me away for a honeymoon.

The honeymoon in my career ended just a short three months after I landed my big TV job in the big city. Yet, almost nine years later, I'm still here through the bad and the good, I've worked hard to make my career work - hmmm, much like the effort it takes to make a strong marriage.

I am an assignment editor in Denver. I didn't even understand or know the role of the assignment editor when I drove from Nebraska to interview for a weekend position a few months after graduating college. I don't even remember why I sent my resume to the station, but I know it wasn't specifically for the news desk. I got an email asking if I'd come out for an interview. Then I got a call saying there was a hiring freeze and there was no longer a full-time position open, and the station couldn't fly me out for an interview. I didn't hesitate; I said, I'll drive out and would take a part-time position.

The thought of my first real job after college and out of Nebraska filled my mind. I didn't even stop to ask what exactly was an assignment editor. I'd worked in the NBC station in Hastings, NE for over two years in college. There was no assignment editor position there. There I did everything but report on the air. I figured as long as I wasn't asked to be a reporter, I could do any job since I'd already been doing it.

How naive I was.

I arrived for the interview and was shown this big desk with all these police scanners all over. I was shown a big dry erase board scribbled with all colors of ink. I was told that was how photographers and reporters were tracked through the day. I interviewed with several people, including an executive producer who asked me something about covering news. I assured her I knew that I understood the city news was completely different than my experience covering county fairs and farm markets. She looked at me with a blank stare and then it seemed like she was trying to stifle a laugh. She obviously did not think I knew what I was getting into.

My boss was impressed with all I'd done in college and at the news station in Nebraska. He liked that I took initiative to come out on my own for the interview and didn't expect to be put up in a hotel or to be taken out for lunches or dinners. (I didn't even know I could expect such things!) He hired me on the spot.

I entered a world of television journalism where the news was producer driven and it was the desk's job to make it happen. I entered a world where I, at 22 years old, was in charge of telling photographers that had been in the business as long as I'd been alive, what to do. It was easy to see that I was thought of a niece or a little girl who knew nothing. I'm good at taking things in stride and just thought this was my initiation into a life where I was in charge of my own insurance and making 401-k decisions. I knew I was extremely lucky to be working in a market 18 television station right out of college. I got to skip the years spent in small markets working my way up to the big markets.

I thought I knew it all and was so happy the path I'd set in place in 8th grade, when I watched news coverage of Operation Desert Storm and decided I'd some day be a journalist, had actually led me right where I wanted to be.

One Sunday in January, just three months after starting and a couple of weeks of going full-time, I came to work to face an angry news director. She took me to her office and said, "This is the most embarrassed I've been in all my years as a news director. What happened?" I barely made it through the conversation without crying as I explained what I'd heard on the scanners, who I'd called, what I'd told the producer, and why I'd left when the producer told me I could leave.

The night before there was a plane crash about an hour east of Denver. I couldn't get confirmation on what had happened as emergency officials were still trying to figure it out and trying to figure out whose jurisdiction the plane had even crashed. I believed it was a small plane with no more than two passengers. I stayed past the end of my shift until the producer told me she and the writers would figure it out. I walked out of the station shortly after 6:30pm. I left the desk empty because at that time the desk wasn't covered after 6pm.

I walked out after a plane carrying team members to the OSU basketball team crashed near Byers, Colorado. Ten people died in the crash. The eighth anniversary of the plane crash was remembered this week, Jan. 27th.

The station was the last station to figure out what was happening. The station was the last of the five news stations to broadcast any information on the crash. The station was the last one to get a crew to the scene. The station was the last one to be live from the scene.

I know I have my boss to thank for not being fired. He stood up for me. I'd done everything right. I'd been told to leave. What I did wrong was be green and listened when I was told to leave.

From that point on there was never a night not covered by an assignment editor. To make that happen, I went to a four-day shift with extra long hours on Saturday to cover the entire day. I was happy to do it. I was thankful for a second chance.

Eight years later I'm still here on the assignment desk, but now I've earned the respect of my coworkers and I work for the 10pm newscast Monday - Friday. I may still be thought of as a niece or new to the business, but now I'm the favorite niece and have a little news wisdom.

I've created this blog to reach out to my fellow assignment editors. Regardless if the producers, writers, reporters, photographers truly know it, we do rule the news room. Together we really can rule the world!

For those of you not on the news desk, not even a part of the news world, I hope you can find some humor in what I have to say, find some useful tips, and see just how surviving in any career is like surviving any relationship, yes, even marriage.

Speaking of marriage, I married a fellow journalist, Shawn Montano, two-time NPPA Editor of the Year. He teaches and discusses editing in his own blog at Check it out.

That reminds me of some future topics I'm planning to cover:

Incestuous news room or true love?
How to handle crazy people on the phone
Steps to prevent my tush from molding to the shape of my desk chair
Scanners, voices, scanners, voices
When the desk feels the pinch of the economy

and much much more

Please share your opinions, own stories and ideas for future posts.