Friday, February 26, 2010

To tip or not to tip

"Gratuity" is a nice word. It means you're grateful. But how much does a thank you cost?

Grocery stores -
I've never noticed people tipping the bag carriers until recently. Are you supposed to? I know at some grocery stores they'll tell you they're not allowed to accept tips. And at some stores, they'll insist on taking your groceries out because they have to be the ones to return the carts. I don't want to seem rude for never having done it before, but I guess I was never told to!

Restaurants - What if you get bad service? I waited tables for about 5 years and definitely feel compelled to tip at least 15%, even if service isn't good, because I know what kind of crud they have to deal with.

Starbucks, Cold Stone, etc - I never tip at these places either. Should I? I don't hand money to friends and acquaintances who treat me nicely. What's the protocol for tipping here?

Sonic -
What about car hops? One of my good friends put herself through college and financed two different cars while working at Sonic. She made about $7 an hour (which was WAY more than minimum wage at the time) and would go home with $60-$100 on a good night.

Buffets - I have no idea how much to tip at, say, Zookini's or one of those places where you do have a waiter but pretty much do all of the "work" yourself. Thoughts?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

How NOT to get a job

Everybody knows that in this job market, you have to stay competitive.

Recently, several members of the newsroom attended a broadcast seminar with various workshops that helped us get ideas and tools to better ourselves. The day ended with a workshop on How Not to Get a Job.

We all sat in the back of the classroom. Don't judge us. All of us except for Hope, who took the notes that helped me write this blog. Yup, she's a note-taking, front row kind of girl.

Here are 10 tips on how to (and how NOT to) land the job you want. It's written for people looking for jobs in the broadcast industry, but these really apply to people in many professional fields.

Write a custom cover letter. Using a template shows lack of creativity, and it can often lead to an error if you forgot to fill in the blank somewhere. I suppose here we should talk about SPELLING the hiring manager's name correctly! During his last semester of college, my husband accidentally added an extra letter to a news director's last name, and she told him that she very well may have considered him for the job... if it weren't for that dang T.

Use a professional e-mail address. I'm glad this was included in the workshop. What boss wants to see an email from is probably not that hard to claim. And don't send an email from your current work address! They don't want someone who obviously uses company time and resources to look for a different job.

Follow instructions in the ad. If it says no calls, don't call. However, if you are applying for a reporter job, it could show that you're aggressive and a go-getter. The panelists seemed split on this one. It's always a good idea to get in contact with someone who works at the station/company to find out what the boss is like and what they will and will not tolerate from candidates.

Be honest about who you are and what you can do. I'll be up-front with an employer and tell them what my challenges are and what I'd have to work on if I were ever asked to move into a different position. (Like how I worded that? Challenges? I'm good.) Also, you could ruin your reputation if you fib in the interview about your strengths and fail to deliver in the job.

Be careful about what you say, and know your audience. I don't know about your business, but this one we're in is TINY. There are probably only 2-3 degrees of separation in the local news business, and you never know what will get repeated or compared among former (or future) colleagues. And joke cracking might not be a good idea, especially if you're prone to sarcasm like me.

No gimmicks, no gifts. Translation: confetti=bad. While I totally agree with this one, I did include a fortune cookie message with a cover letter one time. I got the job. Maybe in spite of my gimmick. I should ask about that. (I just asked, and my old boss said he thought it was odd. And then he made a comment about my hiring date being one of the darker days in station history. See "know your audience" above.)

Google yourself! Hm... I hope I don't have any spelling errors in this blog. Anyway, assume news directors will do their own research. The first step could be to privatize your Facebook. Sometimes my husband (the cute guy in the glasses) will add a potential candidate as his Facebook friend to see what they are like and who they know in common. So even if you do have it set to private, be ready to have it seen. Also, if you have your very first experience in front of the camera posted on YouTube, take it down! How is anyone supposed to know whether or not you've improved since then?

Dress like a professional and dress appropriately for the job you’re applying for. 'Nuff said.

Do NOT trash current or former employers. A few of us took an interview candidate to lunch last year and she complained about her old job the whole time. I was slightly tempted to egg her on just to see how unprofessional she would get, but that would not have been gracious. She did not get the job. If you're mindful of your words, you can spin your experiences in a positive way, even if you are coming from the worst job in the world. And some of you probably are.

Ask good questions in your interview. You are interviewing the company, too! Come prepared. Have a list of questions on paper. It makes you look like you're more engaged and more eager to get started.

Any more questions? I've gone through the job search process in this business four times, and I'm married to the guy who does the hiring, so I can probably help you out. Just comment, or email sweetcheeks@... Just kidding.

Friday, February 12, 2010

School Closings 101

I figure I'll take the opportunity to explain how our school closings alert system works, brag on it a little bit, and rant a little bit.

(My rant is about the incessant callers who are too impatient. More on that later.)

School districts must give us their assigned pin number before we report the schedule change. It's very secure.

(Aside: a couple years ago, a Dallas station got a phone call that DISD was closing. The call apparently had DISD on caller ID. It was fake. Half the kids stayed home. Epic fail.)

We enter the information directly into the tickers that you see at the bottom of the screen and the tickers automatically populate our website. That gives you three ways to find out about school closings: instantly on the web (don't have to wait for alphabetical order) or flip back and forth between KTAB and KRBC and one of them will be closer to your school than the other. Less waiting time.

(Speaking of waiting, this is the most adorable video ever!)

View more news videos at:

Anyway, we are extremely proud of our efficiency and accuracy of our school closings systems.

Now to my rant.

On days like today, from about 5:30 to 6:30 a.m., the phone rings off the hook. Schools, day cares, businesses, organizations... everyone calls to let us know what their plans are for the day and asks us to announce them. Awesome. That's why we are here. BUT our phone is constantly tied up by people who are too impatient to wait for the news. So we repeat over and over and over, "Hello? No, AISD has not yet informed us of their decision." "Hello? No, AISD has not yet informed us of their decision."

Then AISD calls. Within 90 seconds we have it online, on the tickers, and the anchors on both stations are saying it out loud exactly every 5 minutes. We then spend the next 30 minutes saying, "Hello? Yes, AISD has delayed two hours." "Hello? Yes, AISD has delayed two hours."

In the time it took you to look up our phone number, call, go through the automated line to get to us, we've probably said it it on air and run it across the ticker. Patience, people! The fact that they're calling us means they know who we are. We are a television station. TURN ON YOUR TV!

(That's my rant. I'm not really mad. Just trying to be funny. Sort of.)

Enjoy your shortened Friday!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Computer Problems

I started back in the dark ages. I was doing radio news in the late 1970's..more than 30-years ago. We used notebooks, tape-recorders and telephones. NASA had computers. The military had computers. The closest we had were clocks that flashed the red numbers instead of the big round circles. I got here this morning, and the computer didn't work like it usually does. For young reporters, that's not a big deal. They just right-click this and left-click that and get it working. For me, that's a big problem. If it doesn't work the old way, I'm about as lost as last-year's Easter Egg. I'm here almost by myself with a long newscast to prepare, and it's all on that computer. I'm sure that the morning doubled the strands of gray hair. I guess that's the good part. Computers are only good if they work right. By the way, thanks Chris for showing me a way around that problem and helping me get the newscast on TV. It's great to have the help of these young people.

Monday, February 1, 2010

It's Nice to Have Fans...But Wow!

So as I often do, I try to connect with the people I meet on stories...After all, they're more than a story, they're people. Plus, who am I?

Anyway, I am often humbled when I meet others on the street, and on Monday it went to a whole new level.

To tell this story I have to back up to a cold night, on January 6th. The year was 2010, and Connan O'Brien was the host of The Late Show...remember that time? Wow..what memories..Alright, back to the point, a family had been held at gun point inside their own home that night. It was a breaking news story, I met with the victims, and they shared their story. A masked man tried to bust through their door waving a gun, the mom quickly and bravely pushed the door closed on the bad guy before her husband chased him off. (See that story here:

So that night I tell their story, as best as I can, and return for a live shot at 10. After wrapping the shot, I thank them for their time and share my relief that no one was hurt. At that time the mom asks me how old I am, (I get this a lot, because well I'm young) I answer 23. She then says, "I notice you don't have a ring on your finger, are you single?" Knowing that this question and more was coming, I braced myself and answered her. She then quickly turns to her 21 year old daughter and says, "Have you met my daughter?"

Don't get me wrong, I was flattered, but what am I supposed to do? I politely wave, thank her for her time, and say I better leave.

Fast forward to the present.

The same family gets targeted again, this time having four shots fired at their home. Everyone is okay, but scarred. So I return, to get the story. (See that story here:

This time in the small talk, they tell me they've been following me ever since I first came out to their house. Wow! I'm honored. I don't always think of myself as having a following beyond my Mom and a few people at church. The mom then tells me they have a running joke at their home, when I come on, the 21 year old says "Is that my boyfriend on TV?" and the younger daughter asks, "Is that the cute one, reporting?"

I had no clue, but I had become the target of fan-dom affection. I now have reached the once unattainable level with Brad Pitt, George Clooney, now Tim Johnston...RIGHT? (stop making fun of me) Okay, I know I'm not with them, but close.

So, again, I blush and thank them for the compliments and then laugh it off and leave. I was honored, humbled, and even shocked to learn I had "adoring" fans...but seriously what was I supposed to do?

By the way, a thank you goes out to this family, they really did impress me with the nice thoughts. I'm not trying to mock or embarrass anyone, I just found this all too funny and wanted to share it.