Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Time's Up?

The next contestant on "Who Wants to be a TV Traffic Reporter" has on camera TV experience. Neither of the two previous hopefuls did.

The last one didn't offer much of an effort. She had done traffic reporting before -- on the radio. And it looked like it during her audition. The stringy permed hair and little makeup did not flatter her face.

Contrary to popular myth, you don't have to be beautiful to work on television, even if you're female. It certainly helps, of course, and I'm surprised that the station hasn't gotten at least a few hot hopefuls who can make up with appearance what they lack in experience.

This job does not require a seasoned journalist.

Whatever your natural physical gifts, you do have to know how to dress and style your hair for the camera. Clearly this woman did not. She also did not grasp that when you're on camera, you have to talk to the camera. She read directly off her sheet of paper, which works perfectly well on the radio where you can connect with listeners without looking at them.

Not so much on TV.

The upcoming candidate should know that. She's a former TV news anchor now living in Tampa. I don't know what she does now but she must prefer doing TV. She had applied for the open morning show anchor position (the station's looking for one of those, too) but the morning show has a female anchor already -- and quite a good one, if you ask me.

(Reading this blog indicates that unless you're forced to read it, for which you have my condolences -- what was your crime? -- you have implicitly requested to know my opinion about things.)

It's not a law that a show can't have two female anchors but it is the industry convention. Viewers now expect to turn on a local TV newscast and see the pearly whites of one male and one female smiling at them as they announce their names and say "thank you for joining us," like a video threesome is about to begin.

So the new anchor will almost certainly be male. Just as the new traffic reporter will likely be female. I will feel offended otherwise. Then the show will have male and female news anchors, a male weather guy and a female traffic anchor. Nice balanced cast for the show.

If you do aspire to the traffic job, it might help if you're blonde. All but two of the station's female news, weather and sports anchors are. The other two are African-American.

Is my time up soon? Probably. I know this because I'm starting to get used to the schedule. The alarm clock going off still feels like a bucket of ice water being poured on my face but once I get to the station -- still parking in a guest space out front and needing the security guard to escort me in -- it doesn't stink.

The people are great. The traffic computer is in the control room where the director, producer, technical director and audio board operater all sit during the newscast so I spend the most of my time with the studio crew.

"You're one of us now," one of the studio crew members told me the other day.

They like that I don't complain and that I don't care how much air time I get. "I get paid the same," I say again whenever a producer apologizes for cutting a traffic report. "Use me as much or as little as you want."

They also seem to think I've added something to the morning show. I've gotten a lot smoother, my on-air rapport with the news and weather anchors is good and they like my sense of humor, on air and just BSing in the control room.

I'll miss it when it ends.

Not as much as my father will, though. He watches at least one of my traffic reports every morning and enjoys telling people, as he always has whenever I've had an on air job, that I'm on television.

Golfing yesterday, I met a guy dad knew and dad had to tell him what I did, what times I was on and even what cable channel he'd find WTSP. The station might be able attribute its rumored uptick in the morning ratings to its one man promotion department in Pasco County.

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