I’m guessing the title of this article got a few sarcastic chuckles. If you have had at least one job in TV news, it has probably has happened to you. First you move and give up everything familiar. Then you get to the station and boom! “Oh you thought we hired you to do the 5pm? No, you are actually producing the noon.” “We’ve made a few changes since you interviewed. You won’t be on our special projects unit, you will be dayside reporting.” “Yes, we hired you to anchor the weekend shows, but so and so is leaving so you will be on mornings.” I can honestly say, a third of the time in my career, I arrived at stations my first day and was given a new, unexpected assignment. When asked what happened to the plan that I would produce XY or Z, the answer was always the same, “Well we just need you here now.” It sucks and makes you hate the boss right away. Thankfully, there was a silver lining for me. Every time, I ended up with the show I came there to produce. I would sit down with management and ask what it would take to get the newscast I wanted. Then I would deliver what they said. Sometimes it took a few months, sometimes a year. The key is saying, “I am here to help. I will do what you ask and give my all, but I came for a specific reason. At some point, I want that addressed.”
Request specific parameters you must meet to get the gig you were promised. This is going to be easier to pull off for producers and reporters. Write those parameters down in front of the boss, then repeat them back and date it. That way you have documented the conversation. I know that sounds silly and technically would not hold up in court. But it is not a document most managers want sent to human resources in a few months, along with a letter explaining how you were promised XY or Z. It can sometimes help you leave early if you end up in pure hell. In one case I saw a producer that was promised a weekend shift and ended up on mornings, turn in a document like this and get the weekend gig. Another producer I knew used a document like this to get a gig I was promised. We were both told we would get the same show! We were hired within a week of each other. Each of us were put on different newscasts than what we were promised. She had several conversations with management about it, turned in documentation to human resources and got the newscast first. It took me several months of bouncing around newscasts and raising ratings to demand I get a turn. It worked out and I got the gig. But if her ratings had been higher, I would not have, because she documented right away. I also knew of reporter who was able to leave a station before his contract came up because he was placed on a different shift. He did not have an agent by the way. But he did have documentation.
Don’t sit and complain everyday about the screw over. It will alienate you from the staff. Besides you moved there and you are probably stuck for a while. Sometimes the new shift actually works out better. Try and keep an open mind. Again, I speak from personal experience. It can be hard to let go of the initial screw over. Instead of dwelling on the situation, set goals for yourself of what you want out of this job. Then do all you can to get more out the place than it gets from you. What I mean is that if you focus on improving your skills one of two things will happen. Either the station will see your growth and promote you, or you will gain a new or improved skill set and leave for greener pastures. You will end up the winner in the end. Remember that. Also remember that many journalists come to newsrooms for a certain job, get the gig then, lose it. There are no givens in the news business. At least if another shift change is presented to you that you don’t want to do you can try and say, “Hey I already took one for the team.” It might provide more long term stability.