Protect the Children

By Race Bannon

Summer is the time when hordes of college interns enter into service at television stations, as wildebeest calves into crocodile infested waters. The interns, like the poor wildebeest calves, will have little chance of happiness. Which is why it’s important for parents to discourage young adults from becoming interested in careers in television in the first place. You’ll need to have a few canned answers ready for those squeaky clean, freckle-faced sons and daughters who return from college with news that they are going to be a network TV anchor after they graduate! It’s an icky trend not too dissimilar from high school boys saying that they are going to play in the NBA after graduation. Hoo-boy.

The U.S. Department of Labor says there is “keen competition” for television jobs created by “large numbers of jobseekers attracted by the glamour of this industry.” Good grief. Most television stations are purposefully understaffed sweat-shops, where your tender son or daughter will work pre-industrial revolution hours, for pauper’s wages, in a filthy and poorly maintained live truck, turning out dozens of stories about nothing, for an ungrateful, jealous, and angry god hereafter known as the news director. “Glamour of this industry”…sheesh.

It will only take around five years before they become jaded and calcified experts on exploiting the survivors of ordinary fatalities, zooming in slowly to tear stricken faces and trembling hands. At the town murder de jour they learn to recognize family members who still don’t know their son or daughter was the one killed in the ever so recent lawlessness. They’ll roll their cameras early to get every frame of the coming implosion and emotional collapse. Yay!

Lately, many broadcasters have created low cost, easy to produce, one, two, three, and four hour live shows. The shows have lots of time for advertisements, but that extended length has also changed the definition of news. News used to be confined to events with conflict, timeliness, proximity, impact, oddity, and prominence. Now news is defined simply as reality: every tree that falls, every person who dies, every teacher who is fired, every traffic accident, every arching power line, every everything … is covered. And that means that your son or daughter has a 100 percent chance of doing a live shot due to a risk of rain in the area, and a 100 percent chance of doing a live shot in front of an empty intersection where the day before, a tree allegedly fell, and then was allegedly cut up by utility crews. “Wow! That was a close one Skip. Now back to you in the studio!”

By the time your child has become an experienced broadcaster, he or she will use drugs and alcohol at almost the same rates as food service employees, construction workers, and waitresses: that’s right – media and entertainment employees are among the highest when it comes to substance abuse. You won’t have to talk with a professional to learn that soon after they’ll also be at increased risk of depression and of making choices which lead to divorce, both of which themselves may be symptomatic of whacky hours and low pay, not the booze and weed.

Respected organizations like the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics tell parents to separate their children from television from their earliest years to reduce the occurrence of childhood obesity and of anxiety disorders like bulimia, attention deficit disorder, and sleeplessness. Yet it may be even more important to insist that our young adults resist the temptations of a career in media and television, and it’s empty promise of “glamour” – a promise that delivers nothing more than a slow death for this most precious resource, our young adults.

Race Bannon is a pseudonym for a current employee of an Atlanta TV station. Bannon wishes LAF readers a happy, cheerful and optimistic July 4.

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About live apt fire

Doug Richards is a reporter at WXIA-TV. This is his personal blog. WXIA-TV has nothing whatsoever to do with this blog, under any circumstances, in any form. For anything written herein, Doug accepts sole credit and full blame. Follow him on Twitter: @richardsdoug. All rights reserved. Thanks for visiting.

12 thoughts on “Protect the Children

  1. rptrcub

    I’m of two minds about journalism/media/etc., when talking to the children. Part of me wants to scream and say “hell f**k no” to those who ask about going into the industry. Then another part of me realizes that you learn a lot about yourself through the trials by fire that journalists experience, which inevitably makes you stronger. I would suggest to them to find another area of occupation to have skills in as a backup in case their media companies decide to lay folks off/not renew contracts, etc.

    Reply
  2. rptrcub

    I’m of two minds about journalism/media/etc., when talking to the children. Part of me wants to scream and say “hell f**k no” to those who ask about going into the industry. Then another part of me realizes that you learn a lot about yourself through the trials by fire that journalists experience, which inevitably makes you stronger. I would suggest to them to find another area of occupation to have skills in as a backup in case their media companies decide to lay folks off/not renew contracts, etc.

    Reply
  3. Austin Rhodes

    Just like in love, the heart wants what the heart wants. Only experience and “living the dream” will tell the tale. There is no one I know that has worked in the industry that regretted the lessons…

    Reply
  4. bigear

    This is so true! You forgot to mention that if your young daughter wants to be an intern, that she will be subjected to all the “older men” of the newsroom swarming around her “sharing” their old war stories. And how everyone else in the newsroom have pools going on who will starting hitting on, I mean “sharing” those stories first.

    Reply
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  6. Jeremiah

    I wasted more than a decade of my life at a so-called “leading” NBC affiliate TV station in one of the Rocky Mountain states. I wish this blog post were not true. Unfortunately, it is true. I would not permit any child of my own to embark on a career in TV news. I lucked out and managed to move into other, higher-paying jobs in other fields, but I’ll never be able to make up for the lost income and lost retirement savings that I could have otherwise acquired had I started out in a healthier, more employee-friendly industry. I know of a general manager of a TV station who prides himself on his public relations efforts to curb substance abuse. Sadly, this individual doesn’t seem to understand how the dismal management/labor climate at his own TV station has — for years — been a significant catalyst for substance abuse among his own employees. A book needs to be written to document and expose the dark, filthy “secret” side of the American TV news industry.

    Reply
  7. Scott Hedeen

    “By the time your child has become an experienced broadcaster, he or she will use drugs and alcohol at almost the same rates as food service employees”

    So? I always viewed TV news as the fast food version of journalism. Reality is… this is reality.

    Reply
  8. SSG Daly

    Summer = “Bumper Crop o’ Interns.”
    I was an intern once. No one hit on me in the newsroom of the small station in Savannah that eventually hired me. It was a hell of a career that gave me a front row ticket to history in the making (Hurricanes,Wars,Atlanta Cotton Mill Fire). Too bad the industry took a turn for the worse.
    Interns – I’m telling you now what I told every intern during the last 5 years at WAGA. If you stay with it, somehow change TV news for the better.

    Reply
  9. sayejibley

    I got this warning when I was an intern, but continued on that path anyway. Fortunately, I’ve now escaped and have a great job at a respectable non-profit, but those 7 years in news- seeing the Daniel Pearl beheading, the sadaam torture videos, watching the world trade center collaspse over and over, a man hit by a car and bounced across 285 like a ragdoll, a lady squished into a Quick Trip, people getting swept up by the tsunami… the list goes on and on… it’s made me hard and jaded. I don’t know if that’s for better or worse.

    Reply

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