When I say kids, by the way, I mean anyone under age 30. That’s because I’m old. Get over it.
These kids are, or want to be, television reporters. By the time they have at least three semesters of reporting classes, and nearly four years of college, you’d think they could compose a story. When I try to give them guidance before going out on a story, they typically look at me with one of two expressions: boredom or “duh.”
They don’t really research anything, before or after they go for an interview. The first stories the interns wrote… Well, let me explain first that I was having them write what we call in the industry a VO-Bite or VO-SOT. The anchor reads (Voice Over) 20 to 25 seconds of script, then we go to a soundbite (Bite or Sound on Tape) from someone involved with or impacted by the story, then the anchor reads one or two more lines to wrap it up. The whole thing could run anywhere from :35 to :55 (the longest only if you have really compelling sound, probably from two people).
So, the first scripts the interns wrote were probably a minute and a half long. I’d go in, re-write and chop, and by that time, the intern was gone or on those occasions where they were there, if I had time and tried to explain what I was doing, they just stared blankly. After a while, they started writing stories that were two sentences before the bite and one sentence after — maybe :30 total. And the bite would always just reiterate what the VO script said. Only once did I listen to the interview and not find better sound for the bite. Sometimes people are not good interview subjects. I tried to tell them what to look for in a soundbite; it went in one ear and out the other.
I don’t know what they’re learning in reporter school, but it’s not how to be a good reporter, or a good writer, or a good interviewer.
These experiences with interns and cub reporters is indicative of an overall trend, I think, and it’s part of the Downfall of America.
In the old days, people typically worked their way up in a company. You began in an entry level position, learned the ropes, learned about the company, and if you learned well and worked hard, you could move up.
Nowadays, many companies don’t seem to reward hard work with promotions. Instead, they hire college graduates with no experience working in the industry, little knowledge of the company, and an education that may not even teach them the basics of what they need to know.
Which brings me to the impetus of this post – an article in Variety, the Hollywood trade magazine, written by Peter Bart. In ‘Alien’ territory: an economics lesson, Bart writes that successful filmmakers in the 1970s honed their skills by working in television and theatre, whereas, “Today’s young filmmakers, lacking that experience, preside over sprawling production schedules. They need more time to shoot and to edit, and then often go back for re-shoots.”
It all boils down to the same thing: people are placed into positions of authority who don’t really know what they’re doing. One might say that they’ll learn on the job, except that, when these kids are in charge, who’s going to be able to tell you what to do? Certainly in Hollywood, they could receive guidance from studio executives, but they won’t receive the right kind of guidance, because the execs aren’t filmmakers. They are numbers crunchers, hired straight out of college, with general and generic knowledge of business or management or economics and without any real world experience in how filmmaking works.
The other impediment to learning on the job goes back to those looks I was telling you about. Blank. Bored. Duh.
These kids don’t want to learn — and I know that I’m generalizing; a few kids today probably do want guidance and knowledge and will listen to suggestions and ideas from other sources — and why should they take a few minutes away from their smartphone to try? Youth is king. Businesses want to reach 18 to 24 year olds. Out with the old, in with the new. Teens and twenty-somethings always thought they knew everything, but now they are being treated as though they actually do know everything.
Between them, the kids and the MBAs are running their industries — and the United States — into the ground.