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It’s an old act, but viewers are still buying it

By Mark Washburn
mwashburn@charlotteobserver.com
Mark Washburn
Mark Washburn writes television and radio commentary for The Charlotte Observer.

Congratulations for landing a job at TV Smaction News in Charlotte. Here are guidelines on how we do business.

Be careful how you use the word “exclusive.” It is not an “exclusive” if it happened at a press conference, unless you’re the only one who showed up. Then it’s an “exclusive.”

If you don’t recognize anyone else in the courtroom, be sure to mention that you were the only reporter there when the verdict came down. It does not matter that people from the Observer, Gaston Gazette, Associated Press and a couple radio stations were also there. They do not count. They are simply not Television.

Always remember that you’re a highly trained professional respected for your exceptional communication skills. This means you cannot change your hair style without our permission.

Occasionally, a crime will occur in a nice neighborhood. Go to the edge of the neighborhood and stop the first car driving in. Ask everyone in the car if they heard about the crime. When they say no, tell them about it. Then turn on the camera and ask them if this kind of crime happens much in their nice neighborhood. Then ask if they are at all worried. Then turn off the camera. Begin your report: “People in this nice neighborhood are terrified.”

There is no bigger story in Charlotte than weather. Never use the term “rain.” In Charlotte, it is “liquid death.” This is why our forecasting center is named “The Nostradamus Smaction News Severe First Warn Corpse-Watch Unit.”

If we send you to the coast for a hurricane, stand out in the storm while beseeching people to take shelter. Go find some civilians outside in the storm and remark on how they are foolishly risking their lives.

Nothing is more important to viewers than the process you went through to get the story. Use phrases like, “Smaction News went to the courthouse and got these documents.” Shake the documents and flip through them. Act like you’ve just discovered King Tut’s tomb. Anything with documents is an “exclusive.”

We will send you to a lot of crashes. People here love crashes. If the police are busy doing their jobs and won’t talk to you, say that “police are tight-lipped.” Then you can add, “But as you can see behind me, there’s been a crash.” Make sure the photographer gets about 30 shots of flashing blue lights. If there’s time, also show the wreck.

One last guideline to ensure success in your new job in Charlotte TV news:

Never do anything silly.

Washburn: 704-358-5007.
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