OPINION: News Directors
Need To Stop Hiring MMJs
OPINION: News Directors Need To Stop Hiring MMJs
The recent scene of an MMJ being hit by a vehicle on live TV has triggered a lot of journalists who know this danger all to well.
Watching Tori Yorgey get slammed by a vehicle in the dark, as she reported on road conditions, made a lot of us want to grab our news directors by the collar and scream, “THIS IS WHAT WE’RE TALKING ABOUT!” In an age when one-man-band reporting is the rule—not the exception—the risks to our wellbeing are great. That includes attacks by angry viewers, injuries caused by natural disasters, and other unimaginable dangers.
For YEARS, we’ve been telling news directors, and newsroom managers, that this model of journalism is not safe. But do they listen? Nah… MMJs are a tremendous cost savings, and of course the infamous excuse, “don’t stay if you don’t feel safe.” But not all risks to our lives are obvious.
Like Tori recently said herself, she didn’t think the scene was dangerous at first. Once you’re live with voices in your IFB, a bright top-light in your eyes and your lines front of mind, there’s no more brain space for recognizing changing conditions, an approaching creeper or a speeding vehicle.
Asking journalists to “leave if it’s unsafe” ignores the fact that we have to balance 15 different tasks at once.
It also puts the onus on the reporter. For example, if your story is the lead, and all of a sudden you call in to say you can’t go live, there’s sure to be hell to pay.
Every one of us knows the familiar apathetic tone of an inconvenienced EP who replies, “seriously??” And a last minute change—which always happens because reporters typically have minutes, if not seconds, to set up their equipment—will likely annoy the producer who stacked the show just so.
Meanwhile news management earns double, triple and sometimes even quadruple the income of their MMJs. If Scripps, Tegna, Grey and Sinclair can afford to pay their news managers six figures, they can afford to add more photographers to their staff!
MMJs shouldn’t have to risk their lives for stories that, at the end of the day, they didn’t really need to go live for. That brings up another question: Are we just going live for the sake of a live shot?
This is a crucial moment where change could actually happen if we keep applying pressure. Let’s see which stations heed the calls for improvement, and which ones would prefer to just keep their budgets tight.
Of course you’re correct. Reporters and photogs should work together. There should be at least two people at every story worthy enough to be aired. I did this job for two decades. But News Directors are generally toadies to corporate management. They are restricted by their budget and by their willingness to buck upper management- who care more about profit than their employees’ jobs.
You’re off base. For context I worked my ass off to get from market 120 to 1 over the course of 5 years (3 others who got their start at the same time are in top 15 markets too). The reality is local news is dying, and we need to leave it up to MMJ’s to feed the shows at stations in low markets as cheap labor. The overly-paid ND’s you speak of wouldn’t be in the middle of bumblefuck nowhere— mentoring and developing the next generation of great talent—unless they were paid six figures. Not to victim blame, but we’re all adults. Find a good and safe live shot location and make it work. And if you want higher pay and more crews? Work hard and you’ll make it to a higher market.