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Visiting Professorship - Day 1- Stepping into the "Dark Side"?

I've spent most of my working adult life inside a television station. Even when I had my own business my office was in a television station. TV stations feel like home. My best friends were my colleagues who spent long nights and stressful days together. We were like family, cursing at each other one day and making up the day after without thinking much about it. We were fighting a great fight and we all were in it together (for the most part). I have fond memories of all the newsrooms where I worked (4).

Today, I begin my first day as an AEJMC/Scripps Howard Foundation Visiting Professor in Media Ad sales. I’m at WPTV-TV in West Palm Beach, Florida. The outside of the station is beautiful. The inside is as similar as every station. There is a newsroom, a master control, studio, control room, assignment desk, edit suites, and the “upstairs”. Upstairs is usually the domain of the sales department and managers. There is a divide between sales reps and journalists that makes for complicated relations. When I started in 1989 the sales department wouldn’t step on our news floor without a seismic ethical confrontation between the news director and the sales manager. We would joke that the sales department was the “dark side”. No journalists would go upstairs unless they were called by human resources or met the big boss. We dare not step foot in the sales area for fear of how it may appear. The “upstairs” was where our journalistic ethics would be stripped away and we’d vaporize our careers, if we heeded the advice or direction of sales reps.

Visiting WPTV makes me feel like I lived in the prehistoric times of television. The present requires news and sales to come to a truce. Today, the sales department is a vital ingredient in the survival of news organizations, albeit the ethical conundrums still lurking in corners. As a professor, it is very important for students to understand that without sales and revenue, careers are impacted. Sales is the Ying to the Yang of News. They need each other to remain relevant, powerful and significant. When they are both independent of each other they become stronger but they must work in sync.

I’m here to learn how it all comes together. I’m here to translate the real world for my students. The boundaries of their lives shouldn’t be confined by presumption. There are many careers in media they may not know exist and they shouldn’t presume what they know. Nor should I.

This will be a fantastic experience because it feels like I’m reaching beyond my comfort zone. Today, I met with Director of Sales, Cathy Goltz, to go over the two week training program. Whew. I’m going to learn a lot in a short period of time: cold calls, client needs analysis, prospecting, etc. The training manual looks like a great syllabus and I will be transferring what I learn into classwork.

My favorite inspiration from Cathy, “I can turn them from 211 to 212.” I was a bit puzzled when she made the statement. Was this a WPTV mantra? She explained, “212 is when water boils. It only takes one degree to take them to the boiling point, when they take off.” Fantastic. I love inspirational slogans and I’m sure to use it. I want to take my students from 211 to 212. Hopefully, this adventure will push me one more degree toward 212. Thank you AEJMC!

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