Dear new employee:

Welcome to the first day of the rest of your career here. What the heck were you thinking? That first question might surprise you, but trust me. You’ll be asking yourself that very same question in a few days. Maybe a few hours. How you answer will probably determine your attitude toward any and all undertakings as you attempt to do good work here. If you fail to even attempt to do good work, I’ll eventually catch on to you. But your co-workers will catch on first. They’ll be nice about it in the beginning but when they realize you’ve made their job harder, they’ll rat you out.

Sorry to sound so pessimistic. There are just so many people who’ve come before you. Some of them worked out. Most of them didn’t. Our qualifications are more than just having a heartbeat and being able to breathe (even though sometimes it doesn’t seem that way.)

I’m actually not all that pessimistic, I just have a hard time living with mediocre work. I hope you understand. The sad part is, my claim to fame (aside from some random story about a cloned cat) is that I created a youtube video that’s been viewed 500,000 times. I’ve received one or two awards in the business, but none of them came with cash prizes. They don’t really count then, do they?

If you’ve been in our kind of business before, then you’ve heard the saying, “It gets in your blood.” That saying is figuratively accurate. If you keep reminding yourself you got here because you wanted to be here, you might actually survive. Heck, there’s a good chance you’ll even thrive. If you try.

You already know the job doesn’t pay diddly. I told you that during the job interview so don’t come in complaining later. As a matter of fact, don’t even joke about the money you don’t make. It only reminds others about their constant struggle to pay the bills. Focus on the experience, not on the pay check.

If you want a good pay check, McDonald’s and Starbucks pay better than we do. True story. I found out last weekend Starbucks offers part-time employees medical benefits. Who does that? Answer- companies that sell coffee.

There’s a lot to learn here. There are computers, and procedures. Not all the computers work like they should all the time. Be patient with those machines, but don’t expect patience in return. We work in a ‘Get it right. Get it first.’ environment. Spelling errors should be treated as egregious as factual errors. All too often our writing is vanilla and boring. I can’t hold your hand every step of the way, but I’ll encourage you to write effectively. Write with meaning. Omit needless words and always use proper pronouns.

The hours are awful. I told you that during the job interview too. You came anyway. Don’t complain about your hours either. Before you came here, we worked as much as 10 to 12 hours a day. The company cut overtime, so we work normal 8 hours shifts now. They’re not as normal as 8 to 5, but they’re more normal than they used to be. Those 10 to 12 hours days still exist, but they’re not as common.

You’ll run into mean people inside and outside. Not everybody is as chipper as I (insert smart comment here). They care about themselves and could give a hoot about what you’re doing. As long as you stay out of their way and help them out, you’ll be fine. I’ll tell you a secret about those people. They won’t be here long. They’re not interested in a team effort.

In our business, there’s only one true stakeholder that matters. It’s the viewer. As cliche as it sounds, I still believe in the viewer. I also believe in the Andy Rooney quote, “Somewhere along we way we stopped telling people what they needed to know and started telling them what they wanted to know.” So yeah, I am indeed a walking contradiction.

Some advice for you as you start-

1- if you don’t already have it, develop a real passion for news. Watch other newscasts. Read the news on the internet. Become a fan of news organizations on facebook, twitter, and whatever other social media website you can find. They still print newspapers too. Even though a lot of papers are online, there are a few weekly publications that aren’t. Read those too.

2- learn to do more with a computer than play Solitaire or check the weather. Learn to send files via FTP. Learn to build a website. Learn. Learn. Learn. As a matter of fact, apply that verb to all aspects of this gig, not just computers.

3- write often. Write for the fun of it. Write because you want to. If you don’t want to write, turn in your resignation now.

4- learn to create great video. This can apply even if you don’t have a handicam and shoot your own. Learn to edit like a pro. There are hundreds of tip sheets online and down at the public library. It’s very simple. Edit in sequence. Edit to match the copy. Edit to capture the attention spans of those viewers (see number 1). If you’ve ever seen a teacher who has a passion for a particular subject, then you know firsthand they tend to spread that passion to others. You can do the same with your video and copy.

5- When it gets rough, remember it’s just television. Mistakes aren’t always excused, but they can be lessons learned. When it seems like the world is caving in and nothing goes right, think to yourself: It’s just television. There’s always another show. There’s always another entry on the website. There’s always another day.

I could go on with the list, but you’re likely overwhelmed with the job at hand.

By the way…

What in the world were you thinking?