Useful feedback

Journalists never get enough feedback on their work and sometimes what they do get isn’t all that useful. What is one supposed to make of comments like: “You need more energy in your standups” or “Your writing is boring”? I’ve seen too many TV reporters respond to that kind of feedback by shouting at the camera or adding cliches, which just leads to more helpful suggestions like: “You need to tone it down.”

Here’s some advice on how to get more useful feedback and what to do with it. First off, you need to ask for the feedback you think you need. If you’re lucky enough to work for someone who schedules feedback sessions, be sure to come prepared. Bring examples of your work and know what questions you want to ask. Are you trying to improve your on-camera delivery? Have you struggled with writing good lead-ins to sound bites?  Ask targeted  questions to get the most productive feedback.

Some news managers only give what you might call “drive by” feedback–a quick comment in passing that doesn’t tell you much. It’s up to you to ask for  specifics. If the boss says you did a good story, ask what he or she really liked about it. But don’t try to turn a two-minute chat into a full-blown critique session. If it sounds like there’s more to talk about, ask for a time to meet privately.

If you’re not getting useful feedback from the boss, find someone else who can help. But as TV producer Randy Tatano points out at TVnewsgrapevine, it’s important to choose wisely.

Critiques must be objective. If the person giving you feedback likes you too much to say anything negative or dislikes you too much to say anything nice…the critique isn’t much help.

Sometimes critiques can be painful, Tatano says, but honest advice should give you something to build on if you’re open to hearing it.