Sunday, January 5, 2014

Lack of experience

In my last post, I talked about having to give up the idea of being a planner. The lack of experience was the big factor in the down economy.

Proof that I am not quite over it, I am reading one of the books given to me for Christmas. In a book titled Those Guys Have All the Fun, authors James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales chronicle the timeline of ESPN's rise to dominance. In the 1970 and early 1980's, when ESPN was planned and implemented, there was a lot of uncertainty and doubt about whether the idea of an all-sports cable channel would succeed. Many of the things they did were ridiculed by the established media outlets.

Many of the guys ESPN hired early were new guys who had little-to-no experience in running and producing TV. Most of them were hired because they were cheap, but they were also hired because they had a passion to make it work.

Many of the things they did are common place today, but were told back then that people didn't want to do that. The established experience of the established media guys said viewers didn't want studio updates. They said viewers wanted to watch the game they were watching and not be interrupted. They said the camera should only follow the ball, whereas ESPN pioneered the cameraman following a player without the ball who would make an impact on the play.The establishment said viewers weren't concerned with what was going on behind the scenes. ESPN said things like the NFL draft would hold interest to the public.

These young guys were hired by the execs because they were cheap, sure. But there were a lot of guys who were cheap that didn't get on with ESPN. The guys who were hired wanted to prove themselves. The execs gave them freedom to do what they needed, guided them when needed and took a station that experienced folks said were doomed and made it the dominant name in sports media.

My point is, I think the planning industry is doing itself a disservice by not giving inexperienced guys a try. I understand why they value experience, but in the end, using ESPN as an example, does it make the candidate better? I can't answer that for every city/agency/company, but I can say that it isn't necessarily better. Sports fans today take for granted what ESPN pioneered in the early 80's by guys without experience.

I'm not saying I would have revolutionized the planning industry. But I would have brought a similar passion to my job. I would have also brought a similar zeal for success. There are lots of inexperienced guys like me who would do the same. Keep in mind that Dallas/Fort Worth was spared from the worst of the recession. If I had these struggles here, I can't imagine what is going on in the harder hit areas. I just can't imagine what the planning industry will look like without a dearth of young guys coming in.

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