Mike Fay: Media Analytics Director (WTOL)

What’s challenging/interesting/rewarding about my current job?

  • The biggest challenge facing the entire industry is disruption. How we navigate that is going to be incredibly important over the course of the next 5 years. As television broadcasters, our specialty is video. Aggregate video consumption has never been higher. We just need to be able to properly reach the people viewing all this video; and that’s not necessarily via TV. We need to be able to provide this video when the consumer wants it. Not make them wait until 6PM when we want to give it to them. The younger generations are a big part of this. We’re not just a large part of the trend changes, we’re also going to be a big part of the solution that keeps TV News solvent. It’s important for current students to understand that and embrace that role. The old way of doing things is dead. We need to be the change. That’s a massive ongoing challenge.The most rewarding part of my current job is when a campaign works for a client. And I really mean that. It helps the client grow their business. It keeps them buying our advertising. And it proves the value in the data that we use to measure media consumption habits. In my last role, Election Night was always the biggest reward. News is scripted. And as a director, you’re following the rundown that has already been laid out by someone else over the course of the day. This is important, because you’re like the player on the field executing the coach’s game plan and calling audibles when necessary. Those audibles, theoretically, are few and far between. But Election Night is different. It’s free-flowing. Changes can be instant. At the end of the night, when you’ve broadcast a clean show with accurate information and you did it all in real-time with no script, there’s really nothing else like that feeling in local TV news, in my opinion. It’s awesome.

How do I use various communication proficiencies in my work?

  • In this business, you have to be able to communicate in every way possible. You have the obvious methods: emails, phone calls, and face to face conversations. But it goes even beyond those ways of interacting. What are you wearing? How are you acting? When you’re out in the field, odds are, more people are seeing you than you even realize. You’re probably wearing station attire. You’re probably driving a marked station vehicle. Meaning, at that point in time, you’re representing the station. Everything you do is going to be judged by the people in the community who are familiar with your organization. You might even get called “fake news” – how are you going to react to that? It’s important to always understand that in any situation, you’re not just representing yourself, you’re representing your coworkers and your bosses. This is an incredible responsibility and it’s a form of communication that I think some people take for granted. You have to also think this way when you speak, write, and interact with coworkers, the community, and station visitors. Frankly, for your own self-preservation as well. This business is way too small to burn bridges. Essentially, understand that you are ALWAYS communicating.

What surprised me about my career?

  • This is probably going to sound terrible, but the biggest surprise to me has been how quickly mid-sized TV markets have become starter markets. When I graduated, kids out of J-school used to land in markets ranked 100 and higher. Now, they’re starting in markets 60-100. This is problematic because the in-school preparation hasn’t kept pace with the job market. In 2010, grads would land in markets like Rockford and Terre Haute. There, they would learn and move up. Now, grads are starting in places like South Bend and Toledo. They’re not coming to these larger cities prepared, they’re becoming easily discouraged and leaving the business. This is where Quincy University is a differentiator, in my opinion. On the job learning is so crucial. With WQUB and QUTV available to students on campus, it puts QU students in a great position to learn the skills needed to land summer internships. Also, and this can’t be overstated, many of the courses are taught be people who still work in the business. This might not seem like a big deal, but it is. The fresh crop of grads from other schools trying to break into the industry don’t have a strong enough understanding of what the business actually is in 2018.

Here’s my number one piece of advice for Communication undergrads:

  • Don’t limit yourself. One of the big challenges that I didn’t mention above is internal communication. It’s incredible to think that we work in the communication business and yet can be so bad at doing it within our own walls. Though this is a challenge, it’s also an opportunity. Internal communication challenges aren’t unique to the media business. This is a struggle everywhere. It’s why I believe a communications degree is so valuable. It helps students build a skillset that transcends the media industry. With the disruption currently happening in the media industry, it makes it even more important for current QU students to recognize that their skills can be applicable anywhere. Understand communication process. It’s simple, but so many people are horrible at it. You can be a solution to this problem. Believe me, this problem is everywhere.

What should we have asked you?    

  • I think it’s vitally important that colleges and universities constantly self-reflect. Is higher education setting up students to succeed in broadcasting? How in-tune with industry trends are we really? I also fully mean it when I say that QU, and the relationship with QMI, is a great example of student prep that I believe works.

Class year: 2009

Previous jobs since graduation: Technical Director (WGEM), Senior Director (WSJV), Marketing Producer (WTOL)

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