Lessons to Learn from TruTV's "Breaking Greenville"

Cable TV channel TruTV is offering a real-life glimpse of the challenges facing small-market TV newsrooms. Photo © David M. Benett / Getty Images

The TV reality show Breaking Greenville is full of laughs. But it also contains important lessons for anyone who works in media and who wants to help others start their career. The TV reality ​show Breaking Greenville airs on the cable TV channel TruTV. While it showcases the rivalry between two rival news teams in tiny Greenville, Mississippi, it also contains vital lessons for everyone who works in media.

That's because most of us are surrounded by people with a spectrum of experience and abilities. Even if you're the most seasoned pro at your media company, you have the opportunity to help shape the career of someone else. Chances are, someone devoted extra time when you were starting out. Breaking Greenville is as much about the lessons as it is about the laughs.

Young TV Talent Is Full of Ambition

The news teams at WABG and WXVT may be competitors, but they share a common thread. That is, the wide-eyed ambition of their newest newsroom talent. They may be in their 20s and fresh out of college with a lot to learn, but they dream of being in the big time. Whether it's the morning anchor who wants to be Kelly Ripa, or the young meteorologist who hopes to get a job in the bigger market of Peoria, they are all using Greenville as a stepping stone to somewhere else.

Most of us can relate to that.

When you're in your 20s, you have stars in your eyes, without the responsibility that comes with having a spouse and children. Have a chance at making a 100 DMA jump to earn $3,000 more a year? You bet you'll take it.

You can see most of these young newspeople are not content at simply honing their skills as a TV reporter.

They want to become a household-known TV personality in the process. The problem is, it's tough to skip over the basics of broadcasting to develop the instincts that come with being a seasoned pro. That's when the mistakes happen.

All That Ambition Comes with Insecurity

All of that ambition would be tough to tolerate if it weren't for the obvious insecurity that envelopes the young people on Breaking Greenville, which is an accurate portrayal of newsroom newbies. They crave praise and are especially vulnerable to criticism, even if they ask their superiors for honest feedback.

The news directors at each station and the more seasoned managers and talent appear to be well versed in the eggshell thin egos that surround their new faces. They know how to offer criticism gently, so that the message is delivered, but not with the sledgehammer approach.

That takes a great deal of personal discipline and restraint on the managers' part. It might be more effective and efficient to simply blast a young reporter for a stupid mistake, but if that reporter goes to pieces and ends up quitting to go home to Mom, then nothing is accomplished. These young reporters have left home, crossed the country in search of a dream.

They are alone, paying bills and making new friends. If they miss a key element of a story, sure it's a mistake, but in a place like Greenville, it doesn't appear to be a fatal blow to their career, thanks to forgiving bosses.

Lessons to Apply to Your Own Media Company

The news directors in Greenville have to be equal parts of a parent, coach, ​and psychiatrist. Chances are, as soon as they fully nurture a young baby news bird to spread her wings, she leaves the nest, only to be replaced by a new hatchling who has to learn the same lessons. These news directors must find fulfillment in repeating the same advice over and over, or else they would have quit themselves.

You may not work in tiny Greenville, Mississippi, or ever experienced life in a tiny TV market. But look around your newsroom and you'll see interns, recent graduates or other green people looking for a helping hand.

You are undoubtedly wise enough to know that even the best journalism schools can't teach all of the real-life skills that only come from working the job in a real newsroom.

If your media company has an internship program, you can use some of those same principles to help fresh employees. Setting up a mentorship program is another good idea, even if it's handled on an informal basis. If you're looking to help new reporters, make sure they are trained in the common mistakes, so they can avoid making them before they get on the air.

Not everyone has the patience it takes to manage inexperienced newsroom workers. The payoff is in watching them succeed, even if they leave your newsroom for greener pastures, knowing that you helped make a difference in their career. Hopefully, they'll thank you for the time and the occcasional honest toughness you took with them.