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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Watch and Learn Like You Were The Producer

What better way to enjoy my week off from producing than to actually absorb the news around me, taking notice of one of the best local newscasts in Los Angeles. After watching the 5:00 p.m. news on Monday night over on ABC, I noticed some key elements the station was incorporating to make their own show stand out.

Local news can be very hit or miss, but this particular show was loaded with content. It started with information surrounding the impending decision in the Ferguson, Missouri case that was bound to shock the entire nation. The ABC newscast I was watching did an excellent job of covering the national top angle and then sliding into the local interests that were of special importance.

The biggest thing I noticed was the composure exhibited from both the anchors on camera, especially as things could’ve turned for the worse at any moment before the 6 p.m. live announcement. Marc Brown did a tremendous job of separating himself from the story, making sure the audience understood who was speaking and what was being said.

That’s probably the one thing we don’t stress enough at ATVN, to be honest. In our constant rush to pump out different stories, the basic focus of what is actually being delivered has been overlooked in weeks past. After spending about 3-4 minutes of the newscast on national angles, ABC shifted right back to the local stories of the day, which was fine.

If I were calling the shots for a day, which would be awesome by the way, I'd make a very similar call for the rundown. I also thought most of the local packages centralized the top story in a strong fashion. That particular day-of-air producer did a tremendous job of ordering these stories, even incorporating a few live shots (including one in an actual airplane wing) along the way to keep the newscast fresh.

These human-interest packages are vital to good newscasts, and I feel like we should strive to work around this model. The most notable story in my mind, the Airport Travel package, was noteworthy because it really emphasized the individual steps that go into making flights possible, especially during the busy holiday season. All that attention to detail was noticeable on camera in the piece, including the usage of tight shots, wide shots and quick sequences that were edited together in tight fashion. 

One of the main things that can make or break a newscast, in my opinion, is the transition from a long block of stories to the commercial break. Following the Airport Travel piece, both anchors quickly thanked the reporter and initiated a few seconds of banter in the two shot camera spot. He kept it light, pulling off a good chuckle on air. Our ATVN banter can be very entertainng, but the professionals have it down pat, mostly since they are so limited on time for chatter.

Like many local stations in Los Angeles, ABC is pushing for reporters to be more involved with content, both in packages and in teases heading into the commercial breaks. Entertainment Reporter George Pennacchio executed a solid live shot tease, which set the stage for the Dancing With The Stars show but didn’t reveal too much right away. 

Not only did ABC cover a good amount of stories in the first two blocks of the show, they kept teasing upcoming content. Both in the short term for the Ferguson Verdict but also to scan the website and social media pages for more content.

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