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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Are You Ready, New Producers?


And just like that, the semester has flown by and ATVN is off air for the summer. Looking back at how much fun I had with my fellow producers and how much we all have learned, I really wish we didn't have to stop.

 The days working in the newsroom always passed by so fast, no matter what producer position I worked in, but this last show was especially fast-moving since I worked as lead and since Ventura County was catching fire during all of this record-breaking heat. The wildfires kept changing, and my team and I kept having to adjust accordingly-- something I feel like we clearly wouldn't be able to do as well as we did if we hadn't worked so hard and kept in mind everything we had learned over the semester.

Looking back at everything that has happened, here are a few tips for those stepping up next semester to replace us on how to collect and develop story ideas:

Morning Meeting Prep

  • Always stay on top of the budget-- check it the day prior to your producing shift, check it before you go to bed, check it right when you wake up and check it throughout the day. Staying on top of events that you know for sure are happening is crucial. If you know something is happening early, plan accordingly. If you know you have multiple events throughout the day, plan to assign your MJs so you can cover all of them.
  • Watch a local 11PM show the night before your broadcast and make note of stories that will still be news the following day and think of ways to develop them. Then, wake up early and watch a 6AM newscast. Think of original ways you would develop the day's stories and always consider of they will still be relevant at 6PM. 
  • When you get to the newsroom, check the rundowns from the days before you so you don't repeat stories or coverage!
  • And finally, when it finally comes to the morning meeting be sure to SPEAK UP and lay out all of the planning you've spent so much time collecting and organizing. It's your show, and it's up to you to make sure resources and time is allocated to the stories you feel are worth covering.

Here is some specific advice for each teammate position:

Web/Graphics Teammate

  • Stay on top of social media. If we need interviews, send out a tweet. If we have updates or a new article online, post them wherever applicable. Monitor the pictures and information coming in from MJs and reporters (and stay on top of encouraging them to do so if they aren't very active on social media while out in the field.)
  • Have a clear web iNews rundown to manage who is assigned to which stories. In order to multitask-- which is all any of the producers do-- you need a clear map of everything you're keeping track of. 
  • Always push for local news!! As a former web EP, I cannot stress enough how important it is that we always strive to do as much of our own local reporting as possible. We should own USC and local news, so it needs to be kept in mind as a goal every single day.
  • Showcase what we do for the broadcast on the website. Post videos as much as possible-- we shoot and edit and write our own content, and posting it to the site ensures that we maximize the number of people who see our coverage. 

Video Teammate

  • Stay on top of which MJs you assign to which stories. Be strategic in your assignments-- for example, if it's possible to send one MJ out to cover one story right after the other, then do it. You especially need to maximize your efficiency by keeping in mind who has a car.
  • Keep checking Newsource for all updated and new video. The last thing you want is stale and outdated information running in your show. Also, keep a running list of all the videos you order so you can always refer back to specific SOTs, broll, etc.
  • Stay in communication with the lead during the rundown meeting. Formatting and order always change, so if elements are dropped or added you need to be aware.
  • Use the writers column to monitor your MJs. Hold them accountable for the basics like runs, outcues, TRTs and CGs. Always emphasize to them that their story isn't done without these elements and always make sure they remember to produce quality work since their name is attached to their assignment. 
  • COPY EDIT. Keep fact checking throughout the day. It's so easy to accidentally accuse someone of a crime or misrepresent facts, so always be aware that your MJs aren't perfect writers and that you ultimately are responsible for what is said in the show.
  • Have a clear hand-off with the web teammate once you leave for the studio. They haven't been as involved in the video managing process as you have throughout the day, so be specific and clear!

Lead Producer

  • Always remember you set the tone for the day. You need to be confident in your newscast and yourself, and always keep a calm, clear head. Defend your decisions, stay positive and always stay proactive. You never should have any real down time, believe me there is always something to do. 
  • Be sure to include lines for all of the elements you ideally would want for your stories. Be realistic, but don't hold yourself back. Always pursue what you want, and if it doesn't work you can float it and adjust accordingly. But never hold yourself back with the mindset that we're just a student news station. You'd be surprised at what you can get :)
  • Be sure to balance your coverage. For example, with the mayoral race heating up we always want to hear from BOTH candidates so we don't favor one over the other.
  • Stay in touch with your team during the day-- hold mini-meetings to update them and to check in. If one of you is struggling and the other two don't know, it only makes for bigger problems later in the day. You are there to support each other, and as lead you need to be especially aware of the status of your teammates. 
  • Know the names of everyone working on your day, even in the studio. Address people directly and always say thank you. Make sure you have a good relationship with your staff, they do after all work extremely hard for you. It's easy to bark at someone to go to an event and it's easy to let your frustration get the better of you. We're all learning though, and you need to be aware that mistakes happen. So always say thank you and always offer constructive, non-condescending advice for people who may need a little extra help or encouragement. 

I truly believe that being a producer is the very best job you could ever have at ATVN. I love reporting and I love the web, but I feel like you get the best of all worlds by formatting and developing a newscast. It's the most fun I've ever had and I can't wait to work as Tuesday's EP next semester. 

Thank you Olivia Heinle for always teaching me and for always supporting me. I learned so much from you and I'll be sad to see you go!

To my new producers, I only ask one thing: remember to remain humble and hardworking. We all always have more to learn and I hope we can do so together as a team. 

I can't wait to see who I'll get to work with on Tuesday! See you then.

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