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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

First Down, ATVN

First and ten, ATVN.

You step out onto the field after kickoff and it's time to start your drive. All eyes are on the quarterback to see what you does--throw a long bomb, hand it off or run it yourself. The play calling for the first down sets the tone for the entire game. Sure you have other chances to score and progress down the field, but the first play is what gets the fans excited. It sets the expectations for the game and shows what your team is capable of.

Take USC's game against Boston College for example. After some lackluster and unsuccessful play calling by former head coach Lane Kiffin, USC President Max Nikias stepped in and called the first play of the game--a deep throw from quarterback Cody Kessler to wide receiver Marqise Lee. It was an incomplete pass, but the Coliseum errupted in cheers, thrilled to see the Trojan offense finally open up a bit more.

Just like in football, you need to start off with a bang in your newscast. 

During the morning meeting, or your ATVN huddle as I like to think of it, you and your teammates are brainstorming differnt plays, or stories, to call. My best piece of advice is to run through as many stories as you can, because undoubtably some will fall through. The more options you get on the board, the better chance you have at producing a successful newscast.

When it comes to picking the top story, you need to think about your audience. In the case of ATVN, it's usually college 20-somethings. They do not want to see something on retirement or buying a condo in Florida. They want to see what's happening on campus and what's affecting them. By taking their opinions and wants into consideration, you can better call the right play to get them hooked on your show.

Let's go back to Coach Nikias' call. He knew the fans wanted to see the offense open up more, espeically to a nationally-regarded player like Lee. Nikias took their wants into consideration, and while the pass may have been dropped, the fans were hooked. They wanted to see more.

That's the kind of reaction you want at the top of the show. You want to give them a taste of what you're capable of. The key, however, is to deliver. In football, it's a W. In journalism, it's a sucessful newscast. Different topics, but same situation. 

So next time you run out of the tunnel and onto the Coliseum floor, or when the clock counts down to 5:59:59 P.M. and the red recording light flashes on, make sure to call the play that will get the most fans on their feet cheering for you.

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