Wednesday’s Got Talent (and Teamwork)
“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.”
- Michael Jordan
My first day lead producing an ATVN newscast was challenging, exciting, nauseating and fun. But most importantly, it proved to be a lesson in teamwork.
As a reporter, I’ve been accustomed to worrying about myself and relaying information back to one or two producers at a time. In my new role as a producer, instead of thinking one-on-one, I now have to filter, prioritize and act upon what feels like 10,000 different feeds of information coming at me from all directions and magically transform it into 30-minutes of informative, visually-compelling and intelligent news.
The main challenge we faced was our inexperience. Each member of our team was forced to hit the ground running and apply a new set of skills in a very short amount of time. Luckily for us, inexperience is a challenge that fades away with practice and dedication. Plus, given how stellar our first newscast turned out to be, I’d wager that our potential as a news team is a serious force with which to be reckoned.
That being said, the best way to move forward is with a healthy dose of self-reflection, so I came up with this list of lessons that I learned from today and some goals for myself and my team. Here it is:
T is for Team. Each and every person on the team is important. It doesn’t matter if you’re a freshman volunteer or an eighth semester ATVN veteran, every position in the newsroom and studio is critical to our success. Our job as members of this vibrant team is to remember this simple fact and use it to our advantage. By recognizing the immense talent and skill of our staff, we can translate this potential into a proportionally amazing news product both on the air and on the web.
E is for Explain Everything. News, by its nature, is an information overload. Even the best multi-tasker with a sharp memory can and will get lost at some point in the quick current of the day. Since producers aren’t mind readers and the news team is made up of humans and not robots, it is absolutely necessary to clearly explain everything and repeat it twice for good measure. Especially in the later part of the afternoon when things are most chaotic, it's important to start every conversation by stating the story you’re working on and the specific task(s) that have been or need to be completed (shooting, writing, editing, etc.)
A is for Ask Questions. Whether we’re freshmen, seniors, grad students or faculty, not one single person knows it all. That’s what questions are for and that’s where teamwork comes into play. It's essential to recognize when you're struggling and ask for help immediately. There is no reason to be embarrassed about not knowing something. We’re all here to learn. So just pipe up and ask, “Can somebody show me how to do a phoner?” or “Where do I find the wire copy this story?”
Also, when looking for ideas, don’t forget to mine the extensive networks of the people in our very own newsroom. We come from different hometowns, neighborhoods, social circles, and life experiences, so don’t be afraid to ask, “Does anyone knows someone who owns a small business near USC?” or “We need to find someone stuck in the blizzard on the East Coast!” You never know where you might find a good lead or source.
M is for Make It Happen. There’s no time to dilly-dally. For producers, the only way to get through the day is to crank out the elements. No one’s going to format the rundown, order videos or think up OTS cutlines for you. For reporters, you’re the ones out in the field with eyes and ears on the scene. If there’s compelling b-roll or an important interview, there’s no backup reporter in the field. It's all you. This applies to every other position on the team. It's easy to get trapped in inaction when things get tough, but the bottom line is, you just have to make it happen.
W is for Work Together to Work It Out. Working in news is hard. Getting along with other people is hard. Waiting to hear back about interview requests is hard. Racing against time is hard. And as we all know, working with complex, slow or just plain dysfunctional equipment can be pretty darn difficult too. But guess what? We gotta do it! The limitations that we shake our fists at here at ATVN aren't really limitations at all; they're actually problem-solving opportunities. When we team up to overcome our challenges big and small, we aren't just jacking up our blood pressure and aging faster than the average college student, we're learning valuable technical, journalistic and interpersonal skills that we can apply to our future jobs and lives.
O is for Ownership. Thinking of the newscast as “mine” was the greatest challenge for me in my first week as lead producer. Too often, I caught myself (and Serena and Stacy caught me too) asking questions when I should have been making decisions. In my other role as a reporter, I take great pride in the 1:45 to 2:00 of the newscast alloted for my package. I work extremely hard to ensure that if a story says “Vicki Chen” on it, I can be unflinchingly proud to call it mine. I strive to apply that same caliber pride and ownership to the newscast in my future weeks as lead producer, video producer and web/graphics teammate, and I hope every person can go home and say to their family and friends, “I owned it today.”
R is Respect. Whether it’s an interview subject, a PR person or a fellow ATVN journalist, the ideal we should strive for every day is to treat each other with respect. We work under extreme stress, high pressure and in the face of hard, non-negotiable deadlines. Like everyone on the team, I can get really frustrated at times. In those moments when it feels like the rundown is eating me alive, I hope I will consciously project calmness, patience and friendliness to every person I talk to. My teammates are valuable to me, and I hope that I can look back on this semester and say that, as a team, we never put anything above our fundamental respect for each other as human beings.
K is for Keep It Real. I consider journalism to be one of the hardest jobs in the world. In fact, I often question my own sanity in choosing this profession. It's crazy, it's demanding, it's uncertain. But the truth of the matter is, we wouldn’t be doing this if it didn’t mean something greater than just getting a newscast on the air. In my opinion, it’s really not about writing the perfect script or editing a flawless story; it’s about putting our hearts into our work and knowing that we put our best foot forward every day. It’s not easy, nobody's perfect and everybody makes mistakes, but let’s always remember to keep it real and never forget to have a little fun along the way.
Finally, on one last note, I want to leave my producing team with this important message from Adele, as we take on Week 2 of LIVE television!