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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

So You Want To Be A Producer?

I remember when I registered for JOUR 403 last fall and immediately felt like I signed my life away to ATVN. I can confidently tell you that although ATVN now has a special place in my heart, being a J403 student does not mean you have sold your soul to the depths of the ATVN newsroom.

Spending each Monday in the ATVN newsroom with each member of Team Monday was truly a pleasure. Not only did I gain production skills, but I learned how to efficiently and effectively lead a team on a strict deadline.

Team Monday on our last day.
Team Monday on our last day.

If, for whatever reason, you think I can help you survive a semester of producing at ATVN, enjoy my tidbits of wisdom on how to make the best of your semester as a J403 student.

1. Get to know your team: Nothing can make a twelve-hour day fly by faster than being friends with the people around you. Team Monday was all about friendship, laughter and jokes. It's so important to enjoy what you are doing, and getting to know each member of your team is just a small part in making each week a good time. Along the same line, learn everyone's name! My guess is at one point in time each of you sat at the assignment desk or were sent out to random places as an MJ. Do you remember that time your producer said "Hey you!" instead of addressing you by name? It happened to me, and I hated it. As a producer, you have the opportunity to encourage the underclassmen to continue working at ATVN and learning their name is crucial in this process. Don't act like a big shot producer and think you're too cool to know everyone's name because when that Assignment Desk Editor is the next Brian Williams and you need a favor, chances are they will laugh in your face!

2. Stay focused and organized: I cannot tell you how many times I responded "Yeah, I'll do it" to my co-producers Jessica and Steph and later on completely forgetting what I had even agreed to do. Lists will save you from the show crashing and burning at 5:59 p.m., take it from a list pro. As of January, I hated lists and everything about them. They stressed me out. Producing has completely changed that outlook! Lists are crucial to the success of a producing team. The lists keep you on track of your daily tasks and focused on what is most important and when. I can't tell you that a list will fill in the rundown for you or edit that one last supertease, but they will help you stay on top of your team.

3. Mini meetings will save you: I laughed at the old producers from the assignment desk whenever they said they were having a "mini meeting" in the middle of the day. It sounds dumb, but it is necessary! Things in the rundown change, breaking news pops up out of nowhere, an MJ gets one interview instead of the 10 you asked for, long story short, communication is key. It's easy to fall into the cycle of changing things for yourself, but forgetting to inform your team of these changes. I think the most important thing a lead producer does in the later afternoon after their rundown meeting is update the team on what went on. I know, hearing me say that communication is the key to success sounds cliche, but it's so true! Communicate to the point that your co-producers no longer want to hear your voice, or they just ignore you (Jessica....). It'll help your team succeed in the long run.

4. Prepare for the rundown meeting: I don't mean that you should prepare for the rundown meeting for the sake of pleasing Stacy and Serena, I mean it for your own well-being. The rundown meeting forces a lead producer to look at the rundown and consider what is working and what isn't working. Nine times out of ten your rundown will get plastic surgery during this meeting, but it's best that you know your rundown like the back of your hand and can describe each story to death before Stacy sits down next to you. Don't worry if you leave one or two of your rundown meetings feeling like you got run over by a car, it happens to the best of us. But know that each time Stacy says "Well this isn't right," she is just being your teacher and helping you grow and, by the end of the semester, you just might do a few things right!

5. Learn to like Diet Coke: It's as simple as that. It will get you through a day of producing when you are running on 3 hours of sleep. If you offer to buy Diet Coke for your co-producers or EP, you will find an instant friendship. It's a necessity in the ATVN newsroom, so start training your taste buds now!

6. Don't take a week for granted: It's crazy that I'm sitting here writing this blog to you because it seems like yesterday I was reading over Layne and Bronte's blogs to try to find the key to success for J403. The semester flys by! If you think your semesters go by fast now, just wait until you've survived producing. That being said, each week is precious. I got home around 7 p.m. last night and it finally hit me, that was the last time Team Monday would ever be functioning as Team Monday. I may have shed a tear. We are given the incredible opportunity to take this class and I don't think I realized that until halfway through the semester. ATVN is an impressive organization that gives you the necessary tools to survive as a producer after graduation, so take each moment and enjoy it! Producing is FUN! I promise you, this will be one of the best semesters you will ever have. Yes, you will have moments where all you want to do is crawl into a hole and cry, but you will have other moments where you realize how awesome your team is and you laugh until you cry!

That's it, kiddos! I hope you have a fabulous semester producing. You can survive, I believe in you! Best of luck to you and take this last piece of advice: bring chocolate each week, you won't regret it.

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