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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Don't Get Married to a Story!

     Waking up to the sound of Leslie Sykes and Phillilp Palmer every Monday at 5 a.m has become some sort of a ritual to me. My morning routine consists of scouring news websites, Twitter, Facebook, CNS and L.A. Wires, praying to the gods of media to grant me the best local stories to feature on my 6 p.m newscast.

    By 7:30 a.m, I’ve arrived at the media center newsroom and begun pitching stories in my head in the hopes they will be picked up at the morning meeting. 8:15 a.m the story pitches start to fly. Until about 8:45 a.m, story ideas, assignments and details are discussed at high speed.

    Some pitches are rejected, due to irrelevance, no development or because they are or will be old news by air- such is the nature of media. On average, about half my own story pitches are not given the honor of making it on the morning ideas white board. Even then, only about half the stories on the white board actually get reported on or written and put on the air.

    A lot can change in 10 hours and, as a producer, it is imperative to be flexible with your duties to your stories. It’s only been the third week of producing newscasts, but I’ve heard the phrase “don’t get married to the idea” so much I’ve come to adopt it as a mantra. Packages get broken up into SOTs and SOTVO’s. An anticipated lead story can turn out to be either boring or simply unattainable (bad interviews, denied access and uncooperative subjects are all inevitable disappointments everyone experiences at one point or another).

    No reporter, much less no producer, desires this, but the show must go on! That’s where the creativity of it all comes in. A city official refused an interview? Get a passionate SOT from a protestor, or, adversely, from an advocate. A benefit event finished unexpectedly early? Find a related aspect and form a story out of that. A reporter didn’t do her stand-up? It’s an opportunity to add a live shot (the very first of the semester and in the brand new media center)!

    Even something as easy as keeping an eye on Twitter, CNS or the wires can lead to new story opportunities. Staying alert is one of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard and have yet to practice constantly. There are new story opportunities at the tip of your fingertips, if you should seek them out.   

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