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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Talk Isn't Cheap in The Newsroom

The importance of communication was reinforced in an unpleasant way for both our lead producer Jake O’Brien and myself (video producer) earlier tonight near the end of our newscast. After discovering our show was slightly on the heavy side, we made the decision to float our kickers, another news story and a sports story. At that point in time, we thought we’d manage to scrape through without having to consign any other pieces to the trash can. However, coming out of sports, we realized there was going to be no room in our newscast for an update on the Presidential debate so we were forced to float that as well. Admittedly, the decision was made at the last minute. But even so, we committed a cardinal sin in failing to communicate what we had done to either the anchors or our director. As a result, after our sports anchor tossed back to the news anchors, they found themselves awkwardly staring at a blank teleprompter while Jake desperately yelled at them through their earpieces to end the show. It was, looking back on the video now, a horrible and messy way to end what, for all intents and purposes, had been a very good newscast up until that point. 

Of course, our failure to convey crucial information in the booth was not the only time today that I was reminded of the benefits of communication. Or, more to the point, the pitfalls of poor communication. As the video producer, I’ve come to realize, as it is with every producing role, that planning is absolutely essential if I actually want the newscast to get to air. Today was no different. But what made it more difficult is that despite my best efforts at planning (I had drawn up a meticulous list outlining which reporters I was going to assign to each story) things quickly fell through after a handful of people failed to turn up for their shifts. Like any job, you have to be prepared to keep going when unforeseen issues creep up. But when the reporters fail to communicate in advance that they aren’t going to show and you plan your newscast, factoring in what they will help with, it can really cause everything to go awry. That was certainly the case today. 

On a more positive note, my fellow producers and I are continuing to use a Google spreadsheet during our shift to outline which stories are being worked on and what video footage we have to illustrate the said stories. This has worked well for us since our very first shift and I feel that as the weeks have gone on, as a team, we’ve collectively got better at communicating with one another. Tonight, for example, I had to leave to get to the studio while three packages were still being put together. But web producer Nick Edmonds calmly stepped up to the plate and ensured we got everything done in time for the newscast. He’s a star, undoubtedly, but we wouldn’t have got there if I hadn’t communicated to him what stories still needed to be completed before I left for the studio. Yes, I’m lucky to be in such a good producing team. 

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