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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Bit by bit, Piecing it Together

What a whirlwind day!  First of all, I want to thank all who contributed to getting the 30-minute newscast up and on the web.  I could not have done it without each and every one of you.  At one point during the show, I turned to my co-producers and asked them rhetorically if this truly was our first show live on the air at that moment!  It was hard to believe that a blank rundown and so many unknowns in the early morning could turn out a comprehensive and complete newscast.  I was quite relieved to see the anchors gliding through each story and our studio working to make the newcast flow so smoothly.

While assembling this rundown bit by bit during the day, I found myself acting as the large hand in a jigsaw puzzle.  Not the simple, 100-piece puzzles, but one of those complex, 5000-piece puzzles that seem daunting at first but, once it is finished, this huge feeling of accomplishment sweeps over you and everyone who works on it.  So, back to my puzzle today.  In a puzzle, you would spill all of the pieces onto a hopefully flat, large surface to lay out what you have so far.  That's our morning meeting and the plethora of stories that are thrown up on the board.  And just a plug to all of you who are curious about the morning meeting and have never been to one, feel free to stop by around 8:30 a.m.  It is an excellent opportunity to get a bird's eye view of the building blocks of each day comprising our day-of-air newscast!

Then you get the fun of sorting out all of the pieces of the puzzle.  If there are a lot of blue puzzle pieces for the sky or a lot of green puzzle pieces for the grass, for example, you would group them together.  That is similar to the news team of producers grouping story ideas into packages and assigning reporters to different events.

The key matter comes after the morning meeting and as other students start arriving for their shifts: piecing it all together!  It's the fun of finding out which pieces fit where as a lead producer.  If you are sending someone to an event in Long Beach, you will have to find someone else with a car to go to Beverly Hills, for instance.  If you realize that this blue piece in the puzzle must be one of the four corners (the best feeling ever, I might add), it cannot be in all four corners at once.  Therefore, there must be three other corners somewhere in that puzzle that will have to work in those other places.

I have found that managing people and keeping my mind and the physical rundown organized and efficient is most crucial to the success of the day.  If you are not organized with sticky notes, lists or notes in the "Notes" column of iNews, the rest of the day, especially the afternoon meeting, becomes seemingly impossible.

Also, communication as a lead producer is another exceedingly important element to piece the show puzzle together.  If you and your friends are working on the puzzle and one of them starts working on the building and another friend does not know this and also starts working on the building, both will have missing pieces.  While sitting in the chair as lead producer, assign one person to one story at a time and make sure it is done before assigning them another story.  While you may be having the assignment desk contact a potential interviewee about one story, have the MJ work on a quick copy story or VO that can be finished and pushed to the side.  If you have too many people on one story, decisions will be made that will not be discussed and you may just have too many experts or only one side.  Talking, messaging or leaving notes is the best way for a lead producer to communicate with his or her team and ensure that his or her team will follow directions.

And now, once the sky, grass and building have been separately put together, it is time to piece it all together and see the finished product.  That is the time between 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., from the finalization of the rundown to the sign-off.  And there is nothing like the feeling of seeing your finished product sitting on the table in front of you or on a television screen for all to see.  Happy puzzle building!


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