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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

You Know What, We're Doing It Live

Sometimes the best way to get better as a producer is to just “Do It Live.” That was certainly the case on Election Night 2014 as I served as the scared, overwhelmed but somewhat capable lead producer for the Tuesday newscast. 

We wanted to add some spice to our assortment of political stories so we thought outside the box. It all started by identifying a way to update the viewers on all the important senate and gubernatorial races that people actually care about. That alone kept our interest level up, prompting an added investment into live --or more hands on-- elements in the rundown.

On Election Night 2014, the individual state battles, which began closing around 4 p.m. PST and stretched deep into the night, made for an easy opportunity for a live shot. We decided that Marc Sallinger, one of our most reliable reporters, would be the right person for the job. It's never easy coordinating a live shot, especially from the coding standpoint, but our team overcame mistakes on my end to make for a smooth live shot segment inside the Media Center. 

But the one thing we knew for sure was that on a night as important as this, we needed to stand out in our coverage. I trusted my team and felt confident we could make the coverage interesting. Our reporters really stepped up and we provided a wide array of angles on the voter turnout but we still wanted an expert opinion on what everything meant.

My team decided to schedule an in-studio interview with political expert (and long-time ATVN guest) professor Dan Schnur. Coincidentally enough, he was already on our show as an expert for another package story, but his involvement was crucial to both elements. To say the interview came down to the wire would be a complete understatement. I had a backup plan ready, but I was starting to lose my happy-go-lucky attitude in the control room as we were live on the air and Schnur was not yet in the building. 

We started planning ways to move the stories around in case things broke down, which I know made my fellow producer Jillian sick to her stomach. At least we acted quickly. That's always the key (in my opinion) because you have to be willing to make swift decisions that could ultimately save or ruin a long day of work before the broadcast.

Even with our main reporter Marc, who was scheduled to come on near the top of the show, we had to make sure he understood the timing of the segment because we didn’t practice an entire run through. Making a live shot takes time and good communication becasue everyone envisoned the story unfold in a somewhat different manner. But some way, somehow Dan Schnur arrived at the Media Center to save the day, just as the show was starting. We barely had enough time to mic him up and set up the live interview that our anchor Anna had worked so hard on, which made her much more relaxed once that process was finally completed. 

Live shots are fun because they add a unique touch to the broadcast. I would say that despite the hassle of putting them together, the entire news  newsroom gets pumped when they see this type of stuff in the rundown. Those are chances we have to take more often, if we want to fully develop as news producers. Once that begins to happen, I’m confident that Team Tuesday will continue to pump out what I’d call “very watchable” shows each and every week to come.

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