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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

What's Your Lead?

When it comes to producing a newscast, your work starts long before you enter the newsroom the morning of your shift. 

This week in ATVN, we tried out something new -- Monday producers from Annenberg Radio News, Neon Tommy and ATVN convened online the night before our shifts to discuss the upcoming day's most pressing topics. By getting a good handle on some of these stories, we were able to develop them in advance and assign reporters who could quickly get to work on them first thing in the morning.

While this new strategy proved to be a success, it is clear there is still a lot of growing that can be done when it comes to the development of stories in ATVN. While pitching ideas in the morning meeting, it is easy to get excited about what you think will come out of a story. However, what you envision in the meeting doesn't always become a reality -- it is important for the lead producer to be prepared for just about anything when their reporters and MJs come back from the field.

This week I decided to lead my newscast with a story focusing on the new sexual assault law in California. However, what we hoped would turn into a well-developed package, turned out to be a short copy story with "man-on-the-street" interviews and a few full-screen graphics. Similarly, a story about background checks for ride-share drivers ended up lacking the types of interviews we had hoped to get. At the end of the day, I had to ask myself if I still would have chosen to lead with these stories, had I known what type of material we would get. 

After a successful first live broadcast this Monday, our team gathered in the studio to discuss the topic of lead stories. A handful of students agreed with my decision to lead our newscast with the sexual assault law story because of its relevance to students at USC. Others said they would have preferred a lead that focused on the ongoing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong -- explaining that it was by far the most visually and emotionally compelling story in our show. 

Unfortunately, not everyone involved in the newscast is present for the morning meeting, so some ideas get left unsaid. I can only imagine what types of additional stories we would be able to pursue if everyone was available to attend the morning meeting. I am definitely proud of the way team Monday handled story pitches the night before (and the morning of) our broadcast. I am optimistic that as the semester goes on, the execution of these stories will only get better and better.

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