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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Quality Control

Monday's newscast lacked a lot of quality control.  I won't bore you with the exciting details, instead you can read about our sinking ship here.

As a lead producer, it is my job to ensure everything and anything is tucked perfectly in place so that when the show airs, we are ready to conquer the world one 30-second VO at a time.  Monday was a little less conquering and a little more flailing.  I imagine I was like a puppy tossed in the ocean, learning to swim for the first time.  Maybe I just like this analogy because I felt like I was drowning.  Maybe it's because I hope by throwing in a reference to puppies you all will be distracted from the disaster at hand and instead think of precious pooches.  Either way, it was a rough one.  Or should I say a "ruff" one.

Well, at least I have my sense of humor back.

Needless to say, a lot slipped through the cracks on Monday.  What's most unfortunate is that it was all going so well. 

I had enlisted in the help of a trusty notebook to help me keep track of everything throughout the day.  I wrote out every story.  I marked down what we were seeing and who we were hearing from.  I felt like I had a great grasp on our great show and even greater elements.  I thought it was going to be our best show yet.

As I sat down for my afternoon rundown meeting, I realized I had missed one extraordinarly large, crucial detail.  I hadn't checked in with my reporters.

I had talked to one and had all of the details for her story set and ready to talk about, but the other three were a bit of a mystery to me.  I had checked in with them and they said they were "doing good!" but I realized, all too quickly, that I didn't have a concrete understanding of what "doing good" meant.

And that, in a nutshell, is what failed me.

Our lead package didn't make it in to the studio to air on time.

And while I was having a mini panic attack about the lead package not coming through, I failed to see that two stories had not been written in the A-block.  When we tossed to our sports anchor Evan to talk about Tweets regarding the firing of UCLA's basketball coach, Ben Howland, there were no Tweets.  I, Jessica Jayne Benson, the sports princess, the girl who tried to sneak her way into a boys' basketball camp run by Howland when she was ten, failed to have quality control on a sports story.  Call the team doctor, because this one hurt.

Meanwhile, while I was trying to figure out how to salvage the Howland story, I failed to see that no graphics were working.  It wasn't until I witnessed a moment that I can only describe as, "the time ATVN became a home movie," that I realized we had a problem. Because there were no graphics, one of our camera workers had to zoom in on our anchor, Jake's, face.  I cringe thinking about it now.  I will probably cringe thinking about it for the next few weeks.  Then, I'll laugh and put it in the blooper reel because it was that ridiculous looking.

Throw in more missing graphics, a missing sports full screen, some videos that were edited to the wrong time, floating the last story about Lil' (the "ittle" is silent) Wayne, a bit of awkward banter, and voila! That's a wrap, folks!

By not having quality control over one element of my show, the trickle-down effect occurred and left me gasping for air and shaking my head.

But alas, another excellent lesson was learned at ATVN.  The lead producer must, must, must, must and I will add an extra must just for good measure, must know every little thing that is going into the show.  The lead must read every story.  The lead must know what every video is.  The lead must know that his or her reporter still hasn't had script approval and it's 4:30 p.m. and the package is up in the air.  The lead must know because the lead must help guide the rest of the team in knowing.

Next time, instead of flailing, wet puppy I plan to be like a sled dog in the Iditarod Race in Alaska.  Just call me Balto.

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