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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

You Never Know What You're Going To Get


Okay, I admit it – I’m a total control freak. I’m the type of person who enjoys being over prepared in life, with each minute detail as carefully planned as possible. That being said, the fact that I never know exactly what the day is going to bring when I begin my producing shift is both exhilarating and terrifying. A producer is at the mercy of breaking news, which can happen at any moment. Even though the entire rundown is subject to change, this is not to undermine the importance of beginning each day with a solid list of potential story ideas.

Last week, armed with my Starbucks, I entered the newsroom equipped with, what I believed to be, the most relevant and interesting news items of the day. After waking up at 6 a.m. to scour the wires for content, I felt as though I had developed a thorough coverage plan. When it came time for my pitch, I smiled and attempted to ignite an infectious enthusiasm. However, my ideas quickly became the targets of intense scrutiny by my colleagues, who asked me a series of in-depth questions that I had never even thought to consider. So, I sat there, looking like a deer in headlights, as I frantically searched Google for the answers to their very specific, yet utterly valid inquiries. From then on, I vowed to come to the morning meetings with a better understanding of my story ideas. Hopefully, some additional research will give me the confidence necessary to really promote my ideas. For example, my proposed package on the lack of diversity in USC's student government was turned down and, just a few days later, I saw that the Los Angeles Times had investigated this matter. I am still disappointed that I did not fight for ATVN to be the first source to explore such a pertinent issue. Going forward, I will also communicate with my partner, Christine, to confirm that we agree on each story’s specific focus. In my opinion, the mark of a great story is a clear and unique angle that lends itself to captivating visuals and comprehensive information.

Of course, every story that ATVN runs, whether it is on the air or on our website, must be timely. In our most recent newscast, Christine and I were unaware of Brandon Spencer’s conviction, until half an hour before the show, because we failed to check the wires for an extended period of time. Had we seen the notification sooner, we could have easily provided more extensive coverage of this development, complete with videos from the night of the shooting and possibly some reaction from the USC community. Instead, due to time constraints, we were forced to make this a simple copy story. In the future, we must make it a priority to constantly look at the wires for updated information. This will give our broadcast and website the greatest sense of immediacy and accuracy.

Above all else, I think that the best stories are those that have a local slant and, therefore, allow for the acquisition of original sound and video. Christine and I can further improve our show by constantly reminding multimedia journalists (MJs) and reporters to imbue their pieces with a variety of distinct components, including creative graphics and compelling natural sound. Furthermore, the success of hinges on MJs and reporters actively participating in multimedia journalism, especially while they are out in the field. Indeed, a photo or short video has the power to make or break an online article. Not to mention, regular contact between producers and MJs/reporters, either through tweets, photos, videos, etc., is essential to gaging the progress of stories over the course of the day. Depending on the quality and scope of attainable elements, Christine and I must always be prepared to rethink a story’s format.

Thus far, as the video and graphics teammate, I have done my part to bring stories to life by collaboratively assigning MJs and innovatively editing their work. Although I am also responsible for ordering graphics and video footage, my favorite aspect of producing has been working hands-on with the MJs to see each story through to completion. Just thinking about taking over as lead producer next week gives me butterflies, but I look forward to developing stories from a different perspective.

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