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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Future Producers: You're Already Halfway There

Dear Future Producer, 

Hey there! If you are reading this blog, you are either enrolled in JOUR-403: Production or are interested in producing for Annenberg TV News in the near future.

Well, let me be the first to tell you that if being a producer or well-rounded journalist is something you want to do, you are already on your way! The news production course at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism is an excellent hands-on experience that will surely strengthen your news judgment and challenge you to think on your feet. 

Going into this class, I was not entirely sure what to expect. Now that we are at the end of the semester, I have a better understanding of what is expected of a producer and a reporter. What I have enjoyed most about this class is that it has given me the chance to see all of what goes into creating the type of newscasts most of us are used to seeing on ABC, NBC, CBS, etc. As budding journalists, there is a lot we have to learn about this industry in order to do well.

This class will give you the start you need. 

The first thing you should know is that news is always going on, so you will be expected to check what is happening in the world at all times. You should always know what the biggest headlines are. This includes local news, national news and international news.

This semester, I made it a habit to always know the biggest story of the day. I would constantly sift through my Twitter and Facebook newsfeeds, read the Daily Beast Cheat Sheet online and make it a point to watch actual newscasts (shocker!).

The night before our production class, I always checked City News Service (CNS) - a regional news service that covers Southern California. I always made sure to know what Mayor Eric Garcetti and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck were doing the next day. It was very helpful knowing what the mayor and chief were doing, because the events that they attend typically impact the Southern California area. You'll also want to check the various budgets and advisories listed on the website, because they are constantly updated throughout the day. This is especially helpful for breaking news. 

I also strongly suggest you keep your eyes and ears open to all that is happening on your campus, in your neighborhood and among your friends. I believe some of our best stories stemmed from a conversation a reporter had with his or her friend or a post made on social media.

Never underestimate where you'll find a story. Talk to as many people as you can and always, always, ALWAYS ask questions. 

An important lesson that I learned this semester is that as a journalist it is our job to ask, "why?"

If you are talking with your friends off campus and someone says something that sounds off or interests you, follow up with them. You might just find your best story that way. (see exercise below)

I wish I would have invested more time in my story pitches. I recommend making these a serious priority. While I did take my story pitches seriously, I feel that they could have been better. Really challenge yourself to think outside of the box. 

As far as your actual producing day goes, remember to always keep in constant communication with your team. This suggestion goes for, but is not limited to, your co-producers. Communicating with your co-producers is just as important as communicating with your multimedia journalists (MJs), reporters, art director, volunteers, etc. 

Trust me when I say, communication is your best friend. 

It will save you  a lot of stress and a lot of wasted time. ATVN is not a one-person newscast. Your teammates are there to help you and you are there to help them. Also, don't feel pigeon-holed by your position. Just because you're a graphics producer, doesn't mean you can't pitch an idea to your lead proudcer. We are all here to help one another and make our newscast be the best that it can be each and every week. 

Last, but certainly not least, remember to just keep going. Some days are going to be rough and others are going to feel like a piece of cake. Some days will have very few stories, while others will have too many to count. What I think is the most important thing to remember is that this is a learning experience and you will undoubtedly come out of it a better producer, journalist and person. 

If ever you're having a rough producing day, think like Taylor Swift and shake it off!


Exercise: This might sound silly, but it's an exercise that's really helped to remind me what it means to be a journalist. This week, I am challenging you to ask as many follow-up questions as you can to as many people as you can. If you hear something interesting or see something interesting, look into it. Talk to people you wouldn't normally talk to. Challenge yourself to have a full conversation with someone without interjecting. 

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