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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Lessons Learned

As the end of the semester nears, I feel like I'm just starting to get the hang of producing. This week was my fourth and last turn as lead producer. I am sick with a sinus and ear infection, but surprisingly, getting through the day yesterday in a hazy fog actually showed me how far I have come since day one as a producer.

In the first month or so, formatting the rundown was a conscious effort. I would have to think through each keystroke step-by-step. Now, I can punch out the commands and direct my attention to other things. I also remember that I used to get paralyzed when thinking up and writing teases. Now, I feel more comfortable and can write them more quickly. This week, I even included two natural sound pops in the teases to add color to our show - something I didn't have the confidence to try out in the past few weeks. As a bonus, the studio and anchors pulled them off perfectly, which is a testament to how pro we've all gotten at our jobs. Another measure of progress for me is anchor assignments. In my first two shows, I didn't even get around to thinking about assigning anchors, because I was so bogged down with getting the basics prepared by showtime. This week, with better time management and quicker judgment about which stories go with which anchor, I was able to crank them out relatively early in the afternoon.

With more and more of the technical elements under our belt, as a team, we have more energy and brainpower to focus on the content of our newscasts. These past two weeks have been such an emotionally, psychologically and physically exhausting week for humanity. Between the Boston Marathon bombings and the fertilizer plant explosion in West, there was no shortage of breaking news. These events brought communities to their knees and broke the hearts of people around the country and around the world. As the old saying goes, "Journalism is the first draft of history." And let's just say, there was a lot of drafting to do in response to these tragedies.

When I was not on shift for ATVN or Neon Tommy, I had to try and pry myself away from TV and social media or risk becoming overwhelmed with all of the developments, particularly over the weekend when the two Boston suspects were identified and subsequently killed and captured. It was a lot to take in and I soon realized that there is a difference between being informed and being obsessed. For me, I needed to step away in order stay clear-headed and ready to get to work when it came to be my turn.

As part of Team Wednesday at ATVN, I felt somewhat lucky. We did not work on the days with immediate breaking news last week or this week. But, what we did have to do is figure out how to cover the aftermath of tragedy. Journalists, and TV news reporters especially, often get a bad rap for butting into people's lives and invading privacy, but I do think there is a compassionate, thoughtful way to report on tragedy and the events that follow without sensationalizing.

This week, we reported on the reopening of Boylston Street, the site of the Boston Marathon bombings. Early in the day, we decided to call business owners in the neighborhood and try to get a phone or Skype interview about what it was like to return to the area. These types of calls are always tough, because journalists walk a fine line between being inquisitive and imposing. We were very fortunate though, because the multimedia journalist we assigned to the story is a very thoughtful and warm person. We trusted her to make it happen and not surprisingly, she did. She interviewed the owner of a print and copy store on Boylston Street and he gave us a very compelling, informative and insightful first-hand account of the experience. To me, this shows that with the right approach, we can report on tragedy and learn from those affected without overstepping our bounds as journalists.

This semester as a whole has shown me how difficult it is to create an informative, compelling and thoughtful newscast. In a world where stories change by the minute, a good journalist - a good producer in particular - must remain level-headed, think creatively and compassionately and always continue learning and growing.

Next week will be our final show and I am very excited to end this semester at our very best.

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