The Producer Page: April 1998


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    By Alice Johnson Main, Editor, The Producer Newsletter

    Note: I allowed many local news producers and executive producers to be quoted anonymously in this article, because so many are afraid of offending their news directors or ruining their relationships with their news service representatives. In this case I believe I have made a good trade: honesty in place of names. I also should disclose the fact that I work for the ABC O&O in Chicago.

    On March 24, producers at ABC affiliates around the country looked on in frustration as a generic live shot was canceled. And then another. And then another. It was the day of the school shootings in Jonesboro, Ark. And it was, by all accounts, a very bad day for NewsOne, the service that coordinates video and live shots for ABC stations.

    "We lost as many shots that day as we lost all of last year," says Geoff Sadow, managing editor of NewsOne.

    A series of setbacks felled the live shots. A KU truck from WPTY in Memphis arrived at the scene at 5 p.m., but the second path on the truck, the path that was supposed to provide NewsOne's coverage for the country, promptly died. It was temporarily resurrected, and the 8 p.m. live shot worked.

    A replacement truck was rented, but its operator couldn't get it working in time for the 11 p.m. group live shots. The NewsOne correspondent who'd flown in from Atlanta was left standing in the dark, until the midnight and 2 a.m. lives.

    Sadow says what happened was far from typical. "When you look at the overall picture, [NewsOne's] record is pretty good."

    Sadow says, for 1998 so far, the failure rate is 1.8%. That translates to nine group live shots that were planned, but didn't happen, out of a total of 483 since Jan. 1. But in all of 1997, only six group live shots died, out of a total of 1,327.

    If those numbers and terms sound like gibberish to you, then you probably haven't worked in a local television newsroom in the past decade. "Group" live shots are also known as "generic" lives, and they're offered by ABC NewsOne, CBS Newspath, NBC News Channel, CNN Newsource, Fox News Edge, and Conus. Typically, a reporter stands at the scene of a big story, live on the satellite, and simply starts talking at exactly one minute after the hour, and again at 31 minutes after the hour. Producers all over the country have written just enough copy so the anchors will stop reading just as the live reporter begins to speak. The live shots are offered on the big stories of the day, such as developments in the Monica Lewinsky saga, tornadoes in Florida, the Paula Jones lawsuit being thrown out or the ever-popular El Nino-powered floods in California.

    If a producer has planned his newscast around this group live shot, and finds out at the last minute that it's not going to happen after all, he's in a pickle. That's a nice way of saying that he's cursing. After all, his lead story just disappeared. The success of group live shots is just one of many ways that affiliate producers measure the success of their services. Many producers have access to two or three services, and can pick and choose among the video clips offered and live availabilities.

    Other producers must rely on just one service for everything. If the correspondent has not arrived, and there's no satellite truck within 350 miles, and the best chance at ever getting video is by Federal Express, that's life. The producer just has to settle for maps and phoners.

    Several contributors mentioned Jonesboro, and not all of them work for ABC stations.

    Mark Falgout, special projects producer at WTVD (ABC) in Raleigh-Durham, says, "I thought the coverage in Jonesboro was one of [NewsOne's] weaker efforts because of all the canceled live shots."

    Cherie Lytle is a producer at WOWT, the NBC affiliate in Omaha. "I've learned from experience those generic live shots aren't always a good thing. I always take a back-up package just in case. In fact, last week we lost two NBC shots from Jonesboro. One was cancelled seconds before the hit time . . . the other crashed during the live tag," says Lytle.

    Still, NBC News Channel has a good share of fans.


    As Angela Dallman says: "I worked at the NBC station in Sacramento for almost six years, first as a special projects producer, then as managing editor. In both positions, my experiences with NBC News Channel were almost exclusively positive. As a field producer at various California disasters, I knew I could count on the News Channel folks to get us on the air, and at KCRA, we were on the air a lot! Their people at the trucks were almost always calm and reliable [a bonus when everything else around you is chaotic]. The folks at the bureaus were also terrific. When I traveled overseas for stories, the News Channel people always made sure we got hooked up with the right people."

    Donovan Myrie was the Operations Manager at WNBC in New York before he took on a similar role at KTVT, the CBS affiliate in Dallas. Let's just say he misses News Channel.

    "I've worked a lot with the men and women of NewsChannel, and they are definitely my favorite feed service," says Myrie. "First of all, most of the regional producers are located in the same location [Charlotte] which means if the Mid Atlantic producer needs something from the Great Lakes producer, they get up and walk over to their desk. It really makes for a much more friendly atmosphere, and in my opinion, keeps information flowing a lot more freely. Another neat thing about NewsChannel is the way their satellite bookings work. Most affiliates and some trucks are on an automatic system that basically brings up your signal and takes it down automatically by computer, without the use of an engineer. Kinda neat when you have to stuff 4:45 of tape into a five-minute window. NBC affiliates also seem to be stronger across the board, and there seem to be more satellite trucks out there. NewsChannel also has more Washington correspondents and will even offer up Steve Handelsman [the O&O Washington correspondent] when in a pinch."

    From a West Coast producer: "NBC News Channel does an excellent job of serving the affiliates. In fact, in-house, President Bob Horner has always insisted that the affiliates be called 'customers,' and that customer service is #1. You need it, they have it-or can get it for you, quick. Lots of feeds, all day, every day. Live events are always available on some transponder, somewhere. Those folks who deal with News Channel and its regional variations [especially Pac West] are very fortunate to have this massive resource available to them. It makes the job coordinating wide- ranging news stories much easier than those stations that aren't NBC. Near perfection."

    And from an Eastern Time Zone producer who's worked with just about all the services: "The network's mid-80's program of equipping affiliates in top markets with uplink facilities is really paying dividends for them now."

    Sharon Houston, News Channel's executive producer, agrees with that last comment. "We are in good shape with our large number of pups, or uplinks. If a station can get a microwave signal, we can get it out [to the nation] with the pup. In Jonesboro, WMC's chopper beamed video back to the station, and then we pupped it out."

    Houston believes the News Channel is very responsive to the needs of the affiliates. The affiliates wanted more coverage from Washington. Last year, NBCNC expanded its Washington bureau office. Now, four reporters and a support staff work there, making it possible to get stories from Washington seven days a week. Houston says one of the best benefits she can offer a station that's dealing with a huge story is to make the phones stop ringing with calls from stations 1,500 miles away. "We've taken the rest of the country off your back. We try to be as little hassle to the home station as we can be. One way we do that, is by getting help from neighboring stations in the first wave of coverage," says Houston.

    That means a reporter and crew from a station 150 miles away might drive or fly to the scene to do the first group of live shots after the story breaks. Once the network can get a correspondent to the scene, the neighboring reporter is relieved of News Channel duty, and can work exclusively for her own station. Meanwhile, the home station is serving its own viewers with its own reporters, not worrying about whether the live shot for Dubuque went off as planned.

    Not everyone is enamored of the job News Channel is doing.

    An East Coast producer says, "The major problem with NBC's News Channel is the lack of experience on the part of the people who write its scripts and edit its packages. The quality is terrible."

    And this from an executive producer in the Eastern Time Zone: "NBC News Channel saves money by hiring only a few full-time employees [who have never worked in local news] and mostly freelance producers [who have just graduated from college]."

    Houston brushes off that criticism. "We've worked hard on scripts for several years, we're still working on it. I don't know that [our staffers are] young and inexperienced, but we're continuing to work on it."

    Houston acknowledges that NBCNC hasn't always had great success with its live shots. News Channel started in 1991 in Charlotte, replacing A-News in New York. The early days were rocky. News Channel doesn't keep records of its live shot successes and failures, says Houston, "but our success rate has to be in the very high 90's now. When [our live shots] weren't working, it was when they were seen as an aside to a normal day. But now there's a unit assigned to it. They talk to the people in the field, deal with the trucks and are aware of the pitfalls. You can't help it if someone hooks up the IFB wrong, but that's in the really low percentage of failures. So we came up with a procedure that made our consistency jump tremendously."

    There are some general numbers available about the numbers of live shots per year. "We hit the high-water mark in 1995, with 15,000 live shots," says Houston. "But that included O.J. Simpson. We're back to about 8,000 per year now." Those numbers include both generic and custom live shots. The custom live shot is also known as a unilateral live. It's just a regular live shot. The reporter is talking only to your anchors and viewers. No one else is taking his report at the same time. Cherie Lytle at the Omaha affiliate says, "Overall, I have had much better luck with NBC than any of the other services. They have good selection and good reaction time."


    In the early days before Newsource, CNN offered its affiliates the right to record Headline News, and use its video or packages. And we did. I was an associate producer at KJRH, the NBC affiliate in Tulsa. One of my jobs every afternoon was to log Headline News from 2:30 to 3:30. Then, we'd lift the video and packages, chyrons and all, right off the aircheck. I remember getting upset if the Headline News director clipped the first audio on the package or soundbite, because then we couldn't use it! Needless to say, the service has come a long way since then. "CNN Newsource makes available dozens of news items during its hour-and-a-half feeds. The Newsource staff sends updated rundown information at regular intervals during the feed so you always know exactly what you're going to get," says one clearly satisfied customer.

    "CNN tends to be friendly and helpful if we're looking for something specific. They have a decent archive system and really helped us with old video from Sarajevo when the Bosnia Peace Talks were in Dayton and we were working on special coverage," says Tina Rezash Rogal, executive producer at WDTN-TV in Dayton, Ohio.

    The archives also get kudos from another producer: "Newsource has a website containing archived rundowns and scripts for access at any time."

    A producer at a CBS and CNN affiliate says, when a big story broke in town, "Newsource sent a crew with a satellite truck to our city to help us cover the story. They shot video for us, shot live shots for us and their truck allowed us to do extra live shots that wouldn't have been possible with only our two microwave trucks. The field producer also found interviews for us across the country to use in our local stories. In short, we felt like partners."

    "CNN has saved our newscasts [and my sanity] many, many times and I'm truly grateful for their commitment to news-both their coverage and ours!" says one producer.

    A producer in the Midwest says: "[Washington correspondent] Skip Loescher is a Hall of Famer who I often use instead of [my own network's] correspondent if they are both on the same story. The Atlanta people are always friendly and helpful, regardless of the pressure they may be under. The Newsource affiliate relations people go the extra mile to ensure customer satisfaction; they visit often and seek out feedback on their performance."

    On the downside, CNN Newsource is a non-exclusive service, meaning that every station in the same market can subscribe to it. So, in theory, Skip Loescher could be seen on three or more stations simultaneously, giving the same exact live report.

    As one producer asserts, "CNN News Source is good, but never great. They sometimes don't know where their own reporters will be and whether they'll be available for a live shot at a given time nor do they always know where the truck are going and when. Then again, you never know if the live shot you're taking will also be on someone else's newscast in your market. That lack of exclusivity makes CNN something of a risk."

    The non-exclusivity issue also causes grumbling among news directors, who don't like paying Newsource's price when everyone else in town is getting the same video.

    One producer is sometimes frustrated by his choices: Newsource and Fox News Edge. "I feel both services severely dropped the ball during the weekend Kofi Annan was in Baghdad. Most people assumed that once he left, the U.S. would attack Iraq. It was clearly a crucial and important weekend, but Fox and CNN did not offer live shots ahead of time," he says.

    I was unable to reach the head of Newsource for comment.


    Brian Jones, Vice President of Newsgathering for Fox News, says change is most definitely in the air. As of April 1, affiliates are now paying for the services of Fox News Edge.

    "As part of the expansion, we are hiring a lot more people, adding feeds, correspondents, producers and resources," says Jones.

    Why is Fox News Edge suddenly worth paying for? "Because Fox is a relatively new network. In the past it was not as resource-intensive as the others. Now that we are providing the same services as the others, we thought we could charge for those services. Now that we have a track record of success, we thought it was worthy."

    Jones says the Edge has 22 different feeds, operating almost 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Edge uses Fox News correspondents. Fox News Edge and Fox News aren't really separate entities; everyone works for Fox News, and people are assigned to the Edge. The live shot numbers and failure rates apparently do exist, but they are "proprietary information, for internal consumption," Jones says.

    The service is already digital, and Jones says, without hesitation, "It's the best."

    One 6 p.m. producer in the Central Time Zone disagrees. "When the Karla Faye Tucker decision was coming down from the Supreme Court, it was going to happen during my newscast. So I said, 'Let's take a live picture from outside the prison.' I called Fox and asked for this over the phone. They thought I was nuts. So I explained that I only wanted 30 seconds for my anchors to voice over. 'But we have a reporter there!' they said. Finally I got them to split the window between us and another affiliate, so from 6:10 to 6:11 we were supposed to get an uninterrupted picture. Everything was working perfectly. I was going to hit it at 6:10:15. So I was on the phone in the break, talking to the producer there. He says he needs to get off the line and I say 'Okay, but remember I gotta have thirty seconds. Synchronize your watch with mine.' So at 6:10:20 we're in the story, the anchors are reading, and boom, the reporter steps into the picture," he says.

    From another producer come memories of the Liberty Bell incident. "...They sent video of the Liberty Bell with an abstract explaining that the Liberty Bell was being bought by Taco Bell. Of course, the date was April 1 [several years ago]-- they had just retyped a Taco Bell press release with no verification. Their later urgent note that the story 'might not be true' sent me into gales of laughter."

    That same producer has admiring words as well. "Fox News Edge has gotten its sea legs now. They are a great source for breaking news video, and they work closely with affiliates to put things on the bird that it takes CNN precious minutes to do. They also have a wealth of international video and stories, thanks to Sky TV. Their live shots are far more reliable than the old days, when it seemed like there was a 50/50 chance of getting anything."

    A producer who worked for a Fox affiliate until recently says, "The bright side to the feeds were the unusual 'Fox-style' stories from affiliates, and the world news from Reuters."


    John Frazee is Vice President of CBS Newspath. He says his service is more accommodating to producers' needs now than in the past.

    "We knew our feeds were too complicated for producers, because they could be in five different places at once. Now, they're all in a single place. If you're a producer, you know that the big story's going to be refreshed on the feed at the top of every hour," says Frazee.

    Not all producers like seeing the big stories "refreshed on the feed at the top of every hour," although this feature seems to fall in the Can't-Please- Everybody-All-The-Time category. There are certainly advantages to knowing where to look in a hurry for video on the major stories of the day. The video's right there, at the beginning of every single feed tape. But when the producer's looking for something new and different, she'll have to wait until several minutes into the feed before she sees it, because those same big stories get top billing every hour.

    A producer who works with both Newspath and CNN Newsource says he relies more heavily on Newsource. "CBS Newspath tends to cover one or two big stories. A typical afternoon news feed contains two or three items on one story and two or three items on another story. Then the feed is over. Most are 15-minutes long. You get a preliminary rundown and a final rundown-about 10 minutes after the feed ends. I've learned not to depend too much on video from Newspath if I'm writing the story before the feed ends."

    A producer who's worked with almost every source available says of Newspath, "The story treatments are uniform and predictable [always Washington, always officials]. Some of the correspondents are inexperienced. Affiliates with uplinks are much harder to find in the CBS family than the NBC group. Extras commonly offered on other services, such as live or 'as-live' teases, are never offered. Last Friday, when I was attempting to coordinate coverage of a story, CBS hung up the phone on me, and then, upon my calling back, would not answer the phone. NBCNC eats Newspath's lunch. Maybe it's the nicer climate in Charlotte."

    Another producer says, "NewsPath offers far fewer feeds, with less useful material on each one. The staff in NYC sometimes seems reluctant to help out when an affiliate needs something special. The service itself doesn't always have clean feeds of live events."

    Frazee says a common misconception among stations is that Newspath plays favorites. "We're all balancing our available resources. People sometimes presume there's ill will. Big stations think you go out of your way for the small stations. The small stations think you only care about the big ones," he says.

    Donovan Myrie is now the News Operations and Special Events Manager at KTVT, the CBS affiliate in Dallas. "Part of the reason NewsPath is so weak has a lot to do with the stations they have been handed: many are third- or fourth- place stations in their markets, and a lot are startups or former independents [all due to Fox's raiding many markets in the last five years and converting stations],'' says Myrie. "For instance, WCBS, KCBS, WBBM and KYW aren't dominating the ratings, and in Detroit, the CBS station doesn't even have a news department. And here in Texas, KTVT has the only satellite truck NewsPath can rely on: KENS [San Antonio] and KHOU [Houston] are both A.H. Belo stations, and will do favors for other Belo stations before they will do anything for their own network. The strange part here is that the network lets them get away with it."

    "My personal opinion is that CBS NewsPath has a lot of growing to do, especially when it comes to mobilizing on breaking news. One bright spot: their specials unit is absolutely flawless. Each time we have had to travel to a big event, we are rarely surprised, and usually going in, we know what to expect," says Myrie. "As for reporters, NewsPath has added quite a few in the last twelve months and all in all they are doing a much better job."


    Although some stations use Conus as their sole domestic news service, most of Conus' members are also affiliates of one of the big three networks.

    "Perhaps the biggest factor in a station's decision to join Conus is the amount of news programming it's doing," says Steve Cope, managing editor of Conus. "But each of our members is likely to cite a different aspect of the service as the key benefit: access to live shots, the outstanding regional coverage, the reliability of Conus SNG support, Conus Washington, the Weird Feed . . . whatever."

    Conus stresses "Limited Membership, Unlimited Service," says Cope. Right now there are 107 member stations in the U.S., and membership is capped at 125 to ensure a high level of service.

    Donovan Myrie's CBS affiliate in Dallas has been a Conus member since the beginning of the year. "In the arena of footage, you really can't complain that much about Conus. With [all its] affiliates across the country, Conus can usually move footage for most major events, and I can tell you most times move it faster than CBS Newspath. Their satellite system is a little funky: they are on SBS6 which is not the easiest satellite in the world to find, and they have this non-traditional audio frequency that all my engineers hate. As for live shots: Conus can be hit or miss. During the recent Lewinsky mess in Washington, my producers were able to lead with Bob Baird in front of the White House for three straight nights. And I gotta tell you, I was really surprised-he did a great job, although his technical support left something to question. Since becoming a Conus affiliate, I think we've missed more on camera intros in two months than we have in the 18 months I've had to deal with Newspath. IFBs dropping out, satellite trucks not ready, producers in Minnesota not being able to tell you where your shot is [because your in-house Conus producer did not leave coordinates], so in that area, they still have a little bit of a way to go."

    Cope says Conus members have access to the best SNG control center. "Conus master control has six [and soon to be eight] satellite paths, with the ability to jump up to a maximum 12 paths on really big news days. Since the person who books the window also calls up the truck, Conus satellite control is the most flexible and responsive in the business. Because we have immediate control over our available space, we can make last minute changes in booking...sometimes even while the shot is in progress. This allows us to have the most flexible booking and cancellation policies, allowing members to move or cancel windows without penalty anytime before the window opens . . . to book their windows anywhere on the clock in any length, as long as it's a minimum of 5 minutes. So if you want to get in a headline and a live shot at the top of the show, you can book :58-:03, or :57-:04 or whatever time works for your newscast."

    Conus doesn't compile statistics on successful and failed live shots. Cope says they do keep track of the number of lives done on a particular event. "For example, on the tornadoes in Florida, we did 79 live shots for 25 member stations in 3 days. At Mardi Gras, we provided 13 stations with 32 live shots in 2 days."

    Cope says the Conus difference is its emphasis on the customer. "We don't have a huge programming monster that is the main focus of what we do. Rather, we are driven by what's need for local newscasts. And whatever local stations want is what we try to do. We want our regional managers to be intimately familiar with the news mission of each of their stations so that they can anticipate their needs and respond. In this way, we go deeper into the editorial content available at each station to pull out those 'water-cooler' stories that might otherwise never bubble up to a national news level, but can play a key role in a producer's newscast."

    Donovan Myrie likes Conus's system of compensating individuals at stations for contributing to the feeds. "It works on a point system that adds up to T- shirts, hats, gift certificates, cash and the grand prize: a cruise for two to the Caribbean. Definitely not too bad."

    A producer in the midwest remembers having a good relationship with the Conus folks when he worked for another station. "We were one of the 3 or 4 stations which really showcased the Conus people as 'our' correspondents, and we felt it paid coverage dividends."

    "All in all, I wouldn't want to rely on Conus as my main news service, but it is definitely worth having as a second feed service," says Myrie.


    And finally, back to NewsOne. The Jonesboro fiasco was not at all typical of its track record, as Geoff Sadow's numbers show. In 1997, six group live shots were canceled -- three of them due to rain fade.

    Mark Falgout of WTVD in Raleigh-Durham says, "Usually NewsOne service is great. They do a good job covering the big stories like trials and politicial conventions with :01 and custom live shots. They also do a good job with their feeds and video, especially for special video you may request, and they even have scripts for almost everything on the feeds now. I believe the service is 100 times better than it was a few years ago."

    Matt Silverman is an executive producer at KNXV in Phoenix. "Thankfully, gone are the days when you'd see the slate that reads 'Live Shot in Jeopardy' one minute before air. They've been a lot more consistent. We rarely take a CNN live shot because we have five stations in the market, all of them CNN affiliates, and we're always afraid someone else will have the same reporter. So we count on ABC live shots more than ever."

    Sadow says one of NewsOne's greatest strengths is the quality of its correspondents. "No other news service can boast the success rate of our team. Every NewsOne correspondent to date has gone on to work for one of ABC News' regularly scheduled programs. Their reports frequently air on World News Tonight and Good Morning America. I have no doubt the current crop will also bear the same fruit," says Sadow.

    Two producers mentioned one correspondent in particular. "Washington correspondent Andrea McCarren is always at the top of her game." And, "Andrea McCarren or her producer usually calls me before the live shot to make sure we're all on the same page."

    ABSAT handles the custom live shots for stations -- 4092 of them last year. "ABSAT now has 80 KU trucks and 60 fixed uplinks and microwave links across the country. ABC has financed significant portions of these facilities so that they are available to other affiliates and the Network when the big story is in your town. So most times when a story breaks, it's the local affiliate who gets there first with a KU truck funded by ABC," says Sadow.

    But there is some dissent in the ranks, and not just about the occasional day of missed live shots.

    An executive producer in the Eastern Time Zone says, "The bottom line is to serve World News Tonight and ESPN. Services to affiliates come as an after thought and at a cost."

    Silverman echoes that: "One problem is we continually see the best video being held for World News Tonight and not being fed to the affiliates, and that just really makes us mad."

    Sadow says there is no conscious effort to hide video from the affiliates. When it happens, it's an issue of timing. "World News Tonight goes to air almost two hours after we get our spots out. And many times the World News spots are edited in the field and don't get fed in until 6:30."

    The next wave at the news services is clearly digital. They're all at least somewhat digital, either in newsgathering, or delivery, or both. A few months ago, ABC introduced NewsOneNET. Video clips are uploaded onto the net, and then downloaded constantly into computers at the affiliate stations. Producers can view the clips on a newsroom PC. The clips are usually available for viewing about half an hour after the feed is over. Not terribly convenient during afternoon crunch time, unless you need something that was fed earlier in the day. But it is a handy tool. Producers can log video and sound, time codes and all, without fighting over the feed tape or jostling for a viewing deck. The scripts are there, too.

    "NewsOneNET is a bridge technology. It offers the most important features of non-linear digital browsing without the prohibitively high cost of a full- blown video server... and since it's based on Internet protocols it can be upgraded and changed seamlessly. The NewsOneNET is a technology that will last several years [continually growing as fast as technology allows] until digital TV's high costs and problems are alleviated," says Hal Feldman, of NewsOneNET. Now, if only we could get the computer to alert us when we've forgotten to record the feed, or the tape is lost, or the tape is bad...


    Cherie Lytle has experience working with ABC, CBS and CNN in addition to NBC. "A common complaint--why don't they ever look at a map? Something will happen hours away from us and they call wondering when we will have tape. It's ridiculous. They act like we are stupid for not covering the story, then it finally occurs to them they need to try a different market altogether," says Lytle.

    Producers hold in high regard the services that pay close attention to details, such as rundowns and scripts.

    "Kudos to Newsource for clearly written and timed scripts! You always know exactly what you're getting with Newsource," says one producer.

    Since Newsource's first days, the items on the rundowns would be numbered -- get this -- chronologically. Then, with few exceptions, the items would be fed, IN ORDER. It's a simple concept (but not quite so simple to accomplish). The system gives affiliate producers a warm fuzzy feeling, because they can be reasonably certain that if item #98 is being fed now, and the one they're waiting for is #99, they haven't long to wait.

    CNN also has always provided transcriptions, or verbatims, for its soundbites. Producers can find the soundbite they're looking for in a flash. Producers love that.

    Other services are catching on. NBC News Channel's Sharon Houston says an affiliate survey a few years ago found that producers wanted verbatims on all the packages and soundbites. Now, all the packages and soundbites come with verbatims.

    ABC NewsOne made a commitment to providing verbatims a year ago. Geoff Sadow says, "We have tackled the issue two ways, high tech and low tech. First, we hired additional staff who work exclusively on 'verbating' scripts. In some cases they playback tapes and re-key the script manually. We also have installed toll free access to our computer system for affiliates to send us the corresponding scripts for the video being provided by those affiliates. Each major newsroom computer vendor has compatible software available for stations' use. To date, less than a third of our stations have taken advantage of this system. This is the quickest and easiest way for us to get scripts from you and back out to everyone."

    Several people talked about the need for everyone to understand the big picture. Newspath's John Frazee producers can get greedy, and that can cause trouble over the long haul.

    "Producers are SO demanding about getting material from a distant market, even when that distant station is swamped with what may be their biggest story of the year," says Frazee. "The station that needs the material thinks nothing of doing whatever it takes to get that material, including burning bridges. People tend to forget there has to be a give-back. The affiliates can't do the job without support from elsewhere. And for those working overtime or standing knee-deep in mud, they're only going to help other stations if they know there's going to be a payback. It's true at NewsPath and anywhere else." And Omaha's Cherie Lytle says, "One thing we all need to remember is that these services are only as good as the affiliates. If we blow them off and send poor video and sound bites when we're contributing, other stations will do the same."

    One Eastern Time Zone executive producer says, in effect, that greed can be a good thing. "I think the big problem with Affiliate Services is not the inexperienced workers, but that affiliates need to demand more from the feed service. Local News Producers should demand live shots and accurate scripts from affiliate services. They should hold their affiliate service accountable and keep track of mistakes and pass them on to News Directors, who make the feed service people aware of their dissatisfaction. I have found that if you demand more, you get more. Never settle for anything less than great. Keep pushing."

    And finally, from an anonymous producer, "Overall, I'd have to say these services are a life-saver! And I know the folks behind the scenes work their butts off!"


    Christopher Penn, the 5pm Producer at KSDK in St. Louis, MO has been promoted to Morning Executive Producer. Chris takes over the highly successful Today in St. Louis broadcasts from 5a-7a along with the Noon Show.


    Wanted to share a happy personal item with my colleagues and fellow subscribers on The Producer Newsletter listserv.

    My wife Renee and I are the proud parents of Matthew Aaron Price, who entered the world 2/23/98 at 6:35pm at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park NY. The future producer or assignment editor (depending on whether he takes more after his mother or his father) weighed in at 7 lbs., 7 oz. (a pleasant coincidence since both his parents work for Channel 7 Eyewitness News in NYC!) . . . and he measured 20 inches in length.

    Mother and child are both well and happy...getting used to each other, their new living arrangements -- and in Matt's case, a whole bunch of new moving parts.

    Renee produces the noon newscast at WABC-TV; I work the night desk. A perfect schedule to make sure one of us is always around for Matt! Howard Price


    Effective March 12, 1998, Napoli Management Group became the first on- air talent representation firm to feature videos of clients' work on the Internet. Now prospective employers including news directors, station general managers and show producers can view clips of our available clients simply by accessing our web site, http://WWW.TVTALENT.COM. To access the database simply click on "View Client Tapes" from our home page. As the development and enhancement of the Internet continues to grow it is the goal of NMG to be on the forefront of this new technology. We believe it is important to embrace the unlimited potential of the net. Visitors to our web site are now able to search for the type of person they are interested in, access resumes, see a still picture and view a video clip of the client's current work. NMG was also the first talent representation firm to establish an exclusive web site over two years ago. We believe viewing talent on-line is the first step toward the future when all clients' work will be submitted on-line for evaluation and review. Napoli Management Group continues to be one of the fastest growing representation firms in the country. Founded in October of 1993, today we represent a diverse group of more than 200 clients from around the country. In 1997 alone, we placed more than 60 of our clients in new positions. For more information contact Mendes J. Napoli in Los Angeles at 310.385.8222 or e-mail us at NMG@TVTALENT.COM.


    If you are looking for a French, German and English speaking producer, based in France, or if you need a crew, or some footage, or contacts to French or German TV channels, i.d. all kinds of jobs related to news coverage, just email ME !!! nne-Claude Benhamiche

    SCI-TECH TV PRODUCER seeks freelance job opportunities in video and website production. I have 8 years of experience in electronic media including TV line producing, field production, reporting, script writing and Web content development. Past employers include WTVR-TV, Newschannel 8 Washington DC, The Sweeps Feed and more. Especially interested in positions writing for news-related web sites. Please see for more information on my background or call (703) 924-0817, email:


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