Producer Page: December
IN THIS ISSUE...
To prepare this issue, I talked with students and professors about the kinds of questions they have about making the transition from college to the newsroom. I used their questions when I surveyed several people in newsroom management positions about their perspectives. A few subscribers volunteered their advice, which I'm passing along. I also asked a cross-section of subscribers to provide descriptions of their jobs, and how they got them.
Q. Do you ever hire people right out of college for producing or producing-track jobs?
A. We have an internship program where interns get hands on experience working with producers. When we have an associate producer opening, we look first to our current and former interns. - Kevin Crane, Executive Producer, Springfield, Mass., WGBY
A. I'd hire a college graduate who's done a superior job in an internship and shows producer potential as an associate producer to learn the tricks of the trade, perhaps graduate to fill-in producing, and then move into the producer ranks. - Paula Pendarvis, News Director, WGNO, New Orleans
A. I rarely hire people right out of college. If I do it is for a night side assignment editor or weekend producer position. Generally I can find a reporter with a year or two who is willing to produce weekends in order to report in this market. - Douglas McKnight, News Director, Monterey, California, KCCN
A. We have part-time positions called "closed-captioning producers." They transcribe sound bites, operate the teleprompter and assist the line producers by ripping scripts, etc. These are 30-hour per week positions, and we hire right out of school. We consider this job a foot-in-the-door, producer-track position. - Jim Kent, News Director, Roanoke, WDBJ
A. I never hire people directly out of school for producing jobs. They just aren't ready in this size market (29). I would hire a college grad for a full time newswriter's job. That could eventually lead to a producer's position, but would take several years and quite an impressive person to make the leap. - Matt Silverman, Asst News Director, Cincinnati, WKRC
Q. Do you ever hire people from the intern ranks in your own newsroom?
A. I was promoted from an intern to a producer-trainee, then a producer. As a producer, I recommended the hires of excellent interns to associate producer or producer-trainee levels. Some of these folks grew into fulltime producers fairly quickly. If I have a star intern and an opportunity emerges -- I'd rather promote that person than let my time and money invested in training walk out the door. - Pendarvis
A. We have hired directly from internships. I would be much more inclined to hire an intern producer show showed potential than an intern reporter. We have almost no inquiries about producer internships. - Kent
A. KTVK operates a successful internship program in cooperation with the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism & Telecommunications at Arizona State University. We take 5 interns each semester for a paid internship. Three of the 5 internships are reserved for minority students. Currently we have 6 former interns working on our staff. Four are minorities. Three are writers/assistant producers. One is a segment producer (and a former newscast producer). One works on our assignment desk and the 5th is a minority reporter trainee. Two other former interns became newscast producers for us, then went on to producing jobs in LA and Dallas. - Phil Alvidrez, VP News, Phoenix, KTVK
A. Yes, I have and do hire people from the intern ranks. -McKnight
Q. What do some interns do that sets them apart from others?
A. First, do what the duties demand. After you do what's expected, dig on your own to learn the things you want to learn. Often, people in newsrooms get busy and you need to learn by observation. It's tough for a producer to give a lesson crash-landing five minutes before airtime. Then, make yourself invaluable. When you've learned how to master a task...and you see somebody needing an important task done, DO IT. Show initiative. If you prove you can DO SOMETHING, next time you'll be called on to write or do something you WANT to do. You have to prove yourself. Jump in and help once you're sure you're really helping. - Pendarvis
A. Nothing any different from what makes any newsroom employee stand out---curiosity, aggressiveness, independence, hard work, writing skills and perhaps most importantly, a genuine love for the news business. - Alvidrez
A. Good work habits and a consuming interest in news are the things that set the successful interns apart. I am always amazed at the number of people who enter journalism having no interest in news. - McKnight
A. Interns who stand out are just like employees who stand out. They are smart, hard working people, with a good attitude. It's best when interns come with previous newsroom internship experience or the very least several writing and production classes under their belt. Interns who stand out are people who don't have to be taught the same thing over and over again, who go out of their way to learn things they weren't assigned, who quickly demonstrate skill. - Silverman
A. The standouts are "underfoot" all the time, even when they're not scheduled to work. They don't configure their schedules for "minimum hours" required by their internship. They also have outgoing personalities and are not afraid to approach experienced staffers with questions. - Kent
A. Ask a lot of questions, do well the job they're given, show some understanding of the "big picture", i.e. TV is a team effort, with many disparate tasks that need to be done to produce a program. Interns who get frustrated making phone calls or doing research because they aren't close to "the action" are missing "the action" entirely. - Crane
Q. Does college TV producing experience count?
A. Every little bit helps in understanding how a professional newsroom works, but I have never met an intern whose college TV producing experience gave them a chance at getting a producer's job in our market. - Silverman
A. Usually only in that it demonstrates an ability to produce a final product against all odds, which is a valuable skill in TV. It's probably better than no experience, but is not always a true indication of real-world skills. - Crane
A. Any producing experience helps, but you've got to do an internship to prove how you manage yourself in a newsroom. - Pendarvis
Q. Are students learning anything in college, or only during their internships? In other words, are they coming to their internships prepared? And do you see a difference between the people who attend no-name schools, and the people attend the big J-schools?
A. It depends on the school. Some schools do a better job of giving students realistic producing experience. I find that schools are best in teaching ethics, technical skills, some research skills and in some cases law. They are not good at teaching story telling, news judgment, cultivation of sources, control room leadership, decision making under pressure and supervision of others. - McKnight
A. The only way to get students who are somewhat prepared is to take juniors and seniors. The schools are doing an okay job, but it's critical for all students to have at least one internship (preferably more) to get an understanding of what happens in real life. Coping with hourly deadline pressure, office politics, getting along with people, dealing with ethical issues are some of the areas new to interns. So many of our interns leave saying they learned more in several months at the station than they have in several years at school. On the other hand, students should carefully select their internships. Students need to make sure there's a structured program in place so they don't waste their valuable internship time only being allowed to answer the phones. - Silverman
A. I've found that the best students today come into the work force better prepared than ever. Certainly some programs (Missouri, Medill) offer students more hands on opportunities than others. But it is the quality of the student, not the school, that I've found makes the difference. It is not so much where or what you've studied that's important, it is what you've LEARNED. For a good student, that learning can come in a classroom or in a newsroom. - Alvidrez
A. We have trained most area colleges not to send us interns unless they're promising. The ones we get are usually prepared, but sometimes we go six months without an intern because the colleges won't call us just to get any student in an intern slot. Our best interns come from Washington & Lee University, which has an excellent (but small) journalism program. Actually, I've seen some really BAD candidates from some of the larger schools, so I don't put much stock in the size of the institution. - Kent
Q. What tape format should an applicant use?
A. Beta or 3/4 inch is acceptable. Beta is preferable. - Silverman
A. VHS is easiest. Beta is okay. For producer applicants, written writing samples are great, too. - Pendarvis
A. VHS is the easiest for me to view. - Crane
A. The applicant should call the station and ask what format tape to send. - McKnight
A. I like BETA, but 3/4 and VHS are acceptable most anywhere - Kent
When I was in college I had the fortunate experience of interning in the number one market for two different networks. Of course, it looked positively brilliant on my resume, but I didn't get to "do anything" that could prepare me for life after college.
The problem is that when the stations I applied to wanted someone with "some outside experience," and their management saw my resume, complete with Fox and NBC Network interning experience, they oohed and aahed. But other people probably more competent than myself got passed over, because they worked for some itty bitty station in East Osh Kosh. The reality is that these students at these itty bitty stations, for the most part, learned a lot more than I did.
One thing I really would have liked to learn in college is that there is a lot more to a newsroom than reporting and anchoring. Everyone I knew in the broadcast news program with me wanted to be on the air. We thought that was where all the control, power, creativity, and journalistic ability would be used.
It was not until my first job outside of college that I learned that reporters, while having some flexibility for creativity and journalistic ability, really are under the mercy of management and the producers. It was there that I learned how much creativity the producers get to utilize, and how much writing the producers do. It was there that I realized I never, ever wanted to report, and that all I really wanted to do was produce.
If only I had learned that in college, I wouldn't have wasted more than $1,000 on a resume tape, and a billion copies of it on 3/4 inch. (Which, by the way, are in a box in my closet... )
Students should avoid using gimmicks like flourescent lettering on tape boxes or odd-sized, wildly-colored resume paper. Content counts much more. When I was hiring, I could exclude about nine out of ten applicants without even looking at their tapes; they disqualified themselves in one or more of the following ways:
Some people think automatic disqualification for such things is a bit harsh. But applying for a job is easy compared with working under deadline on complicated stories. If you can't get your facts straight when you're looking for work, why should I believe you'll get them straight once you have a job?
I work as an assistant producer for Dateline NBC. My duties involve research, finding and booking main characters/interviews for stories, finding footage and securing licenses to use it, field producing, conducting one-camera interviews, editing stories, and when we have time, producing (shooting, writing and editing) our own pieces.
My work background: I worked as a reporter in South Korea for two years, using my bilingual abilities to cover stories with a foreign twist. I also covered the Olympics in Seoul and Barcelona. Then when I came to the States, I worked as a news director for Stanford's radio station; interned with KNX Newsradio, and worked as an assistant producer/back-up anchor for public radio's morning edition of "Marketplace."
by David McCollum (firstname.lastname@example.org), NASA PRODUCER
I produce shuttle mission television for NASA. The job entails attempting to make a useable (by news media, cable companies, educational institutions, and the general public) resource from a variety of sources. NASA Television programming, unlike normal broadcast outlets, does not always originate from the same location. Each of the major NASA centers (HQ, Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama, Johnson Space Center in Texas, Dryden Flight Research Center in California, and the Jet Propulsion Lab in California) all have the capability to uplink to the NASA Television transponder (GE Spacenet 2, Transponder 5). In addition, a second transponder is used to bring other video feeds to Houston.
NASA Television must share its resources with the Shuttle Program, so we must balance our needs with the operational video requirements of the Program Office. Things such as weather briefings, engineering television views, and photo analysis are all part of the mix. From all of this comes the program we call NASA Television, and, (with lots of help) I get to steer the boat.
How'd I get here? Nearly 14 years with NBC News as an editor and field producer at various locations. Finally got tired of moving around, liked Houston, went freelance when bureaus closed, then, due to medical expenditures, needed a stable income. The rest, as they say, is history. Do I miss "real news"? Damn straight!!! I'd go back in a New York minute, if the job were right!
Corporal Keith Kluwe (email@example.com), THE FAR EAST NETWORK IN OKINAWA
The Far East Network, Okinawa, Japan provides 24-hour television and AM/FM radio service to almost 60,000 military members, their families and Department of Defense civilian employees living on Okinawa. F-E-N's mission here is to provide command information (i.e. buy U.S. Savings Bonds and don't drink and drive); local, national and international news and entertainment for U.S. military members stationed here.
The station is divided into three sections: TV Operations, News and Radio. TV Ops, where I currently work, does the brunt of the production work in the station, plus is responsible for the on-air product other than the local news.
Members of the News Section write, shoot, and produce local news and feature stories. They are also in charge of all the production work for the morning and evening news.
Radio provides live DJs for AM from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and is responsible for the computer system that runs the FM station.
Anything that is not produced in-house is sent to us in weekly shipments or is received via satellite.
Everyone here cross-trains as much as is feasible in the other sections.
I'm both a print and broadcast journalist by training. I attended the Defense Information School, formerly at Ft. Benjamin Harrision in Indianapolis, and now at Ft. Meade, Maryland. The school covers the basics of both sides of the house, but the real training comes from getting out in to the Fleet Marine Force and doing your job. I spent the first three years writing for a base paper and doing some free-lance work for the local paper near my last command. I wanted to receive some advance training and real-world expereance in broadcasting so I requested an assignment here at F-E-N. Currently I work in TV Operations, which is where all the people new to the station get their start. In Operations the concentration is on training and focus is on the on-air product. Members of the section write, shoot and produce filler material and command information pieces. I'm scheduled to go to the News Section in January either to be a reporter or to anchor. My assignment here ends in July, at which time I am leaving the Marine Corps to attend college. After college I hope to find a job in motorsports broadcasting.
by Bruce Conover, Senior Producer, CNN'S MOSCOW BUREAU
I began working for CNN in Moscow as a sound technician/editor in 1987.I had essentially no television experience, but spoke and understood Russian fairly well. CNN hired me during a period when all the American networks were looking for Russian-speaking staff to supplement the ranks of translators supplied by the Soviet Gov't, out of a probably justified concern that it would help our objectivity if more Americans in the bureau spoke Russian and were able to double-check the information that we were getting via our Soviet translators on controversial subjects.
That window of job opportunities has practically snapped shut, since there are now plenty of talented translators and technically skilled Russians available in this market, and nobody worries anymore whether they are working for the KGB as well as for the company. Young and energetic Russians who plan to remain in this country and can be hired for less money than their American counterparts are slowly but surely replacing the expatriot staffs here; that's probably as it should be, and will eventually bring Moscow bureaus into line with bureaus in the rest of Europe, which are staffed by citizens of the countries they are located in for the most part.
As is the case with many of the other Russian-speaking Americans hired during that period by the American nets here in Moscow, I have since worked my way up to the rank of Senior Producer. My daily routine includes reading into the local Russian media for news trends and events we may be interested in, and then doing up the day's assignments, as well as talking out futures with the bureau chief and keeping our travel calendar up to date. We are not budgeted for any engineers here, so in addition I keep our fragile telecommunications (satellite phones and data lines) system up and running. Everyone who works over here is married to the job; we work 12 hours a day regularly, and often on weekends as well. The pay is good, and most companies offer generous paid vacation "outs" as part of the package. Most expatriates are over here on contracts that are several years minimum. The trend now in all the American Nets is to downsize, replacing contracted expatriates with locally-hired Russians who speak fluent English and have acquired some experience with Western Media companies, so the job market in media here for Americans is shrinking, not growing. There are still ways to shoehorn oneself into the Western Media bureaus here, but it requires enough funds and resourcefulness to get oneself here and to stay here until a big news event occurs and all the nets start hiring whoever they can to cover the story.
Another way is to get into a national network at some other location and then try and get oneself here... this can be a long process and there aren't any guarantees, even for fluent Russian speakers (see above on downsizing).
This place is sometimes depressing, but never boring. The grey pessimism of the bad old Soviet days is gone, but unfortunately so is the brief period of hope and optimism that followed the quashing of the August Coup in 1991, when everyone here was sure that life was going to get better, albeit slowly.
Now Moscow is a mishmash of New Russians whipping around town in the latest foreign luxury cars and ostentatiously flaunting their new-found wealth in the numerous local restaraunts and elite clothing stores that have sprung up in the past two years. In the background, not really visible behind all those new BMW's and mink coats, the rest of the Russian population tries to scrape up enough money to pay the food bills each month. I think everyone expects that when the Parliamentary election results are tabulated in December, the people who haven't gotten a better quality of life over the past four years are suddenly going to be very visible, when they vote in a Communist or Nationalist Parliament. The young Russian Entrepeneurs who didn't have time to vote will probably receive a painful lesson in the dangers of apathy in a rapidly changing society when the results are tabulated.
The western media plays up the criminal nature of society in Russia today; while it is true that professional killers are in high demand here, they tend to target Russians exclusively. Business is booming; huge fortunes are being made and lost; but because the legal system hasn't caught up with events, the atmosphere is like Wall Street without laws. It's what you might get if you gave everyone on Wall Street guns and grenades and told them they had a license to kill their competitors.
Sharon Fain (firstname.lastname@example.org), NBC NEWS CHANNEL
With the way TV technology changes so quickly, there is a new breed of journalist/producer if you will. Feed Service producers/satellite producers/field producers are now the grand makeup of many organizations such as the NBC News Channel.
I am currently the Great Lakes Regional Producer, but of course I'm not limited to this region. Our 24 hour news service provides NBC affiliates and foreign clients with national news, national live shots, sports and NBC nightside.
My position: I produce a daily feed for Great Lakes stations (Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois) But when big news breaks, I am usually chasing hurricanes in Florida or forest fires in California.
On large national stories the News Channel offers live shots from 6 am to 2:30 am EST to cover East Coast early news to West Coast late news. And this usually includes a producer (if breaking news) working this shift. This type of work is brutal but rewarding. In Oklahoma City I met and worked with so many NBC affiliates I can't even keep them straight but to this day, when I answer the phone, I hear many reporters say, "Remember me? We worked together in Oklahoma City?"
Here are web sites by Vernon A. Stone, Professor Emeritus at the University of Missouri: Pros and Cons of Broadcast News Careers: http://www.missouri.edu/~jourvs/careerww.html
Paid and Unpaid Internships: http://www.missouri.edu/~jourvs/ginterns.html
Those reports plus others on salaries, benefits and the status of minorities and women can be accessed from his home page for Television and Radio News Research: http://www.missouri.edu/~jourvs/index.html The careers report includes a photo of a producer, and the one on interns shows an intern assisting in graphics.
Deborah Stanley has written a book called "How to Get a Job in TV News." It's a self-published book that is targeted at college sophomores, juniors and seniors. She speaks mostly from her personal experiences in job-hunting. Her approach to finding a job is aggressive and organized, and there are lessons in it for everyone, although you may not be interesting in duplicating her results (8 jobs in 5 years). People who are already in the business and want to move to another job may also be able to use some of Stanley's techniques. You can order the book by sending $12 plus $3.50 postage and handling to: 2502 Babcock Road, Suite 1207, San Antonio, Texas, 78229.
AUTOMATIC GARAGE DOOR OPENERS
We did a 2-part series on automatic garage door openers, and how thieves can use them to gain access to a house. It's not original: our reporter saw it on a tape at some conference, and one of the New York stations did it the same week we did! But, we executed it well and got killer results.
The premise is that all garage door systems are set to a default code when leaving the factory, and most people don't change it. So, all a thief has to do is go to some hardware store and buy extra remotes of several different brands. (They sell them for two-vehicle families). With a handful of garage opener remotes, any person can open most garage doors. So, we demonstrated this to our viewers. The best shot of the series was showing houses whizz by while successive garage doors went up and down, as our reporter and photog cruised some upscale neighborhood in a news van. It looked like falling dominos: garage - boom, garage - boom, garage - boom.
Most people think when their automatic garage door is shut, they are safe, and some don't bother locking the connecting door going into the house. We showed how thieves can easily gain access to a stranger's house, just by pushing a button. Then, we interviewed people whose garage doors we'd just opened. Strolled right through the front yards, walked right up to them with camera rolling and asked, "Did you know we just opened your garage door?" Most were shocked.
The best part was after our reporter identified and demonstrated the problem in Part One, we left the viewers hanging until Part Two for the solution. Oh, the newsroom phones lit up like you wouldn't believe! People called all night long. Some said we were being irresponsible for showing crooks how to rob houses. Others said they were going to be living in fear for the next 24 hours, and one demanded to know the solution "as a public service". One lady said her little girl was crying and was afraid to go to sleep. One person demanded we break into our 11pm news and show Part Two.
(The series aired in the 6pm news, but this person had watched the 11pm news hoping to see Part Two.)
So, the NEXT night at 6 pm, everybody and their neighbors were watching our news (because Part One viewers had told all their familiy and friends!).
We did a brief recap of the problem and then showed the simple solution (found in the owner's manual), which is to CHANGE the default code. (We got some hardware store guy to demonstrate, and then we showed one of the homowners whose garage door we'd opened in Part One.) In the anchor tag we reassured the viewers that, no we didn't give the crooks a 24-hour head start on a crime spree. We got the police to say this is already common knowledge to criminals, and that this is information the public should have. (If people would read their owner's manual they would already know, but how many do that?) Also, people should always lock the connecting door between the garage and the house.
So, a simple two-part series with strong visuals that got a lot of reaction.
Here at WCNC, we have been struggling to compete with our rival stations who have been reduced to giving away huge sums of money to lure viewers during sweeps months. This year, the market's number-one station, ABC affiliate WSOC-TV, is giving away "up to $1 million," while WBTV, the number 2, has topped that with a supposed $1.5 million giveaway. To win the money, you must match "lottery" style numbers (mailed to Charlotte area residents and also available in local fast-food restaurants) against winning numbers aired during commercial breaks during the 5, 5:30 and 6 pm newscasts.
Not wishing to get into the cash giveaway game, WCNC decided instead to display our competitors' winning numbers as they are drawn. So instead of having to flick channels to watch 2 newscasts simultaneously for a briefly appearing winning number, contest participants can watch our newscasts and wait for the winning numbers to be displayed at the bottom of the screen, for up to 10 minutes.
Our ratings have doubled as a result.
We did a 5-part series on Special Education, specifically how it's supposed to work by law, some of the struggles local parents are having in getting the services their kids need, and in general what parents need to know in order to make sure their child is in the right educational setting. We were flooded with calls every day, from people wanting help, and those wanting to give advice. We ended the series with a free special education workshop at the station for those wanted some individual help. We had a great turn out!
We also did a 3-part series on a local man who lost 90 pounds. We followed him from the beginning, including his stomach stapling surgery, going with him to a support group for overweight people, and just capturing the weight loss on video. That worked out great, especially since we ran it just before Thanksgiving.
ER TIE-IN IDEA (For NBC Affiliates)
We did a story on what music surgeons listen to in the OR. Found one mild mannered neurosurgeon who loves heavy metal music. Made for a great profile.
This past Thursday morning (11/23), ABC's World News Now became the first regularly scheduled newscast on the internet. Now, from 2am to 4am ET, the overnight news program is available around the world to anyone with a computer, a connection to the Internet, and CU-SeeMe - a desktop teleconferencing software developed by Cornell University (that's the "CU" part).
The Thanksgiving Day broadcast was the result of a project begun 10 months ago by Victor Dorff (a freelance producer of multimedia events), and was made possible by a partnership of the Global SchoolNet, Netcom, and White Pine. And there's more to come.
World News Now can now use CU-SeeMe and the internet to conduct interviews with people in places where satellite transmission would be impossible (or prohibitively expensive). Beginning this week, for example, World News Now will add a new regular segment from Australia:
The Global SchoolNet in San Diego (http://www.gsn.org) has been using CU-SeeMe to connect school children from around the world with each other, and with world leaders. With GSN's help, World News Now has established a link with students in a high school near Melbourne, and, each week, the students and the anchors will meet over the internet for a brief chat and exchange of headlines.
The entire project is made possible by the donation of a T1 line from Netcom (www.netcom.com), which provided the connection to the internet for a six-month free trial period. CU-SeeMe is available free over the internet from White Pine Software (www.wpine.com).
After Tuesday, World News Now will be available on two CU-SeeMe addresses, one in Europe (220.127.116.11) and one in the US (gsh.org). (Prior to that, only the site in Europe is running.)
[Some technical details: The picture is black and white. (Color is expected in January.) The frame rate is about 20 fps at best, and most people with a 28.8 modem won't get much more than 10 fps. (Those with a 14.4 modem will get either sound or video, but not both.) The audio sounds like an AM radio, but White Pine expects to have significantly better audio with the next release of the software. In fact, all these things will improve quickly. As I keep reminding people, it is within our lifetimes that it took two people to tune a television set - one to sit on the sofa, and the other to stand behind the set (or on the roof) adjusting the antenna.]
If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me. (Frankly, I love talking about this stuff.) The best way to reach me by phone is usually by beeping me at (800) 800 7759 and leaving a detailed message about when and where to call you back. You can also email me at email@example.com.
KCRA (NBC affil in Sacramento) has automatic Chyron generation from the producer's computer. Trouble is, the computer doesn't tell the producer how many characters the Chyron will accept-- and how many won't print onscreen.
So when the Naked Gun "Smell of Fear" movie came out, the producer was trying to be clever and tease the upcoming movie review. With a clip of the film running, the Chyron line was supposed to say "The Smell of Comedy." Well, the Chyron only accepts 17 characters. Can you figure out what the tease line actually said?
Today we ran a story regarding Rabin's assassination and local response. Our producer slugged the story: Some Dead Israeli Guy. God help us!
Anyone who's turned on the TV in the past year has noticed this was a big year for WWII. Just about every month or so, there was an event commemorating the 50th anniversary of something or other that happened during the war. Well, one of those things was VJ Day, and we had a group of veterans that day celebrating the anniversary with a luncheon. One of our reporters approached the table where we have our morning meeting, and asked what her assignments were for the day. We tell this reporter (who, by the way got her bachelor's at an Ivy League school, her master's at a very prestigious school of journalism) she will cover this luncheon. She says, "VJ Day? What war are you talking about? I'm sorry, I'm not very good with history!"
OOPS, DOUBLE MEANINGS
The head of Alabama's Democratic party was a man by the name of Elbert Peters. Mr. Peters had gotten himself into a bit of trouble by making some inappropriate remarks at a political meeting. At the time, we were using bumps that compressed down to reveal a short headline teasing the story. I was in a rush and came up with a headline off the top of my head just to get the Chyron guy off my back. I was quite embarrassed when I saw my headline on the air: "PETERS IN HOT WATER"
Double meanings got another producer in a live shot split screen. The story concerned a series of mysterious cracks in a new interstate overpass. The Highway Department was holding a town meeting to discuss the problem. The banner above the anchors read "I-565 CRACK MEETING".
Since we work in a world of communication, you'd think we could communicate within our own station. After reading the "Janet Reno is Dead" story in the last newsletter, I thought I'd add this story. It was during our noon show and it was during sweeps. The Noon Producer was busy putting together the show and discovered she had two live shots very close together coming off the same microwave receiver. So the producer called ENG/master control and told the person responsible for tuning in live shots that she would get into the first live shot, then she'd get off the shot and in the meantime would instruct the ENG tech (via the intercom) she was finished with the first shot and she could tune in the second. Both agreed this was a fine idea. They got into the first live shot and at the conclusion, the producer got on the intercom and said "OK, ENG, SWITCH!". She repeated her request, again and again and again, but nothing happened. After the show, the producer said she confronted the ENG tech, who said, "Why didn't you tell me to switch. I kept waiting for the word and all I heard was someone yelling for ANGIE, ANGIE, ANGIE." The producer says she thinks it was an honest mistake, but there's no one at WTVD named ANGIE.
EARLY SAT FEEDS
It's a memory shared by many of us who worked in Oklahoma before satellite trucks and uplinks became the standard. Tulsa and Oklahoma City are two hours apart, connected by a turnpike. There used to be toll booths at each end. So let's say you were working in Oklahoma City and needed to get a tape to your affiliate in Tulsa. You would drive down to the toll booth on your end of the turnpike and hail a trucker. You'd say, "Would you mind dropping this tape off at the booth on the other end?" He'd say, "Sure, no problem." Believe it or not, about 95% of the time, the tape made it safely to the other toll booth. Can we say that about our satellite feeds today?
LIVE SHOT FROM HELL
While working in a low-80's market, we had a sudden windstorm brew up just before the 6 o'clock show. It did some damage in a town just south of us, trees down across roads, shattered windows at a Kmart, that sort of thing. Might have been a pre-tornado... who knows. We were whipped into a frenzy and had a photographer on top of it, but all the reporters were back at the ranch cranking out their other packages and v/o's. At 5:20 they finally launched a young man, who shall remain last nameless, to the scene. Traffic was a bear, he didn't get to his live shot until just seconds before air. The show opened with cold video of trees down, rain drop spotted camera lenses as the anchor spoke of driving rain and damaging winds and a glass-strewn mess at the Kmart where windows had shattered and blown in on employees and shoppers. He then announced that we had a reporter LIVE at the scene [reporter pops up in box]: "Ken, tell us what you saw!"
"Well, actually Bob, I didn't see anything."
Poor guy, later in his live shot they rolled some video he hadn't seen and he narrated over it:
"That's a tree."
ANOTHER LIVE SHOT FROM HELL
We were doing team coverage on the Nevada drought several years ago when I worked in Reno. My role was a live interview with a local farmer (who was also a head honcho with the Farm Bureau). So here I am out in this farmer's field. My photographer sets up a monitor on a stand near the camera. But it's not working, so I have no IFB. The anchors toss to me. I can't hear them, so my photographer cues me. I turn to the farmer and ask how the drought is affecting him.
Farmer: "Well, I'd say, uh, uh, the farmers, uh, uh, uh, most of the farmers, uh, uh, uh..."
At this point I jump in to try and save him: "Well that is to say that farmers are taking the drought very seriously."
Farmer: "Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. Uh, they're taking seriously, uh, uh, uh, they are taking it seriously, uh, uh, uh..."
Then the guy just stops talking. He starts to laugh, and then says: "You know, I've never done this before. I'm really screwing up!"
(At this point I'm thinking, you sure are, and taking my career down with you!)
Somehow, I muddled through the next 30 seconds or so, finally tossing it back to the anchors. Just as I'm wrapping it up, that busted monitor -- still setting on its stand all this time -- tips over, passing in front of the camera's lens on its way down!
And to top it off, the farmer's wife was recording the whole episode on the family's VCR!
TRUE STORY FROM ONE OF THE NETWORK AFFILIATE NEWS SERVICES:
If this was you on the other end of the line, remember we're laughing WITH you ;-)
The call went something like this:
WELL, BLOW ME DOWN!
About 6 or so years ago our female anchor on the noon show was talking about Hurricane Danny which had just formed in the Gulf of Mexico. The package lead-in went like this: "Danny is a hurricane. He's a growing boy and the folks on the coast are ready for a blow!"
BE LIKE MIKE (OR DAVE)
The person who subscribes to The Producer is most likely named either Dave or Mike. Of the 600+ subscribers, at least 22 are named David/Dave, and at least 21 are named Michael/Mike.
Anderson Williams (Williams_a@blue.waaytv.com), Special Projects Producer, WAAY-TV, Hunstville, Alabama
I'm trying to get our newscasts to become more "Internet Interactive" since our station is also a major Internet provider here in Alabama. I'd like to hear some ideas how other stations are using viewer feedback and the internet in their newscasts. (Editor's note: if you reply directly to Mr. Williams, please send a copy to me if you don't mind -- Thanks, AJMain@aol.com)
WHY HIRE ME? (as your News Director/Asst.N.D./Exec.Producer)
Experience, energetic, flexible producer seeks new position. My name is Jenniferlyn Finnerty and my husband's job is bringing me "home" to New England. I have more than two years' experience producing 6 pm news, noon news, specials and features. I currently produce the 6 o'clock news at the highest-rated CBS affiliate in the country. I also have ENG and SNG experience and experience as a writer, associate producer, and producer. I can do it all. Looking for openings in Boston, Hartford, Providence or Springfield. Interested? Call 608-845-8486.
Hire Me: Recent Syracuse Grad seeks position in TV news as Producer/Reporter. I have been working at WSTM-TV 3 in Syracuse since the end of April as a Production Assistant. Between our 6 and 11, I help the 11 producer by writing several A-block stories nightly. While in school, I reported for WAER-FM 88, a 50,000 watt NPR station, as well as working for the student run NCC News. I always look for the whole story, and I never rest on a good piece of writing. If you're looking for a hungry team player who will work as long as needed to get the story, and then go the extra mile to beat the competition, contact: