The Producer Page: January 1999

IN THIS ISSUE...

  • News from the Land of Alice
  • Computer/Network Security
  • Terrible Teases
  • Producers on the Move
  • Letters to the Editor
  • Job Openings
  • Hire Me

  • NEWS FROM THE LAND OF ALICE

    Those of you who follow the travails of The Producer Newsletter and its editor know that for the past three years I've complained about my old computer and the unspeakable things done to it by my young children. The complaints, I hope, will stop. I have a new computer that's nice and fast. The old computer now belongs to the kids. To those of you who sent $1 contributions toward the new machine, thank you. I didn't get a lot of money that way (about 2% of the computer's cost), but it was fun opening all those envelopes!

    The newsletter is back this month, after a two-month absence. The reason for my absence was the ABC labor dispute, which is now entering its third month.


    COMPUTER/NETWORK SECURITY
    By Alice Johnson Main, with Contributors

    In the October issue of the newsletter, a reader asked about logging on to the computer network from home. It seems her bosses thought it was a bad idea. So I asked the readers to write in about their log-on-from-home privileges, and here are some of the responses:

    From Lisa Casalegno, KXTV, Sacramento:

      While security is a concern for any company, I can't imagine NOT being allowed to log in from home. It seems that the benefits of remote access far outweigh the risks. We have the Avid news system, and management as well as many producers, reporters and other staffers have connections from home. We also have laptops that connect through our live trucks or modem in from out of town.

      As Special Projects Manager, I have approved scripts from home, especially during sweeps when we are pushing deadlines. I also use my home connetion to update the assignment file if I forget to add something before leaving work, or if I confirm a Monday morning interview over the weekend. I have logged in late at night when I had a brainstorm I really wanted to write down. I have done archive searches, checked the wires and gotten co-workers' phone numbers when in a pinch. I even check e-mail, which saves a lot of company time after a vacation. For those of us who are married to the job, it just doesn't make sense to be away even overnight!

    From Mark Howell, News Director, KUZZ AM/FM, KCWR in Bakersfield, CA:

      I run a radio news shop in which everyone can log on from home (or anywhere else, with a modem-equipped laptop). It's extremely useful, especially for the reporter with small children who needs to get them out of day care before she's finished writing her stories for the day...or the on-call person who has to cover a hot breaking story during hours when the newsroom isn't staffed. During one weather emergency, I even logged on so I could send a fax from my newsroom computer to another radio station that needed a hard copy of an EBS alert.

      I've also found it useful to be able to get on the newsroom computer to give part-timers some tech support.

      I can even assemble, edit, and anchor a complete newscast from the scene of a breaking story if I have to, thanks to a laptop & cellular modem (if the jock runs my carts). It's only been done once...but boy, was it important--and gave us a huge beat on the competition.

      As for passwords...if somebody leaves, just change 'em! What's the big deal?

    From Dana Lynn McIntyre:

      I used to run the assignment desk at WJBF TV in Augusta, GA. Now, I'm a general assignment reporter.

      Our system can be accessed from home computers. When I was running the desk, that was invaluable tool. I could log in, check my e-mails, review the scripts for the 11pm and 6am newscasts, check for late night additions to the e-assignment file and review all the wires. It gave me a headstart on my morning that, many times, meant I could deal with the mini-disasters that so often develop in our business. I was also able to send e-mails to the morning crew, alerting them to things on the wire they might have missed. The morning producer and anchor appreciated having the extra set of eyes backing them up.

      Another advantage: The ND, AssistND, EP and desk rotate being on-call for the weekend crew. One of the responsibilities was to review the weekend scripts. The ability to log in from home meant we could (as the person who first broached this subject observed) do so from the comfort of our home. Not having to trek into the station on a weekend was a real morale booster. I never minded being the weekend on-call.

      As for the question of security, as soon as someone leaves the station, the SysOp deletes their log-in and password. So far, we've not experienced a problem.

      I could have run the desk without being able to log in from home, but having that ability made an already tough job much easier. I whole-heartedly endorse giving this tool to every newsroom!

    From Ted Wilson, WKRC, Cincinnati:

      Dialing into the newsroom computer from home has been a great tool at WKRC in Cincinnati. We use PC Anywhere, which you can buy in most "big box" computer stores and a lot of smaller ones as well. The cost is reasonable and should not bust any newsroom's budget, even in small markets. At WKRC, news managers take turns keeping tabs on weekend newscasts. With PC Anywhere we can dial in from home and check rundowns, scripts, assignment desk logs, anything we would be able to do from our computer at work. I have also used it when I wanted someone else to eyeball a script for ethical/legal/policy reasons. The dial in system makes it very easy to do that. And if the manager at home has a second line, we can talk about the script as we are working on it. The system runs a little slower than usual. But it sure beats having to go into the office.

    From Mark Gillespie (mark.gillespie@msnbc.com; mark@mgmedia.com)

      In my last two positions (reporting at KTUU in Anchorage and now freelance writing and producing at MSNBC), I've had full access through dial-up connections to the newsroom systems.

      I find it invaluable for checking the wires and newsroom e-mail, along with filing stories. However, it depends on who "name withheld" is trying to work with to set up that connection -- if you can find a helpful MIS person, it's a lot easier than trying to convince the ND that it makes sense to have a home connection.

      The other reason for checking with your MIS folks: many newsroom systems are already connected to a modem so the manufacturer's tech support folks can log in to help diagnose problems. If that's the case at "name withheld's" station, getting access may be as easy as finding the number.

    From Bill Evans, WPSD-TV

      As a News Director, I have the ability to log on to the newsroom computer system from home. It is a wonderful tool. Until recently, no one else was allowed the same benefit. (station policy). I have changed that for a few key newsroom personnel--Managing Editor, Assignment Manager and Producers.

      Our system is protected. And once an employee leaves the station-their login and password are deleted--making it almost impossible to get back into the system. We also change our Sysadmin passwords, creating another firewall. Plus--if you can't trust your managers (and producers are managers) they shouldn't be working for you.

    From Gina Diamante, Former Exec. Producer, Now with NewsMaker Systems, Inc., gina@newsmaker.net:

      Since I'm now a computer support nerd <g>, this topic caught my eye. Certainly, logging into the network from home is possible with most newsroom computer systems. But there are a lot of factors to be considered.

      There's hardware. Dialing in would require that you have a computer and modem, and that the station has a dial-in computer and modem also, which is connected to the network.

      There's connectivity. The dial-in PC must be connected to an analog phone line. (I haven't yet met the modem that can understand digital!)

      There's software. Provided you have the PCs, modems and phone lines, both computers need to have the same type of dial-in software. For Windows 95/98, I like PC Anywhere 32. There are also compatibility issues. I have clients with DOS dial-in computers. I can't access those computers reliably with my Win95 machine; it really dislikes some of those DOS dial-in programs. And one of my colleagues has found that you can't even start certain programs such as Carbon Copy 6.1 on a Windows 98 machine.

      On top of all of that, there's cost. Yes, PC's are cheap these days. So are general managers/news directors. <g> Actually, if someone can provide good, multiple uses for a dial-in machine, then you probably could get the money for a dial-in machine. But there's another bugaboo you have to get past....

    SECURITY!

    The biggest threat to your system is not your competitor. Really, they're too busy to check up on you in advance. They'll just watch your promos and newscasts. No, the biggest threat to your system is some 16-year-old kid with a computer and enough knowledge to be dangerous. One of my clients did get hacked by someone who blew the bindery away on their server. No data was lost, it was just inaccessible. The client was able to restore the bindery. A good security setup requires a couple of levels of passwords to get in.

    Now, there's one more issue to deal with here. Technical support. This could really be the biggest barrier. If you're putting a dial-in program you got from work onto your personal computer, and then you put some other personal software onto your computer, and there are conflicts between the two softwares...who will be responsible for troubleshooting it? This really is an important issue. My husband is a support tech for a major entertainment company, and he's constantly having problems with execs who mess up their computer setups. These are personal computers, not company-issue, but he still has to sort out the cyber-chaos that results when people aren't careful. One danger you can run into with a bad software setup on a personal machine is corrupting files on your server. Seeing what my husband goes through, I would never want to support a PC that isn't company-issue. I'm sure a lot of techs feel the same way.

    If you conquer all of that, then you just need to check with your newsroom computer system vendor for remote access options.

    The views in this letter are my own and do not represent those of my employer.


    TERRIBLE TEASES

    By Kim Nolan

    Note to anyone writing about food poisoning, don't make the same mistake made years ago by a producer at my old station WSVN (when it was still NBC), who wrote, The first line was something like "Food poisoning sends dozens to local hospitals" The second line was more memorable.. "It's all coming up at eleven". We couldn't stop laughing for days!


    LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

    Produced a good political piece lately? Did it have a money and politics connection? LAST CHANCE to add your TV or radio political package to our reel. The Radio and Television News Directors Foundation will produce a video highlighting the best money and politics stories from around the country. We want your best stories on campaign finance or political advertising showing how money influences the election >process. Reporters, producers and news directors can contact Cy Porter, RTNDF, (202) 467-5219 or <cy@rtndf.org> Call now!

    Alice,

    That letter about logging on from home got me to thinking...

    How many producers are living and breathing news to the extent that they have no other life? Could it be a very large number? Could that be why I find nothing of interest in local news anymore?

    Since leaving the biz two and a half years ago, I've found that my viewing has dropped further and further down. The LA stations just don't interest me at all. All those breathless teases or just ho-hum. No one is telling me anything I really care about, and no one has been for a long time.

    I spent more time watching local news on Election night than I had in the previous two months. Pretty sad.

    I know that part of the problem is that I live in a geographic area that only gets coverage if there's a shooting at city hall. The LA market is drawn far too wide. (Note to anyone interested in starting a TV news operation...think Riverside County, CA!) But even when I lived in an area that was covered fairly well, the news just didn't interest me at all. And I know I'm not the only viewer who feels that way.

    My thought is this: Would TV news get more interesting if TV news people got to live more like everyday people? Leaving the job behind when they walk out the door each night? Getting time to spend with their families and non-news friends? (I can't remember having a friend outside of my own profession until I left news. Now my friends range across a variety of careers.) Hearing what those non-news friends think about the day's issues and about news...outside of focus groups and sound bites?

    The best news producing advice I ever got was, "Live in your community." I didn't do it too well; my job didn't give me the time. How is everyone else doing?

    Gina Diamante Former EP/Acting ND...now a civilian gina@newsmaker.net


    HIRE ME #1

    My name is Julian Dyson. I work as a leading freelance promotions producer/ director in the UK. I would like to do for US stations what I have been doing for the premier network broadcasters here in the UK - give them WHAT they want, WHEN they want! I am offered much more work than I can accept in London, but I am looking forward to the demands of a new market. If you would like to see my resume and/or reel, please contact me at jules@dyson.u-net.com

    HIRE ME #2

    Former Executive Producer/Programming KABC-TV (relocated to Spokane for "quality of life") Former Executive Producer/News KXLY-TV, Spokane (shown the door in "management restructuring") seeks freelance work. Currently writing and producing a documentary for the History Channel. Available for on- location producer/director needs, sweeps minidocs. I will help solve your problems.. Experience: 15-years TV News. 5-years Programming and Special Projects: Documentaries, Travel Shows, Special Projects. Spiffy resume and terrific references. Will travel. Mark Mohr (509) 455-3424. markmohr@earthlink.net.


    PRODUCERS ON THE MOVE

    After 11 years in Snow Belt, DAVE VIESER has moved on to the Bible belt. Dave leaves Raycom Media's WSTM (NBC-3) in Syracuse, New York to join Belo's WCNC (NBC-6) in Charlotte, North Carolina. You'll find him producing the 5:30 news. Dave, who lived all his life in New York state until now, says there's one important thing he's already learned about the 'new South': "You can buy Beenie Weenies at the Piggly-Wiggly." (Beenie Weenies are frank & beans in a can---and are THIS bachelor's answer to the question: "What's for dinner?" {at least twice a week!!})

    ADRIENNE SHIREY has been hired as a producer at CLTV in Chicago/Oak Brook, a 24-hour cable station, hired after a year hiatus from TV, formerly the morning producer at WPTV, the NBC affiliate in West Palm Beach, FL.

    Holly Edgell has joined WDIV's "NewsBeat" as consumer producer. She came to Detroit from WOIO/WUAB in Cleveland, where she worked as medical producer. Before joining the ranks of "special projects" producers, Holly produced the 11 p.m. news at WFMJ in Youngstown, Ohio and the weekend morning news at WTAE in Pittsburgh.


    ABOUT THE PRODUCER NEWSLETTER

    The Producer Newsletter is a free publication for TV news producers worldwide, edited by Alice Main, executive producer at WLS-TV in Chicago. All opinions expressed by me in the newsletter are mine alone, and aren't meant to represent the views of ABC or Disney. The newsletter has been around since 1995, and now back issues have been compiled into book form on the internet (http://www.scripps.ohiou.edu/producer/thebook) thanks to Professor Robert Stewart of Ohio University's EW Scripps School of Journalism. Subscription information is also available online. All submissions should be sent to AJMain@aol.com.