Producer Page: June 1997
IN THIS ISSUE...
I work in Twin Falls Idaho for the CBS affiliate - and one night, the weatherman was in rare form. We dissolve out of commercial to him at the weather wall , and he gestures to a map of the Southwest and says - "Ovaries!" he meant to say "Over these areas .... Needless to say - we fell apart in Studio Control - and the weatherman could hardly keep his composure for the rest of his time - we still say it was good as long as the weatherman does not say - ovaries!
Another Contributor writes: Augusta was proud to have astronaut Susan Still represent her hometown on the April shuttle mission. It was sadly cut short by some technical problems. We tuned our dish to NASA-TV and decided to have our lead anchor voice-over the shuttle's landing at Kennedy. He was in the newsroom (we had no production staff that early in the day to do something from the set). I was told by engineers that the talent would NOT be able to voice-over the pictures. He would just have to introduce them and they would pod up nats-full of the landing. So when we broke into regular programming, I told the talent that he would have to "toss" it off to NASA. He did, but continued with "I'd talk to you about the shuttle..and the landing...but I can't because we have a rinky-dink system." I couldn't communicate with him (I was in Master control). He ended up mumbling a few more complaints before the MC operator got his head out of you-know-where and dropped his mike. I can tell you that I felt mad at the time...but not as much as my ND who was standing right behind me the whole time. If you make it to our station, just say "rinky-dink" and you'll have a half-dozen adults in stiches.
From Julie Ford, Director of News and Public Affairs at WWSB in Sarasota: I worked with a meteorologist, an elderly fellow, who once looked directly into the camera and informed us that the earthquake in Japan measure "eight-point-one on the RECTAL scale."
Another Contributor: Once upon a time, an anchor ended the 11pm newscast by telling viewers, "Don't forget to set your clocks back," since daylight savings time was ending the following morning. Problem was, he said the word "clocks" without pronouncing the "L".
Yet Another Contributor: 5pm show....medium size market. On a three-shot going into the health reporter's section of the show. First story in the health report is on aids and prostitutes. Male anchor in the toss, on the three shot, straight faced and with the utmost sincerity says "Well, another good reason not to use prostitutes tonight!" How do you follow that line? Female anchor and health reporter are speechless..stunned. Director cuts to tight shot of health reporter, but not before female anchor gives male anchor a look that could kill.
Another Contributor: I produce our Saturday morning show. Every week we send out our roving reporter to do live shots from area events. Our reporter is great. During the week she covers mostly serious stories, a lot of crime and courtroom type stories. But on Saturdays, she lets loose and has a lot of fun. One Saturday "The World's Toughest Rodeo" was in town, and I sent her to do a live shot. She wore a red shirt that morning, and as the bull rider she was interviewing pointed out, bulls don't like red! While petting the bull, it growled, and our reporter said live on the air "I hope I didn't piss it off!" I could hardly believe my ears! I had to ask the director if I heard correctly. I did, and hoped it slipped past most of our viewers. Then the bull growled again, and our reporter said it again: "Did I piss it off?" Suprisingly, no one called. I haven't sent her to a rodeo since, however.
This one is from Melanie Kathrein, KIVI, Boise: This may or may not fit the category, but I couldn't believe someone put this on the air. I was breaking down a package (from another market) on the link between cigarette smoke and impotency, for the health segment of my newscast. The package had a soundbite from an MOS interview containing the phrase ".. get it up." I was pretty stunned when I heard this, and I went running into the newsroom saying, "You guys won't believe what 'station x' ran!" This may not be anything to be concerned with in other markets, but I work in Boise, Idaho, where the audience is very conservative. I didn't use the bite. I thought that would be in poor taste.
Another Contributor: I'm now a weekend anchor/producer in a small market. When I started at the station as a reporter, I'll never forget my first-ever "live-in-the-newsroom" report. The story was on a huge wind-driven grass fire that touched off earlier in the day. As I tossed back to the 5:00 anchor, I mentioned the rain we were getting that afternoon will be a big help to the many firefighters who were still out there. The anchor, meaning to say, "thank goodness for that rain," actually said, "OK, Jay, thank goodness for those fires...", and went right on to the next story with a straight face. She didn't even realize what she had said until after the show!'
Another contributor sends these "Best-of" submissions from Las Vegas:
Anchor was introducing pkg by CBS Newspath reporter Regina Blakely, called her Ra-gina (sounded like vagina). Same newscast, same anchor, had to introduce CNN reporter Kathleen Koch (and you can guess how that came out)
Anchor was reading a story about rapper Queen Latifah, and pronounced it Lah-tee-fah. Boy did we get calls.
This one needs some setting up. We, like most CBS affils, have a mammoth morning show... they're literally on for hours! The on-air team is: male anchor, female co, female wx, and female traffic... I only point out the make-up because the "girls" like to gang up on the single male anchor on-air. But one day, it was time for revenge. Instead of always using the news music bumping back in after commercial, they often pull "regular" music. This particular morning, Elton John was the featured artist, so as they were bumping in over a live shot of the city, one of his songs was playing. As they came back to the anchors, with the music still playing, the male anchor said, I was saving this song for when one of you came back from vacation. The "girls" looked at each other puzzled. The song was, "The Bitch Is Back." Good thing they really are all good friends!!
Another Contributor: It was a humid day at our station. Very humid. Everyone was complaining about the heat. Evidently, it got to one of our anchors as well. Our 5pm newscast was going along roughly as scripted, until it came time to throw to Dick, our meteorologist. You've probably guessed what happened next: The anchor said "Well, it's so humid out there today, they're going to start calling you "Sticky Dick."
From Deb Stanley, KMGH in Denver: The G-7/G-8 Summit is coming to Denver next month. We did a great feature about hand gestures and how the "ok" sign and "thumbs up" gesture mean nasty things in some countries. Our reporter even found a shot from our midday show where the anchor woman gave the ok sign to the weatherman who gave the thumbs up sign back. We came back out to our anchors, the anchorman said he was just going to take his hands off the desk so he wouldn't give the wrong sign. The anchorwoman was kind enough to point out putting his hands under the desk wasn't such a great idea either. I don't know how they made it through the tease!
And Finally.. Our traffic reporter , in describing a stalled car, said "watch out for a car that has crapped out at....."
REPORTER QUESTIONS FROM HELL (as related by a school system PR person)
With the camera rolling, after a couple of school buses bumped together at a stop sign and about a dozen kids went to the hospital for observation: "Did the school district tell EMS to take those kids to a doctor because you didn't want to get sued?" (Response: "What the hell kind of question is that?" - they didn't use the question or the answer)
The new-in-town anchor lady steps out of her Lexus in front of the elementary school where the health department's testing kids for TB exposure, issues a few quick directions to the photographer, and asks the day's penetrating on-camera question: "Tell me, is it a panic situation in there?" The reporter points to the school board meeting room and asks me, "Are there any angry parents in there?" "I dunno, let's go look... uh... no." "But I need a package for ten and they told me to get angry parents!" (It ended up a talking-head vo-sot)
Recently I was pulled into producing our station's noon show. In the pre-show I teased a new crackdown on people who write bad checks. Editing couldn't find any video of people writing checks...they tell me this five minutes before air. As a quick way to solve the tape problem, I said "Just change element two to Crimestoppers". Unfortunately, I forgot to change the copy. On air the anchors are saying something like "Police have a new way of dealing with people who bounce checks". The video showed a man run up and fire several shots at a person in a car. Pretty tough policy eh?
from Donna Lavoie, WDTN OnLine Producer Here's a tease that recently aired during one our newscasts: The producer wanted to tease the latest in the American Airlines Pilot Negotiations. But what she said was, " Coming up next, Will an aircraft carrier keep flying while it's pilots talk strike." Can you picture that?
The rating period will have thankfully ended by the time you publish this; the madness halted if only for a short while. But surely managers and consultants are even now preparing for another "Screamin' Season" where the teases shout and the stories whisper. Maybe we should all reflect on the following written by Hal Boedeker of the Orlando Sentinel and sent to me by retired NBC videotape editor Carl Day. Keep up the good work. Murray Schweitzer Consumer/Investigative Producer NBC4 Washington, D.C. News you can snooze - Cliches clog broadcast What TV says - What it means: "We have breaking news!" News is news. We don't need phony labels. "Tonight's big story!" It may not be so big but they needed something to lead the newscast. "Team Coverage!" Every report is a product of team coverage but they love the self-important term. "Complete Team Coverage!" Prepare for overkill. "Here are more details!" This information should have been in the just-completed report, but the anchors need something to read. "Stay with Channel X for continuing coverage!" Do you think we're idiots? The stations never pass up a chance to plug themselves. "Exclusive!" Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. But the stations doubt we'll be checking the other stations to keep them honest. "Only on X!" We'll never know whether it is if we're only on X. "We'll continue to follow this developing story...and take you back to the scene for any late-breaking developments!" They're going overboard with this coverage for no apparent reason. "We have an update on news we first brought you at 5!" They never stop telling us what they've done for us. "We have new information!" That sets it apart from the stale stuff they keep going over and over. "We'll have the story all new at 6!" By then we've probably seen it somewhere else. "Reporting from the scene is XXXX!" The crime or accident may have happened hours ago, so the reporter is standing out there in the dark for no good reason. "So and so is reporting from the Satellite Center!" The reporter is standing across the room. "We go to our reporter with our mobile newsroom!" The reporter is in the field. "A Channel X crew is on the way to the scene!" The station doesn't have all of the facts, but the staffers have been listening to the police scanner and they want to be first to announce this on the air. "We'll tell you more in the 6 o'clock newscast!" All the facts could have been summed up in one report, but they'll find new ways to string us along. "Coming up next!" Don't count on it. It may be next after a series of car commercials, or it may come at the end of the newscast. They'll keep us guessing. "We'll have the dramatic pictures coming up!" The stations are fixated on images. "All new at 11!" A self-respecting news organization would give us the news immediately. Stations think a hokey tease to a story (probably somewhere else in the United States) will make us tune in. "Anchor to reporter - Keep us updated!" Sometimes the chitchat is so lame. "Anchor to reporter - Thank you for that report!. Why don't they shut up. It is the reporter's job, after all. "Listen to this dramatic 911 tape!" They always call them dramatic, even when they aren't. Most of the time, they're just an invasion of privacy when people are under stress. "Police are looking into this murder mystery!" They want to appeal to fans of Jessica Fletcher and Agatha Christie. "This shocking video!" Usually it's not. "It was a bizarre accident!" Unless it was a freak accident. The stations repeatedly use "bizarre," "frightening," and "strange," to seize attention.
What’s the difference between a story about a multiple murder and a report on furnace-repair ripoffs? Nothing, if you go by the logic of certain “researchers” who are making a living and making headlines these days by trashing television news. They would consider both stories “mayhem.” That’s the latest trendy term for almost anything you don’t like about the news.
Television news is such a tempting target. Certainly the people who produce it should take quite seriously the loss of credibility they’ve suffered among viewers over the past several years. There really is room -- and a great need -- for improvement in the quality of the product most TV newsrooms generate. Too bad so much of the current criticism has such a credibility problem of its own.
Take the work of a group called Rocky Mountain Media Watch. Recently, in its third annual report, RMMW ranked Detroit’s WXYZ-TV as the worst offender in the country when it comes to coverage of crime, disaster, and all-around bad stuff. This performance landed WXYZ at the very top of what the Rocky Mountain group calls the “mayhem index.”
The RMMW “study” looked at 100 stations -- but just one newscast on one night in each case. In the case of WXYZ, it found that more than 90 percent of that newscast’s coverage contained “mayhem.” Sounds like a real bloodbath of a broadcast -- until you look at the actual content.
Keep in mind that this survey, like most, didn’t count time devoted to weather and sports. Everybody in the business knows that weather is what most viewers tune in to see, and in markets like Detroit, sports can be pretty big, too. But, whether the audience considers such stuff news or not, the RMMW survey didn’t. Commercials, of course, didn’t count either, so you’re down to a sample of about 18 minutes.
On the night of February 26, when the Rocky Mountain surveyors watched the late news on WXYZ, two stories combined to take up about eight minutes of that 18-minute sample. Each of the two stories ran about four minutes. Both ended up in the “mayhem” category. One story was about furnace-repair ripoffs; the other about how airplane pilots handle turbulence.
Turbulence in the air gets your attention every time; turbulence on the air can be of great interest to frequent flyers. “Mayhem,” however, means “wanton destruction; violent disorder; havoc” -- at least according to my dictionary. Isn’t it a bit of a stretch to apply that to a report on training for pilots?
Paul Klite says no. He runs Rocky Mountain Media Watch. He says the turbulence story “definitely played on people’s fear,” using terms like “terrifying” and “potholes in the sky.” Now, some potholes are scarier than others. Maybe in the Motor City the word means more than it does here.
But furnace repair? Even in the Midwest, where winter is serious business, does this really belong in the same category as drive-by shootings? Klite says yes, because WXYZ “hyped the story in a tabloid way.”
Now I happen to like newspapers, and I did even before I went to work for The Poynter Institute, the journalism school that owns the St. Petersburg Times. However, it seems to me some papers are a little too quick to criticize their local television stations. They are, after all, competitors for audience and advertising dollars. The Oakland Press, in WXYZ’s home county, gave the “mayhem-index” story front-page treatment. “Study: Channel 7 most violent,” blared the four-column headline. Even Klite thought the paper overdid that a bit. “They were tabloiding the finding. That was very disconcerting to me.”
It was more than disconcerting to WXYZ station manager John Lansing. “You would have thought the Gulf War had broken out again,” to look at the paper, he says. And, in a rebuttal the next day -- also on page A-1 of the Press -- Lansing said of the Rocky Mountain Media Watch report, “We think it’s a bad study. It’s the ugliest thing that can happen to somebody.”
Ugly, and a bit ironic. Several years ago, as a news director at WCCO in Minneapolis, Lansing and General Manager John Culliton (now at KCBS) invented what came to be known as “family-sensitive news.” Acting on input from thousands of viewers, his station dramatically reduced the amount of traditional crime coverage in its newscasts, and edited out much of its graphic video. Dozens of stations nationwide imitated the approach, though none with as much groundwork as Lansing and Culliton had done in Minneapolis.
Now atop the “mayhem index,” Lansing objects strenuously to the conclusion that his new station has the country’s most violent newscast. “The people who performed the study said it should not be used this way,” to scrutinize the work of any one newsroom, he says. And, at least about that, Lansing and Klite actually agree.
“Any one story is open to question,” Klite says. He acknowledges that there might be a better way to examine newscast content. “We are talking a lot about how to improve our methodology... We are definitely re-examining our approach.”
But Klite makes no apologies for his conclusion that crime and disaster are the predominant topics on local TV news. Previous RMMW studies didn’t include WXYZ; Klite says other stations that have been in all three surveys have registered consistent results.
“The idea of the mayhem index was to dramatically pinpoint the propensity to over-cover crime,” he says. “We are very pleased with the results in that respect.”
Rocky Mountain Media Watch has been in operation three years, Klite says. Most of its money, he says, comes from foundation grants; the rest is from individual contributions. Klite describes it as a low-budget non-profit group. He describes himself as a former public radio host, artist, research scientist, and physician. Klite says his days in radio made him realize the power of television -- “and what it doesn’t do.” But he says his days in epidemiology made him realize something else.
“Television is almost a toxin,” Klite says.
Part of the problem, according to Klite, is that human beings are “hard-wired” to respond to threatening or violent images. Such visual and aural messages of “mayhem” affect the body’s autonomic nervous system, he says. And TV spends too much time appealing to that primitive instinct, Klite believes.
He’s not alone, and certainly not the first, in that belief. It’s easy, and these days quite fashionable, to dwell on all that’s wrong with TV news. At Poynter, we focus a lot on the ways television journalists select, pursue, and present their stories. We also direct a lot of energy toward something the “mayhem index” doesn’t cover: practical ways to do a better job. Encouraging and examining new ideas is an important but untidy process that doesn’t lend itself quite so well to snapshot surveys.
Television stations are for-profit businesses with no reason to apologize for wanting to attract customers. Yes, they have an obligation to do more than just generate ratings and revenue. Like lawyers or doctors or even research scientists, journalists are supposed to think about more than making money. That’s why the Constitution grants special protection to their line of work. But it doesn’t mean they have all the answers.
When I was in college, the journalism professors were gruff guys from big daily newspapers, which were more plentiful back then. “News is what I say it is,” they told us. Things have changed. Television stations and even newspapers now listen to their customers. They use market research to do it. And often the guidance they get from that research leads them to extremes in areas like crime coverage. It’s out of vogue to say so publicly, but most research indicates that only weather outranks crime -- specifically how to protect yourself from crime -- among the interests of TV viewers.
At a Poynter seminar a couple of years ago, John Lansing -- the same one whose station now wears the most-mayhem label -- said something I like a lot about the use of graphic video. Somebody had pointed out that viewers watch such material for the same reason drivers rubberneck when they pass an accident on the highway. Yes, Lansing answered, that’s probably true; but it’s not why those drivers chose that road. They didn’t get behind the wheel in hopes of glimpsing a wreck. The highway has a more important purpose.
So does news. And many of those who produce it would really like to learn about better ways to do their job. But there’s nothing in the “mayhem index” for them except the same sort of sloppy research that might have led them to some of their past mistakes.
In fact some television journalists are learning to distrust researchers the way some viewers distrust television. In both cases, the trustworthy suffer with the unworthy. Sue Carter is a Michigan State University professor working under Poynter’s sponsorship and supervision. She wants to look into something a bit more specific than “mayhem.” Carter hopes to examine the way local TV news treats victims of violence. And, because she is nearby and used to work in Detroit television herself, she wanted access to WXYZ’s newsroom. Too bad Rocky Mountain Media Watch got there first. The station is, if you’ll pardon the expression, a bit gun-shy. It’s had enough “research” for a while, thank you.
So, while the broad-brush critics smear the good with the bad in TV news, TV news types begin to fear even legitimate researchers. Nobody gains, with the possible exception of obscure pressure groups that might wring more money out of all the attention they get.
I don’t think pseudo-scientific “indices” and quotable comparisons of TV to toxins are the way to make television news better. I hope that future research and future newscasts will be more accurate and fair. Life is not the cavalcade of crime that sometimes passes for TV news; nor is TV news quite so simple or so evil as you might think if you believe what sometimes passes for research.
(Scott Libin is a former television reporter, anchor, and news director who now teaches at The Poynter Institute for Media Studies in St. Petersburg.)
I've got a problem maybe someone out in Producer Land can help me with. My anchor thinks that if SHE doesn't know something, then obviosuly NO ONE ELSE knows it. Last week, we covered a story about a pipe bomb that was left in a park. In the script I wrote ".. police say the pvc pipe was packed with enough explosives..." She changed the sentence to say "... police say the pipe was packed...," leaving the "pvc" part out. After the show, I shot her a little e-mail note asking why she did this. I explained that I put "pvc" in the sentence to distinguish the pipe from other "metal" or "copper" or "plastic" pipes that people might have. Her response: "BECAUSE I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT "PVC" IS... I'VE NEVER HEARD OF IT BEFORE... AND IF I HAVEN'T, THEN A LOT OF OTHER PEOPLE HAVEN'T EITHER." What do you do?
(Please respond to AJMain@aol.com, with subject line: WHAT'S PVC? for publication next month.)
A NEW PRODUCER SEEKS ADVICE
I am a just-hired morning and noon producer in a small market, and don't get much guidance from management. We don't go live and reporters just do their own thing without much communication. How can I make my newscasts different and interesting every day? The reporters start here at nine a.m.
(please respond with "new producer" in the subject line to email@example.com for publication in the next issue)
(Subscribers offer their advice for the person who wrote in last month. The original letter is quoted:
"Just the other day I got a lecture from a co-worker (a reporter) who told me ... I should just take a reporter's word that they couldn't get a story. I did that, in the first few months I worked there, until I got repeatedly burned by reporters not getting their stories for the day, or the night, and not letting me, the producer, know about it until the very last minute- when I might have already teased it throughout the night. And as it turned out, half the time those stories weren't gotten because the reporting team simply didn't budget their time well, or were too busy relaxing on a lunch/dinner break. Sounds like three problems: poor middle management, a lack of mutual respect, and poor communications. The laziness might be a problem for you, but it's management's responsibility. The mutual respect takes work. Show some and you start to get some back. The best way to do that in my opinion is by solving problem three. Talk to your reporters to see how they're doing. Ask them how strong their stories are and get their opinions on the best way to present those stories. A habit of that give-and-take will go a long way toward stopping unpleasant surprises. It sounds like you also have to work on the rapport with the Assignment Editor or whatever other middle management type is holding the reporatorial reigns and briefing you on what's going on when you come in. I'm the one who must answer if someone doesn't get a story, or video, or correct information.. Again, where's the news management?? it only stands to reason that I question why something "can't" be done. And that has lead to grumbling about my bad attitude and mistrust. Is there anything I can do to resolve this, without resorting to blind trust (since that proved to be a ball-buster)? I can't soften up, but neither do I want continued gossip, more complaints lodged against me, or a hostile working environment with my team."
Team is the key word. Reading between the lines, it sounds like you're not on it. It sounds like it's all of them against you, suggesting you're the common denomintator. Don't use BLIND trust, used INFORMED trust. "How's that story coming? Is it strong enough for the first block? Good job last night, by the way. Great standup." Including reporter input in the decision-making process will invest them in the process, foster mutual respect, and produce superior results. Skip@pol.org Fargo, ND
I went into my first "real job" as a producer scared to death. I knew quite a bit about the business (not as much as I thought I did), and I knew that I was responsible for my show. I took charge from day one, and by day ten or so found myself doing a half-hour newscast on my own -- because my untempered, unwaivering in-charge attitude alienated my co-workers.
Believe me when I say there is nothing worse than working in such an impossible work environment.
Relationships in this ego-filled business can be very touchy -- especially when a reporter or anchor is feeling threatened ... or when you (a producer) are new to the business/newsroom and shift the dynamic of how the newsroom is run. As a producer you know what you want, and you want it your way -- but they want it their way, too. And if your reporters are not working with you -- they WILL be working against you, and they can make your professional life hell if they decide to.
Even though "One of Many Small Market Producers" seems to be plastered squarely onto the bull's eye of reporters' apparent vindictiveness, there is hope! I do speak from experience.
1) Pay attention to the way you talk to the reporters: Could they construe what you say as an order? Do you speak in a condescending tone? Are you threatening their creativity? Do you address the problems you are having with accusations or do you look for solutions?
2) Talk to the reporters: Keep in contact throughout the night, not just in the minutes before the newscast (get your ND to make that mandatory if you need to). If they can't turn a package or a live shot, make sure they do something (unless the story is a total bust).
3) Listen to the reporters: Sometimes a story just can't be pulled together. If they are in a state of despair over getting what you want, ask what they can deliver. Listen to what they are saying, accept it, use it, and encourage them so they will help you do your job. Don't get so caught up in the "this is what I want" state of mind that you rule out any contributions reporters can make (they do know the story better than you most of the time).
4) Appreciate your reporters: No matter which reporters you work with, at sometime they will be so in to a story their report will leave you astounded. Tell them! Tell them what was great. Tell them how much you appreciated "the moment" in the story as not just a producer but a viewer.
5) Encourage teamwork and creativity: Don't think of the newscast as YOUR (singular) show, but as YOUR (plural) show, and let your reporters know. Have discussions about stories -- two brains coming up with ideas for stories and elements are always better than one! Don't knock down the reporter's "fluff" story idea because you want hard news -- listen, discuss, evaluate. Yes, you make the final call (or your EP or ND), but listen first ... if you get a reputation for blasting down ideas or ignoring reporters' thoughts, it will work against you. And the opposite is as true: accept them and their ideas (at least occasionally) work with them, and they will work with you.
I guess the keys here are talk and teamwork. It's possible (though doubtful) that none of this applies. But it is probable that a lot of this is going on, and you may not even notice some of it. So, step back and observe yourself, talk, and listen. Talk to your news director, too -- not only about the problems, but about how you intend to solve them. I lucked out and had a great people-person, problem-solver ND when I was in your shoes, and I hope you are as lucky.
Also, I highly recommend Anonymous Anchor's "Care and Feeding of Your Meat Puppets" article that ran in April. It holds true for reporters in many respects.
This is an age old newsroom conflict found at small, medium, and large newsrooms at stations and networks. Everyone of us who has come through the producer ranks has had to face this basic problem. You are not alone. At the same time this conflict can be minimized! You can have a productive work relationship with reporters and even anchors.
You used some words, like "demands" and "unreasonable", that indicate you may want to look hard at your own approach. Are you allowing your frustrations and the pressure you seem to feel from your boss get in the way? You can learn to work with others in a positive way if you can master "assertive" management skills.
By managing assertively, I mean finding that positive zone between the mind set of a "victim" with no control over the situation or at the other extreme, the angry and aggressive person who deals with problems by verbally attacking those seen as the source of the problem. The assertive person stays calm, keeps their own goals in mind, and refuses to be involved in unproductive win-lose conflicts.
Some of the advice I give in producer workshops starts with your basic approach to the day. Arrive prepared. Know the news thoroughly. Use your time carefully and stay focused. Keep a legal pad with all your story options available to avoid forgetting a story. Take care of the details. Double check everything.
Back time your day. Set deadlines for each task and stick to those deadlines. Timely and careful organization make it easier to recover from a problem and make a quick and good decision.
In the newsroom think of yourself as a team leader. Motivate by being positive and upbeat. Don't complain, stay calm and in control of your own emotions. Don't show frustration. Don't act like a problem is the end of the world or you are swamped by negative problems. Offer solutions, don't just complain. Offer friendly, specific feedback. Don't lose your temper!!!
In working with reporters, remember that you have a totally different mind set about the newscast. The average reporter only sees their part of the overall broadcast. Demonstrate your understanding of their job by knowing their story. Keep current and know the background and history of the story. Know the community and the logistics problems the crew will face in getting the story.
Be proactive. Don't wait for the reporters to come to you. Talk to them about the story before they go out. Write a one line "focus" statement of the story and run it by the reporter to make sure you agree.
Without being obnoxious, always insist on communication when the reporter is headed back from a story so you can double check your story "focus."
In dealing with others maintain a positive attitude.
How do you deal with this current situation? I would suggest you have a conversation with a reporter who failed to deliver. Set aside a specific appointment and do it away from the newsroom.
Start with a statement that you have a problem and you need their help to solve the problem. The problem - she's not getting stories back in time to make air or she keeps going out on stories that don't pan out.
Give them your feelings or reactions - "this is frustrating and hurts the newscast and it is making me and the whole newscast team look bad to the news director."
The solution - ask for their help in solving the problem. "What can be done to get stories done on time or to come up with better stories?"
Before this conversation, prepare and rehearse, through this process listen and watch carefully. Don't be accusatory. In talking specifics, go back over the details and make sure you understand without making any judgemental statements. Work to understand. In developing a solution, agree on a plan of action and obtain a commitment. Follow-up.
If this doesn't work, and it probably won't the first time, go through the entire exercise again. It may take several tries. Be patient. Work to achieve a "win-win" solution. You need a good story for your broadcast and they need to show their professional skill. Remember to provide positive feedback when they do a good job!
If this doesn't work...make one final attempt and warn the reporter you are going to have to discuss this situation with the boss if it doesn't improve. If it doesn't then you must talk to the news director.
Sometimes news directors will try to avoid dealing with this kind of problem. Then you've got to have the same kind of conversation going through the same steps.
There are some good books that will help you manage assertively. "Difficult People...how to deal with impossible clients, bosses and employees" by Roberta Cava, Firefly Books, "Coping with Difficult People" by Robert Bramson, Phd., Dell paperbacks, and "Managing Assertively" by Madelyn Burley-Allen, Wiley.
Hope this helps. Good luck and feel free to call if you need advice. 315-443-4082.
I'm proud to announce that my newscast has won Georgia's Associated Press Broadcasters Award for 1996. The submitted newscast was a live remote from our local civic center where over ten thousand people participated in the NewsCHANNEL 6 Job Fair. It was a smashing success and this May, we were proud to bring the Job Fair back. Mark Rosen Executive Producer WJBF-TV NewsCHANNEL 6 Augusta, GA
On May 10th at the Northern California Emmy regionals, KHNL, the NBC affiliate from Honolulu (70th market), beat out KGO and KRON for an Emmy in the category of "breaking news." In February of 1996 just after 7:00 a.m., John Miranda walked into his former place of employment with a rifle and took several employees hostage. We were the first on air with the story. The gunman later released all but two hostages. This is where it gets interesting. He shot one of the two, who later escaped from the second floor out the window. Miranda then taped the barrel of his rifle to the head of the remaining hostage and taped the trigger to his own finger so if police tried to bring him down his reflex would pull the trigger and shoot the hostage. It became a worldwide television event (aired live on CNN) when the restless gunman, high on "ice", walked the hostage outside down a flight of stairs. The SWAT team locked the door behind him and the whole event played out on live television for more than seven hours under the hot hawaiian sun. It all ended with the hostage tearing himself away while the gunman counted down to a "shoot to kill" deadline. Police then shot and killed the gunman. That part did not air. Viewers only heard gunshots as we took to a cutaway camera. The entire staff deserves the Emmy as we had our GM to our recepionists running cable for our several live shots. Producer David Patterson, EP Alex MgEhee, anchors Dan Cooke and Heidi Umbhau received the statue. We are a new NBC affiliate in Hawaii, just two years on air. We've now received two emmies in those two years. David Patterson KHNL 6pm news producer
I just want to toot my station's horn a little! KTVK in Phoenix has the number one morning show. "Good Morning Arizona" dominates the market. Now for the second ratings period in a row our 5pm show "Good Evening, Arizona" is number one. That means our independent station is kicking network butt. Sorry NBC, ABC, CBS and FOX! Better watch out, now we're focusing on our nightcast "Tonight Arizona"! Laurie Lavagnino, KTVK, Phoenix
ABC 33/40 (Birmingham) Executive Producer BILL SHORY and former 10pm Producer MONICA VIGIL were recently nominated for a Best Newscast Emmy by the Atlanta NATAS Chapter. The Award Ceremony will be held in Atlanta on Saturday, June 7.
ABC 33/40 E.P. BILL SHORY, 10pm Producer CHANDRA SMALLWOOD, and Sports Producer JASON ALLREAD were among those honored by the Alabama Associated Press for Best Coverage of a Planned Event. The winning entry was coverage of the 1996 Alabama vs. Auburn Game in Birmingham. While all Alabama stations offered wall-to-wall coverage, only ABC 33/40 reported the impending resignation of Alabama coach Gene Stallings before the game, and prepared complete coverage for the ten o-clock show. ABC 33/40 also took home awards for Best Spot News Coverage, Best Staff Photography, and Best Reporter.
BILL SHORY also won the Alabama Associated Press Best Documentary award for "Trail of the Twisters," which he produced while at WHNT, Huntsville. Bill spent seven days on the road with photographer Barton Bowers and Chief Meteorologist Dan Satterfield chasing storms through Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas.
ABC 33/40 was recently named "favorite television station" by the Birmingham News Reader's Poll. While that may not seem like such a big deal, it's extraordinary for a station that's been on the air less than nine months, and is competing against former ABC affiliate WBRC, formerly one of the highest rated stations in the country.
In Huntsville, Alabama, WAFF-TV recently won the Associated Press Best Newscast Award. This is the second consecutive win for WAFF.. and makes the third station EP Griff Potter has worked at that has won back-to-back Best Newscast awards. Previously WLWT and WKRN). Griff Potter WAFF-TV Executive Producer
Paul Chen and Dana Holt won Emmys for their 'Affiliate Switch' spots for Fox 19 WXIX in Cincinnati.
WSOC in Charlotte won the Radio-Television-News Directors of the Carolinas "Best Newscast" award for 1996... and won the Associated Press "Best Newscast" Award for 1996.. and won 2nd place "Best Newscast" award for National Headliner Awards. Von Kinloch, EP, WSOC
This is where the Editor gets to brag about her own station: WKRC in Cincinnati won the RTNDA's Best Newscast Award for our region, which includes Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and West Virginia. The station also won 10 Emmys in May. Producer-winners include Lynne Keiser and Doug Stoutenborough, for a "Bengals Beat" Sports Special, and Alice Main (me) for "Weather 101," in the Features/Entertainment and Instructional categories. And finally, we won the ratings race for the early morning, noon, 11pm and weekend newscasts in May. Kudos to all our winning producers: Dave McMullen & Wayne Lorentz (early morning), Carol Thompson (noon), Ted Wilson (11pm), and Nancy Cotter (weekends). Alice Main, EP, WKRC
WDIV-TV in Detroit has promoted MATT FRIEDMAN to 6:00 P.M. Producer, from Noon Producer. Matt has also worked at WSB-TV in Atlanta and WCPX-TV in Orlando.
ADAM SHAIVITZ, weekend producer at WFLA-TV in Tampa, FL, has accepted a news writer position at WJBK-TV in Detroit, MI.
PAUL CHEN has moved from WXIX in Cincinnati, to become the senior producer for ImageMatrix, Inc. It's a company specializing in small to large meeting planning, CD-Rom and Web Page Development for specific clients. He's on the Health Care Team specializing in presentations for Ethicon Endo-Surgery and LensCrafters.
BRAD SMITH is now News Director at 50,000 watt Newsradio 1180-WHAM, Rochester, NY. Brad's a former Senior producer at WHEC-TV 10, Rochester, Executive Producer/Acting News Director at WROC-TV 8, Rochester, and producer at KTBC-TV 7, Austin, Texas (and misses Texas barbecue!).
MARK MOTSKO, from producer, WBAL in Baltimore to Newswriter at the 24 hour cable Fox News Channel, New York City. Prior to working in Baltimore, Mark was the Executive Producer at KMID in Midland Tx. Mark is a '95 graduate from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications of Syracuse University.
AARON WISCHE joins KRIS-TV in Corpus Christi as a producer. Aaron is a May graduate of Syracuse University's Newhouse School.
Producing changes at WKRC in Cincinnati: NANCY COTTER is the new 5:30 pm producer, moving from weekends. Until just a few months ago, she was a producer in Shreveport. TIFFANI SHERMAN will produce the 4pm newscast when it debuts in July. She was a producer at WNCN in Raleigh-Durham. ANGELA HURSH is the new weekend producer, moving from Saturday mornings and fill-in duties. She previously worked at WTOL in Toledo. PAULETTA HAYNES recently became our consumer producer. She comes from WBNS in Columbus, Ohio.
What: Webcasting and Media Convergence on the Internet
This conference is designed to provide media executives from broadcast and cable (networks and stations) and print publishers; the proven strategies for their online presence. It features online, new media and new business executives from CNN, NBC, CBS, Time, Comedy Central, the Los Angeles Times, the Christian Science Monitor, Barron's, the Sci-Fi Channel, the Newark Star-Ledger, Hearst Publishing, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and others sharing their best practices and experience. The sessions on revenue streams, electric commerce arrangements, local and global intersection, building alliances and entering new markets will provide strategies and plans that can be immediately used and benefited from.
Also featured is Chief Executive Roundtable, which will provide you the opportunity to hear the industry leaders' vision on how push and streaming applications and technology can be used for your benefit. Finally, do not miss the return on investment and long term planning workshop offered by the media experts at McKinsey & Company.
PRODUCERS: LOOKING FOR YOUR NEXT GIG?
If the answer is YES to these questions then you'll want to tap into the long list of available broadcast news jobs courtesy of Talent Dynamics of Dallas, Texas. Talent Dynamics is part of the family of media consulting companies that includes Audience Research & Development. AR&D has more than 150 client television stations and Talent Dynamics handles the recruting for those stations, as well as others. Sandra Connell, AR&D's longtime Talent Guru, is President of Talent Dynamics and leads a staff of personnel placement specialists. Check out Talent Dynamic's new web site (www.talentdynamics.com) for the free job listings. While there you are invited to complete your own talent information form so you're included in the job searches conducted by Talent Dynamics.
(Editor's note: If you need more information, call Sandra Connell at 214-630-5097
Am I the only producer who is deeply disappointed in the state of the AP Broadcast Wire these days. I have access to AP ONLINE via my online account, and I check the wires daily at home before going to work. At least once a week I find an interesting story that I want to use, but it isn't on AP BROADCAST. I have even called AP to see if it could be sent to me on the Broadcast Wire, and they say they have no record of the story in their system. Also, are any stations still using UPI ? My station dropped UPI 7 years ago. UPI did a far better job of covering stories throughout California's smaller cities than AP, generally through the use of stringers. Also, AP'S choice of kicker stories is pretty poor, usually 4 or 5 stories a day. UPI used to send 15 or 20. Thanks Ward Koppel KOVR-TV CBS, Sacramento Ward_Koppel@Prodigy.Com (You may respond directly to Ward at his address and/or to the newsletter at AJMain@aol.com.)
This is not an audacious or rash plea for a rethinking of how journalism moves information, but rather, what I hope, an impassioned and fervent attempt at voicing one broadcaster's frustration and inability to understand the path Valley journalists are taking. It wasn't long ago when television reporters like John Wallace, Carol Corey, and Karen Humphrey practiced their craft with skill, depth, and integrity. These days gossip, rumors, and personality are what is being served under the guise of news. Our collective consensus of what qualifies as news and who is allowed to deliver it has changed for the worst.
Like most people who call Fresno home, I accept and tolerate the sometimes surreal, sometimes ignorant, and at times the moronic words and banal images I hear and see in local media. But I'm one of the many who makes a living in television news and am told not to bite the hand that feeds you. But if I don't question it publicly, who will? Local critics aren't, neither are the academics who hide in their offices at Fresno State. Someone needs to speak up about sports editorial on Fresno State selling its soul to hire Tark, about the friendly ten o'clock anchorman telling me twice in one week that our cities are under siege by home invasion robbers when only fourteen out of two million were victimized during the year, and someone needs to publicly criticize the broadcasters we hear on local airwaves, flunkies from other careers like stock brokering or law enforcement, miserably failing in their attempt to bring you the day's news because many don't have a command of the language, no insight, and not even enough skill to get their facts straight.
How many more "television personalities" must we endure? How many more starry-eyed self-centered egoists more concerned with their hair and muscle mass rather than the masses they're hired to serve should we be forced to watch? How many more will trip through Fresno on their way to fame and fortune spewing their ego all over our television screens, privately bashing our City, not concerned with the stories they cover, and more pre-occupied with how much face time they'll get on television till they get to a "bigger market." How many more times must I hear their "chit-chat" and "happy talk" where they truly demonstrate their lack of personality, individuality, and character?
I am usually more tolerant than this, because this is Fresno, a so-called "mid-sized" market, but then comes the day one man buys another man a Pepsi at the Eclipse and suddenly it's news because the man buying a pepsi is a known gambler and the second one is a Fresno State ball player. Rumors and gossip about point shaving are suddenly taking up entire newscasts. Should gossip and rumors be validated this way? How could the highest rated local news organization (FOX) stoop lower than its current tabloidish style and turn its airwaves over to gang-bangers flashing signs and justifying murder? Could the most important story of the day be which mental hospital Steven Diddy (a local reporter who admitted then recanted killing 3-year-old Matthew Moorby) admitted himself to? How much more great wisdom must we hear from the teenage mother of Matthew Moorby? Are we hoping that maybe she'll shed a tear on "live" television. That would make for great drama, wouldn't it? Shared experiences, sensationalism, and destroying reputations, that's what television news must be about in the late 90's. In the days when I chose to pursue a career in broadcast journalism, Karen Humphrey was covering the women's movement and its social, economical, and political dynamics in our lives, Carol Corey and Joanne Corliss were delivering the courts and local government with the accuracy a doctoral candidate would exercise writing a thesis. All that has somehow become a thing of the past, and these days it seems to me getting the story right, use of correct grammar, clarity in diction are second to looks, sensationalism, and profit.
Spew out rumors; sell more papers. Plaster ethnicity instead of talent on the tube, and maybe you'll get bigger numbers and your owner can buy another Lear Jet and maybe more stations. Gossip and sensationalism are tearing away at the fabric of all which is good in each of us and all which is excellent in the Central Valley. Do the men and women who write headlines which paralyze the masses in their homes realize the power of the words they choose? Do they realize they are contributing to our mecca of fear and confusion, paranoia and disbelief?
We live with some two million neighbors in our metropolis of cities, counties, and municipalities, inhaling one another, yet strangers, fearful of the neighbor down the street, afraid to look into the eyes of a stranger at the mall, afraid to smile at the person in line in front of us at the grocery store. Could it be because of the fear created by irresponsible morons we trust with the task of reflecting back the images and the stories of our reality night after night? Knowing good journalism from bad doesn't take genius.
The masters of the trade are available to us just as the local folks are, but the masters go beyond stating the obvious to making the complex and invisible into something public and understandable. The stories they write explore the why's and how's rather than just the what's and when's. Local journalists are always taking the easy way out and repeating the information heard on the police line or telling us the inane like using your low-beams on during foggy conditions and keeping sweatshirts off halogen bulbs. Huh? Gee. Gosh. I don't have common sense and need to be told to not give my credit card numbers out to strangers who call on the phone.
Come on, people. The real stories are not about low beams and pollen counts. Don't waste my time or your pretty smile telling things I don't need or want to know. Tell me about the fearful communities which the media creates beaming into our homes the images of our supposed "culture of violence." If law enforcement officials spew out statistics about lower crime rates, why do we continually become more paranoid, conservative, and defensive with a heightened awareness of every act of violence even if perpetrated between two gang-bangers during a drug deal gone bad. Which moronic businessman gave local television news the task of chronicling every single act of violence and anchormen the right to fuel our fears and paranoia? The issues, narratives, and fables which need to be covered are many; there is the concern of our young people's economic well-being. Will they ever be able to realize the American Dream? What about the future of the family, fear of foreigners and powerful women, the sexual revolution stopped dead by a disease, homophobia, our spiritualistic aspirations, cyber communities and cyberpunk countercultures with their raves and smart drugs, data cops hunting on-line con artists and perverts, fear of big brother, ethnocentrism, and equally as important is the fear of the self and the fear of our true identities? These are the real stories media needs to address for those who watch our screens searching for answers, searching for god, searching for a community, for family, or for inner peace.
Let's use our training, insight, creativity, and discipline to explore the conflicts, hurdles, pains, and dynamics which make the San Joaquin what it is today and the forces which will shape what it will be for our children tomorrow. Let's spend some time and find out why our young people are shooting one another, why they are dropping out of school, and why there is apathy among the masses about their government, their cities, and the stories the media feeds them. The Central Valley deserves better that this, better news coverage, better news people, and better columnists with the talent to help us digest our realities.