The Producer Page: March 1998


  • Winning the Morning Meeting
  • Emergency Nine Inch Nails
  • Readers Respond to Anchor Who Switched to Producing
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    By Paul Dughi

    I always knew that if I left the morning meeting and had a lead story and something promotable, I would have a pretty good newscast that day. First and foremost, make sure you never leave the table until youíve got a pretty good idea what those two stories are going to be. If things change, go with it. But if they donít, I always want to be the one with the plan.

    We all talk about ďwinning the lead.Ē Before you can do that, however, you have to WIN THE MORNING MEETING. Regardless of who runs your meeting, every producer present has an obligation to push the agenda of their newscast and their newsroom philosophy.

    Here are 10 tips for making the editorial meetings more productive.

    1. Understand your customer. Make sure everyone knows whoís watching your news and when! One way to do this is to make sure your management team shares the audience information from rating books and research. You can write a story in many different ways. But if you think about whoís watching your newscast, and how they might benefit from hearing that story, it makes it a lot easier to write.

    2. Take a moment to celebrate your success. While youíre in the booth, your fellow producers are getting their newscasts ready. Most of your reporters or photogs are out in the field or busy during the newscast. So a lot of the good things that happen when youíre on the air never get seen by the rest of the newsroom. Let them share in the success by starting every meeting by talking or showing the things you did the day before that worked. Itís a great way to keep the good ideas coming, give some people (including you) some credit, and to reinforce what you want in your newscast.

    3. Everybody gets assignments before the meeting. Not just beat calls and regional newspapers, but specific assignments such as morning drive radio, web sites, magazines, morning video feeds, lead-in program focus. Maybe you divide up additional responsibilities, too: like having someone responsible every day for finding something to build Anchor Credibility. Maybe youíre the Producer of the 5PM, but your also the Producer in charge of Memorable Story Telling.

    4. Donít let the daybook dictate your coverage. Too many meetings become a list of the daybook. Your Assignment Editor should be one resource, but not the only one. Start with what you bring to the table, then discuss whatís on the news agenda. As the Producer, itís your job to come with ideas and identify the stories you want in your newscast.

    5. Find the TWPATA every day. Thatís What People Are Talking About. Make sure your newscast reflects it!

    6. Find the WIIFM in every story. Whatís In It For Me? Thatís what your viewers ask when they hear a promo, tease or lead-in. If you canít answer that question, ask yourself if the story should be in your newscast. Use the WIIFM to focus your story and develop a specific story treatment before leaving the meeting.

    7. Find your POD. What are your Points-of-Differentiation in your story treatment. Not just a different production technique to tell your story, but an editorial point of difference. You need to find substantive, promotable points of difference between different newscasts and what your competitors will do. It makes writing those tease much easier!

    8. Define it & sign it. Take input from everyone, then commit to a story focus, production, and angle. Post it in the newsroom and get your field crews to literally sign it if you have to. Get everyone to make a commitment! If it changes later, everybody will know to communicate the change. By getting consensus agreement, if you end up fighting with the reporter or anchor later on about it, youíll have support.

    9. Divide and conquer. Use the rest of the ideas throughout the newscasts instead of just repeating the same stories in different forms. Save the good ideas that donít get done today and carry them forward for another day. What might not be good enough today might be a great idea tomorrow.

    10. The Tomorrow Producer. One producer needs to be responsible for looking ahead. Have a brief brainstorm every morning about upcoming stories or events so you can get a jump on producing the next day or next weekís news coverage.

    Manage your ideas throughout the day, be flexible as things happen and stories evolve, and make sure youíre consistent with your stationís image and goals.

    Donít wait for the News Director or E.P. to tell you to do these things. Get the producers in your newsroom together and decide to take charge. Itís up to you!

    Paul Dughi is the Director of The Producing SchoolSM at The Broadcast Image Group. He conducts training seminars for News Directors, Executive Producers, and Producers across the country. He has worked as an Anchor, Reporter, Photographer, Producer, Executive Producer, and most recently as News Director at KHQ-TV in Spokane, Washington and WBNS-TV in Columbus, Ohio. Dughi can be reached by phone at (210)828-6664 or e-mail at


    Don't know if this qualifies as a distant cousin to the "I can't believe they said that on the air" column, but I Just received the following fax from the EAS (Emergency Alert System - formerly known as the EBS or Emergency Broadcast System) Emergency Management office:

    "The EAS test for the Greater Capitol Area EAS for February 2 was initiated by Silver Falls 9-1-1, but not transmitted from Channel 32 due to confusion over the date. It will be reinitiated tonight between 0040 and 0100 by Silver Falls 9-1-1.

    "This apparently was not the only problem with the EAS test schedule last night. According to the Portland EAS list server, the Portland- Vancouver test went out last night as an evacuation notice, with the audio portion consisting of the hard-rock song, "You're Going To Get What You Deserve" by Nine Inch Nails."

    You just can't make this stuff up.

    Steve Klotz, Production Manager, KWBP TV 32, Portland, OR



    To the Anchor who really wants to be a Producer,

    I, too, made that jump nearly four years ago and while the first few months were awkward, it really was easier than you might think.

    I was the main weeknight anchor at the NBC affiliate in Dayton, Ohio for four years when during an ownership change, I found myself without a job. The ABC affiliate in town hired me to be a reporter but during my six-month non- compete period I found myself producing the 6:00 PM news. During my years as an anchor, I often produced for myself and really enjoyed it. But the main anchors at my new station were more than a little skeptical that I could handle the job. It didn't take long for them to realize that since I used to sit in the anchor chair, I knew exactly what they needed from me during breaking news situations, or when things started going wrong. I also knew how to write clear, concise copy that was easy for them to read.

    It worked out so well that when I went back on the air, I didn't find it fulfilling anymore. A short time later, I went back to producing and am now the Executive Producer at the same station. I truly love being able to have control over a newscast and to try new things. It's a great feeling to sit in the control room and see all of your hard work come together in a great newscast. I wouldn't want to be doing anything else.

    Tina Rezash Rogal Executive Producer WDTN-TV


    Thanks to everyone who answered my request for anecdotes about the news services. I'm going to wait another month before putting the story together (and you'll see why shortly), but here's a very brief sampling of some of the comments I've received so far:

    "(CBS) NewsPath's field staff seems puny compared with NBC News Channel's; their support and coordination of affiliates attempting to work together in the field is non-existent."

    "CNN News Source [sic] is good, but never great. They sometimes don't know where their own reporters will be and whether they'll be available for a live shot at a given time."

    "CNN's Skip Loescher is a Hall of Famer who I often use instead of a CBS Newspath correspondent if they are both on the same story."

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

    "Until recently NewsOne was not very good at providing scripts for packages, but they are now showing great improvement."

    "Last Friday, when I was attempting to coordinate coverage of a story, CBS hung up the phone on me, and then, upon my calling back, would not answer the phone."

    "I believe the true colors come out on the slow news days, when all of us lowly producers are struggling to turn out newscasts that are interesting and impact our viewers. That's when NewSource really shines."

    "I have thoroughly enjoyed Newschannel and Newspath--both have compentent reporters you can count on for either generics or custom live shots."

    "The Fox news feeds are pretty much useless. I stopped using Fox generic reporter hits because too often the live shot -- with not much notice -- just wouldn't be there."

    "I have never trusted Conus very much so don't use them except for emergencies."

    I think you can see where this is headed. That's why I want to open it up to more comments before trying to write a meaningful and possibly even helpful story. I need to hear from more local news producers, and I also need to hear from the network side.

    • Why can't you always have the best live shots?
    • Why can't you be where the news is?
    • Why can't you provide verbatims for sound bites?
    • Why can't you cover stories on your own, without relying on the local stations?
    • How are you making improvements?
    • What can local newsrooms do differently to make your service better?

    If you can answer any of those questions, reply to me at, with AFFILIATES in the subject line. Your comments can be used anonymously, but you will need to tell me who you are so I can be certain you're authentic.


    John Daenzer becomes the 10 p.m. producer at WCCO-TV in Minneapolis, from supervising producer at WISH-TV in Indianapolis.



    Are you currently a TV news producer or looking to move into TV news production? If so, you don't want to miss this new opportunity offered by the Radio and Television News Directors Foundation. The Producers Workshop will be held April 3-5, 1998 in Syracuse, NY. This workshop, co-hosted by the Syracuse University Newhouse Journalism School, will provide hands-on training in writing, people skills and production techniques. A $50 dollar registration fee ($40 for RTNDA members) includes two nights of housing, meals and seminar materials. Register today -- the deadline is March 13! Only 20 full-time news professionals (working in television) accepted. Registration is on a first-come, first-served basis, with only two spots per station guaranteed. For more information and an application, contact Michelle Thibodeau at (202) 467-5206, or e-mail: You may also refer to RTNDF's web site at to download applications.


    Vanderbilt University, with support from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), is pleased to offer a four-day fellowship for working journalists interested in learning more about the challenges facing our nation's young people. The program, organized around the theme "Strengthening America's Youth", will be held on the Vanderbilt campus in Nashville, Tennessee, March 23-26, 1998. Vanderbilt is a national leader in research, education and public service in the area of children and youth. This fellowship covers a wide variety of issues, including discussions with noted experts on youth violence and aggression, early childhood brain development, early intervention, family involvement in schools, and teacher education. Fellows will includes panel discussions, one-on-one conversations and site visits to to the Metropolitan Nashville Juvenile Justice Center and successful community/family initiatives. The Fellowship is available to a limited number of reporters and editors at newspapers or magazines with circulations of more than 200,000; broadcast media in major markets; and freelancers with substantial experience in the field. Vanderbilt University will cover the costs of room and meals for the fellowship; news organizations will be responsible for travel expenses to and from Nashville. For further information, contact Jean Moore at 615-322-2706 or <>, or visit us on the web at

    Item forwarded by Board of Governors, Nashville/Midsouth Chapter, The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.


    NATIONAL TV NEWS PRODUCER Looking to move from non-network news service to network. Seven years experience both local and national. Public and commercial. From radio to White House beat. Lots of hustle and tenacity. Great deal of national political knowledge. Willing to relocate. Anxious to travel. Respond to


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