The Producer Page: May 1997

IN THIS ISSUE...

  • How NOT To Get a Producing Job
  • Advice Requested on Producer-Reporter Relations
  • Advice on Reporter-Live Shot Involvement
  • More Advice on Live for the Sake of Live
  • Producers on the Move
  • More Headhunters
  • Winning Producers
  • Website for Journalists
  • Mega Job Openings

  • HOW NOT TO GET A PRODUCING JOB
    by Ted Wilson, 11pm/Sr Producer, WKRC-TV

    Bloop-er (blooíper): a blunder, as one spoken over the radio or TV. (Websterís)

    Weíve all had bloopers in our shows at one time or another. And if we are lucky, we can laugh at them. But a blooper in your job search can be costly. The only one who may laugh is the news director who sees it. Many times the mistake is an oversight. Other times, itís ignorance. In either case, it can be the difference between getting a job you really want and your resume being filed "for future consideration" you know where.

    News directors say they are often surprised by how many people do not get simple things right when they apply for a job, such as correctly spelling the news directorís name. Walter Kraft, the news director at WXYZ in Detroit said he often receives resumes addressed to Walter "Craft."

    Using a form letter to blanket a market can be a formula for disaster. Scott James at Joe Barnes & Associates, a former ND at WLNE in Providence, said tapes would arrive addressed to his station, but with his competitorís name on the cover letter. Using old information can also get you in trouble. It pays to call a station to make sure the ND you are writing to is still there.

    "I would sometimes receive stuff for the previous news director even five years after he had left," James said.

    These kinds of errors raise questions about the quality of your work. "After all, what do research skills, accuracy, and attention to detail have to do with producing?" said Scott Libin of The Poynter Institute for Media Studies.

    Common sense goes a long way in a job search. Joyce Reed, the news director at KWTV in Oklahoma City, said sheís had a few people actually make a few of these mistakes during interviews:

    • Picks up Electronic Media magazine and begins looking at "help wanted" page.
    • Doesn't know who owns the television station.
    • Asks the difference between a microwave truck and a satellite vehicle.
    • Says, "but, that's not the way we do it at our station."
    • Notices we have a reporter position open, so submits an application for that opening, too.

    Your resume has to be more than "letter perfect." Tom Dolan at the Broadcast Image Group said many resumes are not assembled logically. Candidates often donít put the important details at the top, he said. As for "fudging" those details, forget it.

    Good news directors are good journalists, James said, and they donít just rely on your references. They will call the competition to ask about your show. And other stations may be more willing than your current employer to talk about you. They have seen your show, and may have heard scuttlebutt about you both personally and professionally. James says "your reputation will come out" one way or another.

    Lyn Tolan, the ND at WLWT in Cincinnati, offers similar advice about detours you may have taken in your career path. If there is something that doesnít make sense, explain it early in the process, she said.

    We may all want to be rich. But trying to get a news director to "show me the money" will probably backfire. Gina Diamante ran into a classic example of a reporter who pushed much too hard for the green stuff while she was EP/acting news director at KADY in Oxnard, California . The person started his cover letter writing that Diamante had better make up her mind quickly if she was interested in him because he was about to sign a new lease. Then, "he went on to tell me that he had been working as a reporter in a small midwestern market, but quit because the job didn't pay well enough." This guy apparently found the money he was looking for in PR. But he still wanted to report and said he deserved a lot more money than Diamante could afford. "Not only did his cover letter ooze greed, but his resume listed every little voiceover job he'd ever done, along with what he was paid, almost to the penny," Diamante said.

    Try to be as objective as possible about the skills you have, especially in big markets where news directors are searching for experienced people.

    "What drives me crazy is people who have no business even applying for a job. They donít have the producing experience to be a producer in this market. They donít understand what it is all about, even in a small market," Kraft said.

    It pays to know as much as possible about the station to which you are applying. Dolan said candidates get an edge if their cover letter shows they know something about the station and have some knowledge of the area as well. That research may also provide a clearer picture of whether that is a place you want to work and a city in which you want to live.

    Sometimes just knowing what the BIG STORY is in the area is a benefit. Reed said job candidates who wonder why her station has a Denver Bureau, or who donít know who Tim McVeigh is, probably should reconsider their desire to work in Oklahoma City.

    In this business, most of us will be fired at one time or another. Itís best not to show desperation when seeking a new position. Be prepared, however, to make a lateral move and to explain it when called in for an interview, Dolan said.

    Kraft said itís best not to indicate that you had problems at your last station, if possible. "It raises a flag regardless of what happened with your previous employer. If you give the impression that you really need a job, it makes one wonder."

    Your cover letter, resume and tape will be the first impression you make on a news director. Libin offers these "tongue-in-cheek" tips to make sure itís also not the last impression you make:

    "Send a tape of the biggest story you've ever covered, or the show you produced the day of either Simpson verdict, the Oklahoma City bombing, or any natural disaster -- even if there was nothing really distinctive about your treatment, compared with everybody else's. The news director has probably never seen this stuff before. If you send some really solid, innovative, enterprise newscast from a more "routine" day, he or she might think you've never had to handle really big news.

    Find some wacky way to deliver your material. In fact, focus more on the zaniness of your approach than the content of your work. A newscast is a newscast. But an aircheck delivered in a shoebox with an actual piece of footwear and a note that says, "Now that my FOOT'S IN THE DOOR.... " Now, THAT will get you noticed!

    Finally, don't wait forever to follow up on that tape you sent and ask if the person doing the hiring has "had a chance to watch it yet." It went out Monday, this is Wednesday -- what else could the news director or executive producer possibly be doing with his or her time besides staring, transfixed, at your work? Surely there can't be other demands on his or her time. What are you waiting for?

    If you do all this, and STILL get a job, then cross out the headline at the top of this piece and make it, "How to find a station where you DON'T want to work."

    Good Luck!


    PRODUCER ASKS FOR ADVICE ON REPORTER- PRODUCER RELATIONSHIPS

    I'm a producer in a small newsroom that has developed a terrible penchant for gossip, tattle-telling, and a lack of professional and even personal respect for co-workers. Just the other day I got a lecture from a co-worker (a reporter) who told me that I simply don't understand the rigors of reporting in the field...and that my demands for the 6:00 and 10:00 newscasts are sometimes unreasonable, and that 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.

    My point is this: I since have become more and more responsible in my boss's eyes for how the newscast looks- from the content of bites to the amount of local sports in the sports segment. Therefore, I'm the one who must answer if someone doesn't get a story, or video, or correct information...and so 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.

    I've resigned myself to living with it, but any advice would be helpful.

    One of Many Frustrated Small-Market Producers

    (Please send replies with "reporter-producer" in your subject line to AJMain@aol.com for publication next month.)


    ADVICE FOR PRODUCER ASKING ABOUT LIVE SHOT/REPORTER INVOLVEMENT

    1) how do you get your reporters and photographers to become actively involved in their live hits, and to accept the responsibility for finding the right place to be live?

    My station has been doing live shots forever, but getting reporters to interact with their surroundings is still a challenge. It takes a reporter who's secure enough to walk and talk simultaneously, a photog who's willing (and steady enough) to get off the tripod even with a cable attached to his/her camera, and it requires firm guidance from producers over a long enough period that it all becomes a habit.

    It's not necessarily the reporter's responsibility to choose where the live shot happens; as a producer, I also have a say in what I think makes the most interesting background (e.g., "at the murder scene, not the police department!"). Of course, I'm flexible, especially when the reporter is gunning just to make slot!

    As you talk with reporters during the day (you *do* talk with them during the day, don't you?), try suggesting props they can use as part of their live shot: crime scene tape, a printout of someone's record. It's your show: take the lead in doing whatever you can to make it look and move the way *you* want!

    2) how do you coordinate the info in the reporters sot with the info in the throw, the info in the reporter's live hit, and the info that can be contributed by the anchor?

    Two steps: 1. know the bare bones of the story before the reporter leaves, if at all possible! That way, you can write a lead-in and toss. If I don't know much, I write a short, fairly generic script. 2. When the reporter calls in close to air time, read them what you've written and ask "is this OK? what should I change?" At my station, this usually happens within 45 minutes of air, when a reporter calls in supers.

    3) Do you engrave procedures in stone? I.e. a set time by which reporters must be ready to be on location, figuring out what they're going to show the viewers? or, a system whereby there's a procedure of who calls who and who decides what?

    No. News is so changeable, there are few rules that seem to work. You should trust your reporter and photog to be aware of what time it is, and emphasize the importance of frequent communication, especially as air time draws closer.

    There are two situations where i worry most: 1. I haven't heard from a crew at all (despite repeated pages), and it's 30 min. or less to air; 2. More than one live shot is coming in on the same receiver, which means feeds need to come in earlier.

    Otherwise, I give my crews room to do what they need to do; in turn, they've learned that if i'm calling them, i must really need to talk to them right then!

    Even so, there are days when the conversation goes like this:

    "hello, live van 1"
    "hi, it's bob. are you guys OK?"
    "well, we're working on it! I just started editing. We'll try to make it-- I'll call you back!"

    This gives me a quick impression, and if they don't call me back, I call them!

    This feeds on itself by leaving the impression with our ground troops that we producers inside the newsroom are going to somehow tell reporters what to do, what to say and where to be out in the field (a pretty silly notion, when you think about it).

    Not a silly notion at all!

    Sometimes the choice of where to do the shot is obvious (say, the huge flaming tire dump). Sometimes it's not (the funeral home, or the school the young victim attended?). But in every case, you're the producer. That means you have the big view of the newscast, and you should have a vision of what the show should look like. Talk to your crews, listen to their opinions, and encourage them to think creatively, but don't be afriad to tell them what to do!

    Whatever you do, *talk* to them, and *listen* to them!

    Tristan Davies
    Raleigh-Durham, NC


    ADVICE ON DOING LIVE SHOTS "FOR THE SAKE OF LIVE"

    I produce the 5:30 & 6 pm newscasts for a small market station. Every day, my news director says,"so where are we going live tonight?" So I know the pressures of management mandate. But as far as I'm concerned, we should NOT go live just because we have the ability to put our truck out there. Granted, there's not a lot of exciting, breaking news in our viewing area, so to hold out for something huge would be stupid -- we'd never be out there! But to go live from some medical conference (a real snoozer) or from the scene of where something happened hours before, is a waste. I argue with my ND about it on a daily basis, unless there is some worthwhile event going on.

    For shops in which the mission is to BE LIVE IN EVERY NEWSCAST: It may help to think of the live locations as simple backdrops for the reporter, instead of thinking of them only as someplace where something is happening NOW. Would you consider putting the reporter in the newsroom to deliver a story? Probably. So why not in front of the hospital where so-and-so is being treated? Why not in front of the house where a 5-hour standoff ended 3 hours ago? While it's always preferable to do a live shot where something's actually happening NOW, a succesful producer needs to buy in to the station's philosophy, and deliver on it in the best way possible. If the news director feels that LIVE is the way to go, then it is our job to make it happen in the most compelling manner possible. It is not our job to fight the philosophy. Some of us will be news directors someday, and THEN we can set the tone for our own news operations.


    PRODUCERS ON THE MOVE

    MICHELLE EMARD joins the Orange County NewsChannel (Southern California) as a news producer effective May 12. She leaves her current position at KGET/Channel 17 (Bakersfield) as producer of the top-rated one-hour morning newscast "Sunrise" at the NBC-affiliate station. Her previous television experience includes newswriting and producing jobs in Washington, D.C. at "The McLaughlin Group," CNN, CNBC and "Fox Morning News"/WTTG.

    Dave Vieser is now the Senior Producer at WSTM-TV in Syracuse. Dave will supervise the early evening editions of Action News, as well as oversee and line produce the 11 o-'clock show. Previously, Dave was the producer of TV-3's hour-long 5 PM show. He's worked at the NBC station since March of 1995. Raycom Media recently acquired WSTM and all other Federal Broadcasting stations. Bill Applegate is the GM at this fast-growing NBC affiliate.

    Matt Parcell moves from Executive Producer, Special Projects at WBNS in Columbus to News Director, Regional News Network, Kingston NY.

    Don Chiodo is the new Executive Producer at WNEM-TV in the Saginaw/Bay City/Flint, Michigan market. He spent 5 years at WPBN TV in Traverse City, Michigan prior to taking a PR job with Central Michigan University for the past year.

    Robin Radin is the new weekend evening producer at KGTV in San Diego. She just left the same position at WLWT in Cincinnati.

    N. Barry Carver ( notice the initials... ) Senior Producer at NewsSource NBC16 Eugene (KMTR) Was promoted ( curiously enough one week before may sweeps? ) from 5:30 and 6:30 producer to 5:30 and 11pm producer... After rocketting the new 6:30 into ratings numbers KMTR had never reached before it's hoped that he will be able to do the same for our new 11 @ 11 late news format... while continuing efforts to solidify our 5:30 position. While a versatile reporter, Barry's talents lean more toward feature reporting and talk hosting... his ready wit makes any amount of repartee sparkle... He is easily the best writer in the shop and hopes to move to market 35 or better right after the May numbers come out... we're sure those numbers will add substantially to Barry's track record. Feel free to contact him at his resume page:

    http://www.ultimatetv.com/VirtualAgent/N.BarryCarver.html or E-mail at TheBest@broadcast.net


    MORE HEADHUNTERS

    Resumes only please: (no tapes)

    Douglas Drew
    Senior News Consultant
    McHugh and Hoffman
    14406 S. Canyon Drive
    Phoenix, AZ 85048

    TALENT DYNAMICS

    Talent Dynamics is responsible for producer, management and talent recruiting for nearly 200 television stations and television program producers. Led by veteran head hunter Sandra Connell, the Talent Dynamics staff serves the client stations of Audience Research & Development, the Dallas-based consulting firm, as well as other clients. Send letter, resume and a 1/2" videotape representing your producing skills to:

    Talent Dynamics
    8828 Stemmons
    Dallas, TX 75247


    PRODUCERS WHO'VE WON SOMETHING!!

    Chip Wallace, freelance journalist, recently won a Golden Mic for his contributions to KNBC's live coverage of the Olympic Centennial Park Bombing. He's also been nominated for an Emmy for the same story.

    The California-Nevada Associated Press Television-Radio Association has named Kathy Kiernan winner of "Best News Writing" award for major market radio. Awards to be handed out in San Francisco April 19th. Kiernan is a writer/editor/producer for KNX Newsradio, 1070AM, Los Angeles (a CBS O&O).



    JOURNALIST WEBSITE

    Bob Hirschfeld of KTVU in Oakland has compiled a list of resources for journalists, titled, appropriately, "Journalist Resources." As he puts it, "the idea is: how can I find details and facts for a story that airs in an hour or so... how old is Boris Yeltsin?? Or where is the Pepsico Corp headquartered?" You can find out that and more by calling it up. In fact, it would be a nice addition to your "Favorite Places." Check it out.



    HIRE ME!

    Associate Producer looking to make the move into broadcast news. Currently employed/imprisoned in a Public Relations firm. Two year sentence nearing completion. Experience with Writing, Firecting, Editing (linear and non-linear) and Producing long and short form projects, including radio spots, video news releases and special events videos.

    Immediate goal involves obtaining a comprable position with small market television station. Creative, aggressive and willing to relocate. Contact Marc Steinberg at (202) 232-8883 or P.O. Box 33006, Washington, DC 20033.