When you tour a country a week before President Obama makes a historic visit, make sure to share that experience with your producing team because it might become a backup idea for the newscast.
In broadcast television, we always want to convey a story in various unique ways. When all the other news stations are broadcasting about Obama's historic visit in Cuba, we wanted to cover the news in a different and more USC-related way. Initially, our idea was to invite a USC professor to the studio as a live guest who could comment on the visit from an expert's point of view. Our Multimedia Journalists reached out to a couple of International Relations professors from USC's Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. Yet, by 2 p.m., we still received no replies. So the team decided to go a different route—invite students who have recently visited Cuba as live guests.
As we were pressed on time, our lead producer, Abby, asked if my two Chinese friends could do a live interview in the studio about their experience in Cuba. I immediately texted my friends, Kaitlyn Shao and Rita Li. They are undergraduate students studying Business Administration and Biology respectively at USC. I first spent about an hour persuading them to do the interview as they refused to appear on camera. After they finally agreed to be our live guests, I coordinated with them about the time and location of our show.
One thing that I repeatedly stressed was the time of arrival. The timing for broadcast television is one of the most critical elements for the show. Contrary to classes or business appointments, television cannot have a delay in its airing time, which many guests from other fields don't quite know about it, especially if it is their first time in the studio. So arriving ON TIME is a critical thing to remind guests who are coming in.
Frankly speaking, this was our last option for live guests, but this may have been even better and more interesting than inviting an expert to analyze Obama's visit, which had happened many times already at major news stations.
So, always have a backup plan, but don't hesitate to think outside the box; you don't have to invite experts all the time for live shots.