If there was one sentence to best describe producing at ATVN for anyone taking the class in following semesters, it would be, "the day is both a marathon, and a sprint." When you walk out of the morning meeting, you'll feel confident that you are sending your multimedia journalists (MJs) and reporters to their respective stories, and ready to build the rundown. As a lead producer, it is crucial that you build your rundown early, so your teammates can help you execute your show.
Communication must be constant with everyone around you, whether it is your executive producer, teammates, anchors or reporters and MJs out in the field. It is important to consistently check in with everyone. I found it helpful to text my reporters at least every 30 minutes while they were out on a story, asking what they had and if they needed any help. The day will slip away fast. Before you know it, it's 1:30pm, and you are meeting with Stacy to go over your rundown. Before you know it, the anchors are in the studio and the show is in run throughs. There will always be minute details to work on throughout the day, such as designing a graphic or picking the best sound bite, but there will also be times when you must think about the flow of the entire show.
For the class, you must write at least one story, and possibly teases, depending on your position in the rotation. When it comes to this, write your story as early in the day as you can. The last thing producers need is to be caught up in one particular story when they have to worry about all 30 minutes of their live show. The show is live at 6pm, and there are no second chances. This means checking work, copy editing stories and approving video with the correct audio levels. There were countless times throughout the semester when MJs would leave at the end of their shift without telling the producers what needed to be done with their story. In order to prevent this, try to develop a relationship with these underclassmen. We've all been in their shoes, and at first the four-hour shift can be daunting. The show will always be better when people want to come in to help.
I have one huge piece of advice for whoever works as a digital graphics teammate: get your digital video done as soon as possible. Depending on the topic of the video, this position is either the easiest or hardest out of the three. Personally, I found it to be the hardest. You are essentially removed from the production of the show for several hours to make a digital video for social platforms. It is best to straddle this video and the graphics role throughout the day. However, by 3:30pm, it is essential that the broadcast becomes your main focus. The digital producers are there to help you finish your video, and you can work with them to make sure the video is done on deadline.
Once it gets later in the day, the studio crew comes in. The director will have lots of questions for you, and you should be able to have all of the answers. They are responsible for making your show go on air, and therefore must know every single aspect of the rundown to execute your vision. If you don't understand certain aspects of how the control room works, I would highly recommend talking to the director and asking him or her to show you all of the possible elements you can add to your show. About halfway through the semester, I realized we could put a live shot in the desk monitor. I loved how this shot looked, and told the director I wanted to include our toss to a live reporter with that reporter in the shot, on the monitor, while our anchor was in the foreground at the desk.
Obviously there are certain conditions you can't control. The show would run much more smoothly if there were simply more bodies. Personally, I worked on days when we would often only have one or two MJs for the entire day! While this can be a struggle, you have to make the most with what you have.
There are certain conditions you can control. I found that time management was crucial, and making a checklist helped me ensure that everything was finished in a timely manner. I would also heavily suggest treating your MJs with respect and courtesy. While this may seem like a given, you want them to feel comfortable in the media center, and to feel confident that they have the opportunity to move upwards in the ranks of Annenberg Media in the future. For reporters, there is no such thing as too much video when shooting. For producers, there is no such thing as too much communication. It is essential you know the elements and progress of every single story in your rundown, including weather and sports.
That being said, there is nothing more rewarding than watching YOUR show go on air. There is no better feeling than seeing stories that you cover simultaneously airing on the major networks. Taking J403 was one of the best choices I made at USC.