TV news is, in my opinion, the ultimate team sport. No one person can get a show on the air by herself. It takes the collective vision, expertise and effort of dozens of people to craft our 30-minute newscast and make each element ready for air.
Communication is, of course, crucial in this effort. As a producer, you can have the greatest idea, but if no one knows about it or understands what you want, it will almost certainly turn out differently than you pictured. In short, being on the same page with every member of your team is essential.
That "on the same page" communication is important in a day-of-air context. And that was certainly part of my day on Wednesday – it always is. But a kind of communication I found myself depending on even more was leadership, management and teaching oriented.
Team Wednesday is lucky to have a very eager and talented group of multimedia journalists (MJs) who come in at 3 p.m. That's not to say the morning MJs aren't wonderful – they are. But I've found myself working mostly with the 3 p.m. group, and I've been impressed.
These students were all brand new to the Media Center just eight weeks ago – some of them were new to TV altogether. But in these past two months, they've learned a lot. They're mindful of the editorial, thinking about what shots are the right ones to include in a story and matching video to scripts that were written earlier in the day. They've picked up the technical side quickly too. They know how to use our Fork system and Premiere editing. They know how to export video. They know how to put their final elements into the iNews software that we use. I can feel confident giving any one of them a video to edit – I know they'll complete it quickly and do it correctly from start to finish.
There are some other students on the team who have more intense requirements and who work on TV less frequently. Understandably, they aren't as quick with the editorial or the technical as my wonderful MJs. They just haven't had the practice and repetition.
This week, we had a lot of last-minute videos being edited or fixed. There were a lot of fires that needed putting out in the edit bay before the show. My attention, during the last hour before going on the air, was mostly focused on making sure those big technical problems that were mostly out of everyone's control were brought to the attention of the only people who could fix them.
But that didn't leave a lot of time for me to walk these less-practiced students through the step-by-step of exporting a video after I approved it. I remember stressing in the edit bay at 5:05, with so many videos offline, and a student asking me to show him how to send video again. But just out the door was one of our MJs, wrapping up another task I had given her. I called her in and asked her to help the student.
I stepped away to help someone else, but I was watching out of the corner of my eye to make sure the pair was on the right track. I heard the MJ ask all the right questions: "Did Sam approve this? What's your placeholder called? Are you sure that's the right name?" And then she showed the student how to export, trouble-shooting why the proper panel wasn't visible, then walking through what to click and which options to select. Then they walked out, and the MJ helped the student put in the running time of the sound bites, the total running time (TRT), the lower third CGs and outcue to finish the story.
I double-checked their work after to be safe, and everything was exactly how it was supposed to be.
I wouldn't trust every first-semester MJ to do this, but I was really pleased and relieved that the MJs I did ask did such a good job. It gave me time to identify some of the bigger technical problems and make sure the right information was communicated to tech supervisor, Tom, so the issues could be fixed. And it gave these MJs a chance to build their communication skills. They were positive, constructive and helpful to some very stressed reporters (who were several years their senior) and they made sure their assignments were done correctly.
Part of my job as a producer is certainly to communicate my vision and the vision of others so we can get on the air. But I think it's also important to make sure the youngest members of our team are communicating with each other and with me in a constructive way. It was a huge help in crunch time on Wednesday. And I think it helped these students feel like a valuable part of the team.