In the spirit of transparency, it’s been incredibly difficult doing something new or interesting as a producer for Annenberg TV News, and I haven’t done the best job at it. A lot of times anything different comes from someone else who mentions that small adjustment and I go with it.
For example, on our show about the Getty Fire, we used a rail, which is a box graphic on screen over video that can be a list of whatever you want. We used it to give the latest updates on the fire as it happened. That was new and I got good feedback from other producers, but it didn’t feel totally different. We’ve also gone straight to live shots from the opening lines of the newscasts in previous shows, which might drive viewership since it’s a way of keeping any viewers that we currently have interested.
Other than that, this most recent week I was video producer and my first social idea was getting vertical video and pictures from the Latin Grammy’s 20th anniversary event. That would have a clear lead-in to the show and draw viewers, but unfortunately our reporter who was doing it got sick and had to go home. I think if I had another shift as video producer, something like that could really work, since our reporters—myself included—are typically too busy working to have time to promote the show.
“Too busy working” seems to be the mantra for many people doing anything outside of tasks directly related to the show, since we are all doing our best to make sure we take care of our duties. Because of that, I think my co-producer Joliana and I prioritize putting together a clean, well thought-out show rather than spend precious minutes debating a segment or new presentation.
That being said, I know the value of being new and interesting. We’re starting to get to the point where we can now try things because we’ve gotten more comfortable, which admittedly may have taken longer than it should have. This week, for the first time, I was done editing all the videos but one by 4:45 p.m. and was able to copy edit scripts and double check to make sure everything was accurate.
Going off that timeline, if I was video producer next week, I would try something new, because I now know that I have another 45 minutes of time that I’ve gained since the beginning of the year. However, next week I will be the lead producer for the final time, so I will promise myself to make a final push for something new on the show—if simply a different start to the show or a different end—even if it means a mistake.
I do hesitate to make major changes to the show, however. I think this is because I’ve only watched news in big markets, like the Bay Area (my home) or Los Angeles (where I currently live) and the producers, reporters and anchors rarely make big blunders or try out things that haven’t been tested before. That’s something I would like to see less of and avoid myself—cringeworthy moments.
When I watch John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight, there will sometimes be segments where the show highlights local news stations doing incredibly awkward or not well thought-out things. While I understand the need to be funny and relatable, there comes a point where I think it can be overdone and get in the way of the news and credibility. Once you become a meme, it’s hard to live that down.
I believe the right combination of professionalism and friendliness, quality stories, and enticing graphics are what will grab viewers not only now, but in the future as well. The lines between too professional and too casual, or too graphics heavy versus no graphics can be tough to toe, but I think when it comes to getting viewership, producers have to push themselves as far as they can go.