Maybe there was miscommunication between producers and multimedia journalists (MJs) or reporters about the story angle or what footage needed to be captured out in the field. Perhaps a story that was planned to be at the top of the show fell through with less than an hour to showtime. It may even be breaking news that changes the entire direction of the newscast, as it did for our Thursday See it Live team on the morning of the Saugus High School shooting. Flexibility is a key quality for a leader in any field but, to be a great producer, we must take it one step further. Producers should not only accept the change; we must also lean into the change and make it our own.
As a producer, anticipate change and prepare as much as possible, if at all feasible, for change. With so many moving elements and reporters contributing to our show, change is inevitable and has presented itself in so many forms. I remember anxiously waiting with reporters for packages (PKGs) that were being loaded minutes before showtime on computers that were not responding. Technological issues, unfortunately, seem to happen quite often whenever time is of the essence. In these cases, patience and determination when sending the video story to the server are equally as important as constant communication with the lead producer. This way, wise decisions about whether the package will be loaded in time and if its placement in the rundown should be moved further down can be made together. Another instance involved a live shot where we could not establish connection with the TVU live-shot operator and reach our live correspondent, Hunter Patterson. Whenever possible, producers should have a back-up plan. For instance, live shots always have back-up scripts. This way, the story can air with our usual anchors in the studio and no momentum is lost.
However, the biggest, most unexpected change of plans happened on Nov. 14, the morning of the Saugus High School shooting. This was a change that none of us could have anticipated. In fact, Nikki Walker (my co-producer), Zoe Ginsberg (executive producer) and I had planned to center the theme of our show on the latest on President Trump’s impeachment inquiry. But, when this change did happen, the question that immediately popped in my mind was, “How will I respond as a producer?” For leaders in the newsroom, quality storytelling is always one of our top priorities so I was immediately logged into several news sites to keep updated on any new developments and reading up on the facts that were established. Listening was such an important part of that day, whether it was to updates from our reporters, to our team members about their takes on how to report on a school shooting or to the survivors and loved ones of victims that we talked to out in the field about what we should know. I remember communicating with our reporters in the field to ask what was happening at the school, the hospital and the general area. Their informational updates came in more quickly than updates from news outlets and, at times, were more accurate because different news organizations were giving conflicting reports at times. During our morning pitch meeting, I also remember deciding as a team to not report the shooter’s name to prevent the copycat effect of fame-seeking shooters and especially out of respect for the victims, survivors and their loved ones. But, on that day, I also wanted to ensure that checking in on the well-being of our MJs, reporters, anchors and the rest of our show crew would be a priority too. Covering school shootings has never been easy and, for those who have been affected by them, may be triggering in ways that others who have not gone through the same tragedy cannot understand.
Prepare for change as much as possible and, when really unexpected change happens, lean into the change and communicate with your team members. This is how we can best share other people’s stories and do them justice, and how we can keep going as a team when the road is a little rockier than usual.