This semester wrapped up in a special way: my team didn’t get to enjoy a photo op in the studio so we scheduled a Zoom call and tossed up paper (as though we were throwing up our scripts on the set) announcing the end of our last Monday show. Looking back, there were a lot of memorable experiences that will serve me in the long run as a producer and journalist.
But I do wish someone had told me a few things before I dove into day-of-air production. Trying to come up with story pitches, assigning jobs to certain people, and crafting the rundown, you may feel like your day as a producer never ends. Or you may find yourself begging for more time at the end of the day because there could always be a better-written script or a stronger soundbite to edit. You may feel overwhelmed, but your goal is to get a solid show on the air. Here are some tips to stay strong mentally as a producer.
Be considerate and mindful. As a producer you want to take ownership of the newscast, so you’re supposed to be on top of all the stories and the angles to approach them. You need to be clear about what you want for a video or an interview when talking to student journalists, but it’s also important to acknowledge that they might have no idea what is going on before entering the Zoom chat or the media center. Very often your attitude and approach with multimedia journalists determine how they work on a story; putting yourself in others’ shoes is essential to building a strong, productive team.
Work against the clock. A news show that goes live at 5:30 p.m. means no matter how great a story is, if the footage doesn’t come in time then it won’t make air. Even though there were fewer harsh deadlines and stress with remote production during the second half of the semester, there were some issues. People were sometimes late or less motivated. You should be conscious of setting specific deadlines for the team and check in with your reporters periodically so you have the latest information on their stories.
Stay motivated yourself. It’s unclear now whether we will come back to the studio or keep working remotely in the fall. No matter how the workflow changes, you should be ready for all kinds of challenges. There’s no use blaming anyone, including yourself. Finding solutions is part of your job as a producer.
One last friendly reminder - don’t skip meals on your day-of-air, because #mediacenterdiet, created by tech supervisor Tom Norris, is no longer a trend, or at least I hope not. You will need food and fuel for what will likely be a busy day producing a newscast.