The night before my first show back in September, I frantically texted my former producer and friend Yannie Hoang. I had just finished putting together story pitches for the following day when I suddenly realized that I had no idea what I had gotten myself into. I didn’t know how I was going to produce an entire newscast, much less be a leader to the multimedia journalists (MJ) that would be coming in for their shifts.
Yannie produced See It Live a year ago when I was an MJ, back when we still worked in the Media Center. I remembered that from the very start she was always so calm and poised — I wanted to be the kind of producer she was.
Yannie wrote me paragraphs of advice, a kind gesture, but in some ways it was a reminder that I was forging a new path. Yannie didn’t know what it would be like to produce a newscast completely remotely. No one really did.
I won’t pretend that producing is easy. In many ways, it’s exactly as hard as it sounds. But it’s also easy to forget that one of the many joys of producing is that you are never alone, even if you’re working over Zoom. My incredible team and executive producer, Alex Song, were always by my side every step of the way.
If you’re itching to produce, I have so much to share from my experience this semester, starting with my first piece of advice: befriend your team early on. I find that when I’m producing, it’s so easy for me to get wrapped up in the stress of the show. I could easily just bark out orders over Zoom. However, I believe that a good show is only possible with a motivated team. When our MJs come in throughout the day, I always make the effort to take a breath and greet them before assigning them for their shift. It’s a small gesture, but it’s an easy way to make everyone feel welcome.
Early on in the semester, I found that one mistake I constantly made was forgetting that many members of my team were brand new to their roles. I would assign them to edit a video or write scripts without explaining how, leaving them confused. While you may want to get assignments out of the way quickly so you can focus on other parts of your show, taking the time to explain and answer their questions will save you time and frustration later on.
I’m not naturally a very trusting person, but when it comes to producing, building trust with your team is important. Many times during production, I’ve been tempted to just do everything myself, especially if an MJ comes back with a script or video that looks different from what I pictured. But I couldn’t put together a show by myself even if I tried, and being able to trust that your team will take your ideas and turn them into amazing stories is essential.
Finally, don’t be afraid to acknowledge how strange and sometimes sad it is to produce a show remotely. It will feel weird to be on Zoom all day, and you will miss the experience of running around the Media Center. But, I want to challenge you to use it to fuel your work. There are so many interesting stories to be found on social media and through word of mouth from your friends. There are so many opportunities to be creative in your storytelling. Think about what you can do to capture this unique experience in all of our lives.
If you do find yourself in my position next semester, or even in the future, know that you are following the footsteps of some incredible people who inspire the work that I do, like my friend Yannie. You will face some new challenges (who knows what this year will throw at us next), but all of us former producers have your back, and you will have an incredible team who will get you through every show.