When I registered for this class to become a producer I still had hopes that we would be in person. The university was hinting at possible hybrid classes that would permit access to the media center for some students. But that never happened, so I had to learn what it meant to produce a show less than a foot away from my bed.
Producing, especially remote producing, can be a difficult and time consuming job. Even if you come to love the job as I have, you’ll have moments when you have to keep your mental and physical health in check. I hope this survival guide will prepare you for a semester as a remote producer so that you can come to enjoy this position a lot earlier than I did.
Survival tip one: Set early expectations
Set early expectations for both the people you work with and yourself. It’s especially important to set early expectations for the multimedia journalists who work with you, since many of them don’t have experience working with Annenberg TV News (ATVN).
From proper video formatting to reaching out to a diverse group of sources, it’s important that you establish certain expectations early on. Not only will it make your life as a producer much easier as your journalists learn to follow proper procedures but it will also allow them to develop habits that will make them more effective for independent projects they may pursue outside of ATVN.
It’s also important to set expectations for yourself. Don’t expect to efficiently produce a show on your first try even if you do have a lot of experience in the media center. Producers have lots of responsibilities that can take time to learn. While I have faith that you all will become amazing producers by the end of your semester, I don’t expect you to know everything when you begin. The first couple of weeks are a process of trial and error, learning and practicing the basics.
Survival tip two: Figure out your leadership style
One of the most valuable skills you will learn in this class is what kind of leadership style you possess. While there’s no inherently superior way of leading your team, it’s important to figure out which approach best works for you. Whether you decide to adhere to a more strict vision through more active management or decide to take on a more delegation-oriented approach, it’s important to understand which approach you’re most comfortable with.
During my time as a producer I realized that I work best with other people, especially when it comes to delegating tasks, when I have an established rapport. I love to make a few jokes before a new shift starts or compliment people’s work in order to boost morale and make the workplace an enjoyable place for both myself and others.
Survival tip three: Know the narrative
If you’ve worked at ATVN as a reporter, anchor, or multimedia journalist, you know the basics of producing one story. You may have experience writing emails for interview requests, conducting those interviews, and editing the sound. However, as a producer you’ll have to expand your scope beyond any single story.
The job of a producer is to put together an entire newscast and in that sense the order matters. There needs to be a narrative structure for the story order, since the audience is not just watching one story but a series of stories.
You should constantly be asking yourself “why is that story there" and “does that make sense?" I promise you that in the beginning you will make mistakes. You’ll stumble when you try to answer these questions and you won’t be confident in the answers. But I promise you by the end you will be at a point where you will have a better understanding of what you want and why you want it.
Survival tip four: Find your moments
Working as a producer can be stressful at times but once you get into the groove of things you will find moments that you come to love. It can be when everything clicks together when you’re crafting the show or it can be a moment you share with your day-of-air-team. Either way, one of the best ways to enjoy producing your shows is to create an environment where you can produce those moments in the future.
Producing is not for everyone, but I honestly think it’s something you should try even if you’re only slightly interested in the class. I came into Annenberg knowing that I would be a print journalist, and now I can’t imagine myself as anything other than a producer. It might be something you experience too.