Production Blogs

Interested in producing?

You’ve come to the right place! Here’s some advice for future student producers.

A photo of the See It Live team in the control room.

When I first entertained the idea of becoming a broadcast journalist, I think I didn’t really have a true sense of what that aspiration entailed. I envisioned myself in front of the camera doing interviews or reporting on major stories, but had little to no concept of how the story came together and made its way onto the television screen. While I had experience in print journalism, broadcast journalism was new to me. Freshman year I took baby steps by learning the fundamentals of who, what, where, why, and when. The pandemic made the sophomore stage of my Annenberg career feel like I was back in middle school making iMovies at home. I learned a lot as a reporter but felt that I was missing an essential component of how news broadcasts were produced and how a news production team worked together. Finally, on every Thursday this semester, I found those missing pieces in JOUR 403 — the learning congealed and I feel confident that I will be able to put a newscast together. It has taught me not only the technical aspects of coordinating a program and how to work as a team but it also showed me how I work best and what kind of attitude is needed to succeed.

I could blog at length about how much I have learned in this class, but for someone coming into the class for the first time, I would distill my hard-won advice down to these essential general ideas for a successful class experience:

First: It’s okay if you don’t know something or make a mistake, but remember to ask for help or clarification. There is a steep learning curve in the beginning because you are learning a lot very quickly and the pace in the newsroom is very fast on your day-of-air. For instance, you will be introduced to multiple software and graphics systems, and each has its own intimidating features. The newsroom also has a language of its own, with lots of confusing acronyms and terminology, like teasers, MJ (multimedia journalist), and VO (voice over). The sooner you learn what the terms mean, the less intimidating being they will be.

Second: Learn to roll with the punches of the sudden changes in plans or other unexpected surprises because ATVN shows you that they will be a permanent feature of this line of work. Also, try not to get anxious about it because that just makes things worse. Things happen and you need to harness your resilience and adapt to the situation at hand quickly. Be patient, take a breath, and redirect yourself as soon as possible.

Third: Be open to constructive criticism and try not to take it personally. There are so many people in the newsroom, and everyone bounces ideas around as much to refine the story as it is to assess its merits. There are so many worthy ideas that are pitched in the morning meeting but not every one can be used and not every story idea works. It might not be right for the current week’s show, but it may be good for a later week. Remember that it is about what’s best for the show. Also, if you make a mistake, own up to it, see what you can do to correct or mitigate it, and use it as a learning experience.

Fourth: Be helpful to others in the newsroom. ATVN is not a competition; we are a team with a shared goal. You will have teammates. Sometimes it is your time to shine, sometimes it is your turn to step back and play a supporting role. The goal is to make the best production for everyone, including those beyond the newsroom. Show your support and appreciation for others as well — everyone is working hard and sometimes it is just nice to have that hard work acknowledged.

Fifth: Stories are everywhere. Sometimes coming up with story ideas to pitch can seem intimidating, but if you look around, the stories are all around you. I keep notes on my phone when I get story ideas during the week. They come from conversations with USC friends about what their high school friends are doing at their colleges. They come from scrolling through your Instagram feed. They come from paying attention to the community around USC. They come from the frustrating things about life at USC. They come from reading the national and local news and trying to see how that affects the USC community.

The reputation of the class is fitting: it is a very demanding and time-consuming class, but I have learned more about broadcast journalism in this one class than in any other class. You will work very hard, but you will come away more experienced and be able to take that understanding and the incredible range of practical producing skills you gain here with you to internships and other positions. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

This story was written as an assignment in JOUR403: Television News Production with Professor Stacy Scholder. Annenberg Media student editors also reviewed the story and published it per newsroom guidelines.