Production Blogs

On adding value, crying in bathrooms, and saying ‘thank you’ until you’re blue in the face

One ATVN producer’s advice for the next lucky crop of JOUR 403 students.

[One-sentence description of what this media is: "A photo of a vaccine site on USC campus" or "Gif of dancing banana". Important for accessibility/people who use screen readers.]

I promise you I started writing this with grand aspirations for my final producer blog. I wanted it to be funny, with some fun theme or cutesy format. But in thinking about my last few months with ATVN, I got overwhelmed with reflecting on the many wonderful lessons I learned, (and to be honest, I’m a tad burned out). I’d love to give you some catchy five-step process to be the best news producer, but I’m hoping you’ll indulge this little diary-esque entry instead.

Be decisive and appropriately defensive. As with a lot of the skills it takes to be a good producer, this is something you’ll get better at with time. But from your very first story pitch, even during run-through week, work on understanding and voicing why a story is important. Once you can do this, you’ll be able to effectively defend your editorial decisions, which *hint hint* is a huge key to success in this class.

Stacy Scholder, your knowledgeable professor and ATVN news director, will talk a lot about “value add.” Please, please, please listen to her! One of the keys to a strong and engaging newscast is developing pieces that have something to offer your audience beyond the expected or existing angles.

As an example, we covered the ‘Astroworld’ crowd crush the Monday after the concert. My co-producer Amy and I pitched an angle that would also focus on the ‘Conquest’ concert that would be happening ahead of the USC vs. UCLA game that upcoming weekend. We talked to the leaders of USC’s Concerts Committee about precautions they planned to take to keep students safe. One of our multimedia journalists (MJs) even brought up that she has a friend who went to the Astroworld event, and put us in contact with her so we could bring her on the show to share her first-hand experience.

We say it’s “the lead producer’s show,” but I encourage you to approach everything with a team-oriented mentality. It’s better for morale and helps get everyone excited to make something great. Find a way to communicate to your team that this is our show – we all want to put something out that we can be proud of, and the only way we’ll get there is by working together.

(What’s that phrase? “If you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, go together…” Cheesy, but true.)

Ps and Qs are everything – say them often, and with intention. Every shift, we all say “thank you” more times than we can count. Feel free to check out our blogs on teamwork from a few weeks back, but as Amy says, it really does make the “dream work.” For the last show, Amy and I wrote out a bunch of “thank you” cards for everyone. My hand is (still) super cramped from that, so proceed with caution, but even a little ‘thank you’ Slack message sent to someone who went the extra mile that day is a great way to make someone feel valued.

“Effort counts.” That’s what Stacy told Team Monday after we suffered some… technical difficulties during our last show. We worked hard all day, and everything was going (strangely) smoothly. Right as we went to air, we realized that a lot of the video we had cut didn’t end up on the server. No one was at fault, and it was too late to fix it… Luckily, our team came up with a plan b, and we handled it the best we could. The important thing is that we did everything we could at the time – we prepared a good show, even if people didn’t get to see it when we went live.

I was pretty confident that I’d cry at least once while producing. I’d heard this class was difficult, and that the pressure would probably get to me at one point or another. While I did have my share of moments when I struggled to juggle it all, I never felt the need to go cry one out in the Annenberg bathrooms. (No shame if you end up doing that, I definitely got close!) I actually only teared up right after the final “Goodbye” from our anchors on our last newscast of the semester. So take it all in, even when you’re worried about writing your teases, or scoring a last-minute interview, or the whole server breaks. You’re only a 403 student once! (Hopefully.)

Lastly, hug your co-producer. (Or high-five, or fist bump, or exchange positive affirmations, whatever makes you feel comfortable.) Hugging Amy after we wrapped each show is what I’ll miss the most. It’s a stressful job, and no one will relate to your frustrations quite as well as your teammate. Build that bond early… Grab some coffee, get together to collaborate on your pitches, or like Amy and I did, go indulge in some Rock & Reilly’s after your show and vent about anything and everything.

Enjoy the class, and if you have questions, come find me!

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.