Production Blogs

So you want to produce a news show?

My advice to the next class of producers: enjoy the process

[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.]

What if, hypothetically, I told you that I bit off more than I could chew this semester? What if I told you that I was wild enough to take a six-unit news production class on top of working as an executive producer and directing in the control room for Annenberg TV News? What if I was also enrolled in 18 units, on top of all that?

Well, you’d probably think that’s a bit unreasonable.

Here’s something you should know about me, wary reader: I am helplessly ambitious and a self-titled overreacher who jumps into commitments without thinking. Here’s another confession: I *actually* endured all of the aforementioned hypotheticals.

But, not to fret, friend! This semester has actually been one of the most rewarding, rigorous and insightful ones yet in my college career. I’ve genuinely enjoyed the challenge. A little strange, no?

Taking JOUR 403 has been an experience that has illuminated how I see myself and my career. It’s taught me about the importance of patience, collaboration and flexibility. And as someone who has just about finished the course, I hope that future producers can read this and take with them some of the advice I have to give.

1. Engage with other groups as much as you can.

One of the largest, and most time-consuming, elements that are a weekly requirement for this class is turning in pitch sheets. It can be hard to find stories on such a big campus like USC. However, there are so many wonderful organizations that host events and create interesting projects daily. You just need to follow them. I don’t mean to condone stalking, however, some of the best stories I have pitched came from the social media accounts of student groups. Their Instagram stories or posts, for example, are a host of rich pitching material.

I remember learning about a protest happening this week via Instagram. It was a Care Not Cops Rally that I saw on the @reimaginepublicsafetyusc Instagram. The rally took place during the day, which meant that I knew our ATVN team could send a reporter to capture videos and interviews.

Whenever I notice new social media accounts created, or I notice people reposting certain events, I immediately think of how it could potentially be a story. Remember, not *everything* is newsworthy, but social media has been instrumental in my pitching process, and should be for you too.

In addition to engaging with student organizations on social media, I highly recommend signing up for different newsletters that each USC school has. I’m talking about the Glorya Kaufman School of Dance newsletter, the Roski School of Art and Design newsletter, just to name a few. I mean, who doesn’t love to crowd their inbox? Just kidding, but, newsletters are a great resource because the weekly emails highlight news happening within the school and events that can potentially work as a story for your show.

2. Develop a sense of community.

In a newsroom like Annenberg Media, which is wonderfully bursting at the seams with undergraduate students, grad students, faculty, and curious volunteers, it can feel daunting to work as a leader. And yes, producers *are* leaders!

Learning names (and reminding people to wear name tags) is an important first step in fostering a rapport with the people you will work with. Furthermore, it’s important to be courteous with people. Sometimes it’s easy to feel overwhelmed in the rush of the show, so much so that you forget to say a friendly “hello” to your peers. But, I’m here to tell you that it’s always worth the extra measure of kindness. This will make your team feel more excited and welcomed, and who doesn’t want that?

3. Communicate! Communicate! Communicate!

Yes, even in a newsroom located in a journalism and communication school building, people still forget to communicate. However, it is absolutely necessary to communicate with your reporters, anchors, control room team, and volunteers throughout the day of producing. This helps you understand the elements that are being gathered for the show and it will alleviate the stress that may develop later when you, undoubtedly, feel as though you’ve lost all control and the show will never come together (we all have irrational thoughts, right?)

Communication can take many forms: sending Slack messages, writing emails, verbally speaking with your team (human interaction, a gift!).

In addition to communicating with those reporters, you also need to communicate with yourself.

What I mean by this is that you are going to be pulled in many different directions throughout the day of air. You’re going to want to speak with your anchors about their assignments, you’re going to want to help reporters with their video editing, and you’re going to want to do everything that you possibly can to control the show.

Well, unfortunately, you can’t do everything. And, because of this, you need to check in with yourself, too. For me, this looked like writing in my notebook throughout the day about things that I need to complete. Taking the time to thoughtfully jot down the tasks you need to accomplish makes it feel more manageable, and it gives you the reminder. Communicating to yourself can also take the form of taking a break, like stepping outside and getting fresh air. Even if you feel like you are missing important information, giving yourself the grace of a break will actually help you perform better.

There are, likely, hundreds of other lessons I’ve learned throughout this grand endeavor. I’ve learned that you should never be too hard on yourself and that mistakes are a part of the process. And that’s actually the most important lesson of them all: savoring the journey of producing. Through my experience as a producer, who was also juggling an executive producer job and a control room director job, I’ve learned that you need to have discipline in your routine and trust in your journalistic capabilities. It ignited my passion for the field and reminded me why I chose the work in the first place.

Take the fire within you and run with it. Embrace the challenge and be gentle with yourself. It’s worth it, I promise.

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.