'The Voices in Your Head,' a Series by a New News Producer
"This just in..."
Many are familiar with the reporter schtick of sticking their finger into their ear when they're live on scene of a crime, a protest or even a festival. There's no predicting it. Every day brings a brand new lead, with a brand new idea of what the show looks like—from graphics, to camera shots and the all-so-important social media tie-ins.
Many are NOT familiar with what's going on in that momentary break. Those headphones are first off called IFBs; interruptible foldbacks that give the newsroom a direct contact with those in the field. The reporters are vital to a productive newcast; with unincumbered access to the outside world and sources. However, the magic behind the seamless flow from live shots to video to soundbytes is to shed light on how those stories come together. That is not the job of a reporter. That is a producer.
I can hear the veterans jeering now, "You haven't seen anything yet, you've only produced a year. You're not well-versed enough to speak on the career itself!"
If you trust me with a show, you can trust me with this.
I came upon the job of a producer as a junior in my alma mater's Media Arts and Design major. Most of the classes were based in print/web-based media, site design and basic film-making. Broadcast journalism was rarely the focus of more than one class. I decided to make my internship solely on broadcast for that reason. I wanted to try all forms of news media before determining what I was thrown into as a new college graduate the next year.
I worked at a Norfolk station. It covers at least a million people over eastern region of Virginia, with a little bit of North Carolina's coast. An overwhelming start, to say the least. Four weeks in; I got to meet the producing staff. They make final decisions on what goes in each show and when; where the national headlines are placed versus local ones.
I lived for that captain mentality. You don't get one story, you get at least 15. You're responsible for communication between all departments. I believe the first "this is exactly what I want" moment was when an executive producer asked me to shoot VO for an app a local police department was putting together. I had an hour, and I was going to write it too.
I used the buzzing nervousness in my chest as a springboard to use all of my latest knowledge to write the best anchor read I could. That producer is more than experienced—a veteran of multiple news stations and even documentaries. I needed to prove myself.
It came together smoothly, and ran in the 6PM show that night.
I was about to head out, to get a start on my nearly hour long commute back to my home, but then she screamed at me. (A good scream, more of a YAY! And less of a AGH!) She praised me for following directions, my focus and just the fact it even happened. She let me write little segments in her show the rest of the internship.
It's not that I didn't enjoy the other jobs; in fact, I'm glad I know at least the basics of editing, reporting and directing. The more you understand what other departments need, the better you can be as a complete producer.
"You're made for this!" she said as the other interns and I left.
I was proud of my work then.
That is, until I was yanked full force into my current job.
Have you ever felt like you dove headfirst into a snakepit?
Stepped on a Lego and then turned and stepped on another?
That was my first two months of producing "for real this time."
I was the definition of green. No experience in the system we use to write shows, only college-level Associate Press Style at my side. I was not ready for the criticism of a fully-functioning newsroom. As an intern, crews knew to give me the time to learn. As a full-time employee, that's a bit different. I can't count the times I cried both in and out of the newsroom.
That was where my true producer self was born. I learned to take the scathing criticisms and chastising as what they were—teaching me right from wrong ways to develop and finish a show. My innate need to prove myself showed up yet again. I believe it's helped me gain confidence in my work, and in my life. Nothing feels better than working with people you trust to work hard and work well together.
I guess that's why I'm starting this series. Not only to teach people that there are indeed humans behind the oh-so-scary media, but that we are producing this content because that's what we want to do. It's certainly not for our health!
Next week on The Rundown: Interacting With You, The Viewer.
I'll be going into the style and syntax of a script, why we choose some stories over others, and some unforgettable phone calls I've had the JOY of answering on the assignment desk. Standby!