When I went to J school, two lessons were ingrained in my head. Never miss slot. Never walk into the booth without getting your newscast done in time. As we all know, these can be easier said than done. But they are crucial lessons.
I hear a lot of complaints about producers not finishing their shows in time. I constantly used to watch producers struggle to finish writing the newscast before heading to the booth. So why does this happen?
Sorry, but I have to ding chronically late producers on this one. You’ve likely heard the mantra, set mini deadlines all day long, and make EACH ONE. But then you adjust the deadline times to fit your needs. Not good. I used to watch producers watch morning talk shows, and visit with other people at the station. I watched them make phone calls to set up hair appointments. Yes, you deserve a minute to set up appointments. But do it when you have the rundown in place, and have written at least the first two blocks.
Wishy washy boss
Some bosses are decisive. Some are not. If you have a boss that changes his or her mind a million times a day about the lead story, the b-block lead and whether to move “story x” higher up in the rundown, there are work arounds. First, crank out your pacers. Second, write teases in a floater script at the top or bottom of rundown, then move the elements into place when the boss finally makes up his/her mind. If you have a great idea to build up the “lead story” that might get dumped, do it anyway. You can always move that segment around and have another kick butt, unique, element later in your show. (Remember: Make your mark). The one thing you don’t do? Sit around and wait for the boss to decide how the rundown will look. That is a killer. You pay for it, not the boss.
Waiting on facts or elements
If you ask for a fact check and the assignment desk doesn’t get back to you for two hours, pick up the phone and verify it yourself. (Or ask your anchor to do it) If you want a pkg from a sister station, have the script emailed to you or hop into their rundown (if you‘re company allows access) and grab it. Don’t wait for the assignment desk to call the other desk and ask pretty please. Take control. Take ownership. Keep from falling behind.
Not “feeling it”
Some days there are not clear transitions. No story makes you particularly eager to write. You are sick of pulling natural sound. I get it. But don’t give in and wander around the newsroom or break room hoping the problem will go away. Suck it up and crank the elements out. News doesn’t wait for you to be in the mood.
It drives me crazy to constantly be thrown into meetings on “slow” news days. Let me look for elements. Let reporters work sources. Let the producer get what he/she needs done so there is time to be flexible later. Then came sweeps meetings, and election meetings, and ratings meetings, all before my newscast. I used to sit in those meetings and handwrite copy, tease ideas, OTS titles, banner information on my notepad. I participated as needed, but if the bosses droned on, I got things done. I had to. The clock was ticking, and I knew the big rule: Never walk into the booth without the show written.
So take a hard look at your day. Figure out what puts you behind, then alter the behavior. Your credibility is at stake. Producers, produce. That means being prepared and ready to go!