Being an EP is a weird little world. You are a manager for sure, with a lot of responsibility. But you sit in the newsroom all day long and work in the trenches. You have this element in common with another prominent figure on your shift, the anchor, but often the two don’t connect. It fascinated me as a producer for years. The EP and the anchor would rarely speak. I, the producer, was caught in the middle all the time, newsroom after newsroom. Then I became an EP and tried to change this relationship. What I found was fascinating. Time and again, my anchors assumed I knew everything going on in their world and they would actually avoid telling me about any issues. They even became frustrated if I regularly tried to check in to make sure I was aware of any needs they had.
I am guessing that being a manager made me seem a little untrustworthy. Understandable since EP’s do weigh in on annual reviews. But the anchors that did sit down with me and clue me into their expectations succeeded better at their jobs. The reason: I could fix problems for them. I was able to make my expectations crystal clear as well. To me, having both sides understand the other is only beneficial. So, anchors, here’s how to forge a relationship with an EP, since we unfortunately don’t have ESP and always know what you need:
- Set up regular check in sessions to make sure you’re on same page
- Compliment and critique
- Be the key backup
First of all set up regular check in sessions to make sure you are on the same page with your EP. This is a two way street, but you have to ask for it. I used to try and sit down once a month and just ask my anchors how everything was going. Did they have any segments they liked? How was the writing? Were they getting enough time to ad lib? Were they getting enough guidance when given breaking news on set? Sometimes my anchors would candidly provide answers, which I appreciated immensely. Other times my anchor would say everything’s fine, then go off and bad mouth situations. Often they would do this just a few hours later and in the hallway where I could easily walk up and hear it (and often did). If you are given an opportunity to spell out your likes and dislikes, do it. Otherwise keep your mouth shut in the building! Not openly talking about what you need, and instead trashing the situation in the hallway makes you look immature. That means the EP will develop concerns over your ability to lead. When it’s time to get a new higher level show, that EP will not endorse you.
During check in sessions, you should complement and critique. It is very beneficial to know what’s working for you as well as what isn’t. Remember even EP’s need to know if something they are doing or their producers are doing is going great. Compliments are rare in most newsrooms. They help boost morale and help the EP figure out what your likes/needs are so they can pass the information down to appropriate staffers. As for critiques, I know what it is like to have a manager call you in and ask for a critique when you know they actually don’t want to hear it. These check in sessions should be clearly defined so your criticisms are understood to be constructive. Also, the EP has final say in whether some of the issues you bring up are addressed, how and when. Frankly, some things you bring up, the EP may deem not that important. Be professional enough to see that perspective as well.
Finally, EP’s need people to back them up sometimes, especially if they are making major changes to a newscast. Back the EP up. Tell the staff that change can be good. Be a cheerleader (see Smart Alliances). This will go a long way toward winning major loyalty from the EP. Remember, when you’re trashing major formatting changes, most of the time they already went up through higher channels than you and the EP. To rip them, especially in a group setting, is not in your best interest. This is where your leadership role really comes in for the newscast. Often if the anchor says an idea is worth a try, the staff supports attempting the plan. Your support will go a long way toward winning a major ally, your EP.