TV news is full of expressions that can be confusing or thrown around lightly. The term “taking ownership of your newscast” is not a term to be taken lightly but can be confusing to producers and anchors. So let’s delve in to what this term means to management and your reputation in the industry.
Let’s start with what it means for producers. “Taking ownership,” is essentially making it clear “the buck stops here” with decisions made for the newscast. In truth, the buck usually stops with an EP or other manager. But the expectation is that the producer will fall on the sword and take full responsibility for decisions made. This is confusing, and frankly at times unfair. It is expected though. So when the ND calls the booth during or after the newscast and asks why the heck such and such story did or did not make air, the last answer the boss wants to hear is “the EP told me to do it.” It doesn’t matter if that’s the reality. The ND wants a reason. He/she wants to know there was some thought put into the rundown. So tell them the reason:
“We thought it was significant because of where it happened.”
“We wanted to add more new stories.”
“We were not able to confirm key facts, but I am happy to help do that now, so the next newscast can air the story.”
These are the phrases the ND wants to hear. Now a little secret to make you feel better: The EP will get the same question, and will then get the litany of reasons why the thinking needs to change. You, the producer, may or may not get that list of reasons. But be sure, the EP will also be questioned.
Taking ownership also means doing all you can to prevent messes and come up with quick solutions when a mistake happens. This is more than factual issues. If your anchor always stumbles on the scripts in the back half of the newscast, you are expected to implement possible solutions to stop the issue. Yes, you the producer. No, you are not the one stumbling. It is still partly your responsibility as the show boss. If master control never gets live shots tuned in on time, it is partly your responsibility to come up with plans to change that pattern. Taking ownership means being the leader of the show, the show boss, the one who takes responsibility when things go wrong. Consider this a chance to get a taste of what upper management is like. Yes, you will have to have a thick skin. Yes, sometimes what you are being lectured about you probably cannot really change. However, you should offer solutions and try them. This will earn you high praise and respect.
Now anchors. Taking ownership of your newscast means sitting down with the EP and newscast producers, regularly, and hearing what issues there are with the newscasat. Do you need to get more men watching the newscast? Help brainstorm ideas. Are the EP and producer at their wits end trying to make sure master control tunes in live shots on time? Perhaps mention to the ND, the next time you are talking, that your EP and producer are busting it trying to fix the problem, but could use some backup. Is a certain reporter killing the meters by constantly fudging the total running time for their package or going SUPER long every live shot? Pull them aside, compliment what you like about their work and ask a favor: Could they trim those live intros next time or call in the actual total running time. Taking ownership means showing support and providing public backing for the producer and EP. If you have philosophy differences, take those issues up behind closed doors. And when there is breaking news, sometimes skip dinner break and sit down and help the assignment desk make phone calls or help the producer write copy. You are the leader of morale for the newscast whether you like the role or not. As the face of the show, you are the image leader. So the more involved you become by partnering with the show boss, the more you will be respected as a natural leader. That reputation can really send your career skyrocketing
Taking ownership of your newscast means you are showing the bosses and your peers that you are ready to take on key responsibilities. You are a leader, not a trouble maker. You believe in the product and the people executing it each day. A reputation for being a team player and someone who is not afraid to make a decision will quickly earn you respect in the industry. This is one of the best ways to ensure your future success and increase your job stability. Even if there are layoffs, the people who take ownership are the ones who have managers working behind the scenes to get them placed in even bigger and better jobs instead of just shown the door. Time and again, these simple efforts will reap large rewards for you. The biggest of which is loyalty. Something that is increasingly hard to come by in the world today. So go ahead, take ownership of that newscast. You owe it to yourself and the team around you.