“Hey, she got more time!” Reporter’s secret? Humor the producer.

We are telling you about some smart alliances in newsrooms to help you get your job done better.  One of the biggest problems in newsrooms is a real lack of understanding of what other people’s jobs entail.  A big disconnect can come between reporters and producers.  Since reporters are out in the field all day, it is hard to relate to each other.  So, reporters, here’s a quick summary of what producers face. Producers face deadlines all day long, not just before news time. Graphics are due by a certain time, video is due by a certain time, even in this high tech age.  Teases must be written by a certain time.  Animations must be turned in by a certain time.  The list goes on and on.  Producers crunch in one way or another all day long.  That’s why you get curt phone calls and that’s why the producer will interrupt you and demand the bottom line then hang up.  It takes years to get used to the constant demands.  This isn’t meant to make you feel compassion for the producer.  We all have tough jobs in a newsroom.  But this knowledge should help you form a smart alliance.  Remember, producers are the ones that allow you to take more time for a story you really believe in.  If you can get a producer to back you on a story pitch, you have a better chance of getting your story aired.

So here’s what to keep in mind to build a smart alliance with producers.  Producers love reporters that think like producers.  What does that mean?  It means thinking of elements outside of your package to enhance your story.  It means writing anchor intros that allow the anchors to seem knowledgeable without giving your story away.  It means making sure your package and live scripts get into the rundown before the newscast airs, unless you are on breaking news. (Read Live shot died, there’s nowhere to go.) It means sending in natural sound or sound bites early for teases.  It also means calling and requesting interesting graphics several hours before the newscast.

If you are saying wow that’s a lot of work, take a breath and read on.  You probably already do some of this anyway, especially if you are a story teller.  You just need to present it in a way that allows the producer to see you are helping.

First, when you write your package start with the anchor intro.  (We will delve into the many benefits of this in depth in another article.)  For the purposes of forming a smart alliance, this means you will have a script in early for the producer to fine tune if necessary for flow in the newscast.  Turning in all of your live scripts and your package script early also gives the producer backup options if your live truck dies or a thunderstorm pops up.  It shows respect for the overall product.  Remember the producer is in charge of the overall product.  If the show goes to hell, the producer gets it big time.  You show the producer that you care about the newscast by writing your anchor intro early and turning in all your scripts.  If you can provide an interesting element to segment out the story  (Read Produce it up to see why) producers will appreciate you even more.  It helps the producer showcase you and the anchors, as a team, gathering information and relieves a lot of pressure. Otherwise the producer, on top of everything else, is trying to find these elements to make the newscast standout from the others in town.

Producers also use teases to try and differentiate newscasts.  The use of natural sound can make a huge difference when writing (tease writing articles for clarification: You’re Hooked, Ultimate tease challenge , Reel ‘em in without exaggerating). That’s why you are getting calls asking if you have interesting sound and/or video.  Many reporters consider these requests annoying and send the video or sound in last minute.  This let’s your producer know you don’t get the whole picture and don’t care if your story is promoted well.  Realistically, you can often have your photographer feed in the tease video and sound while you write your package.  It doesn’t hurt your chances of turning a great story and it helps showcase your hard work more.

Same is true if you need graphics inside your package.  Turn them in early, ask the producer what the deadline he/she adheres to and try to make the same deadline if you can.  Producers understand you will get information late in the day sometimes and will try and get a graphic for you last minute.  It helps if, more often than not, you turn in your work early.  Then the producer is more willing to pull favor for you.  If you consistently turn in these elements early, it also will give you a better chance of becoming a go-to reporter for the producer.  The benefit?  Many shops are so called “producer driven.” That means what the producers ask for in their shows carries a lot of weight.  They determine content more than reporters.  So if the producer believes in you, he/she will start requesting you for the highly showcased stories.  Producers will tell management you are a loyal and solid employee.  This will help you get noticed by management.  If you don’t help the producer out, the reverse is true.  The producer will ask not to have your package in the newscast.  They will tell management you are unreliable and difficult.  You will be labeled.  When it’s time for the cream assignment, you won’t get it or if you get lucky and can go, the producer may not cut you slack if you run into trouble.  This relationship is a huge case of “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine.”  Show respect.  Think like a producer.  Win a huge ally that will fight tooth and nail for you.  It’s a smart alliance to make, for sure!