CREATING NEWS FRANCHISES

PersonalityProducer - Transforming People into PersonalitiesI’ve been lucky so far in my career to work with some amazing talent, producers and directors – all of whom have played a role in helping me build successful news franchises for local stations and cable and broadcast networks.  Let me help you assemble and build a team. Let me help you rescue a fading newscast.  Franchise-making morning news formats are my specialty. I also do wonders with afternoon formats (E! News Live!) and would tackle programs such as The Now, which could use a fresh vision with a personality-driven format and engaging hosts.

MY TRACK RECORD


Here is my track record – clear and quantifiable – followed by airchecks of each of the shows.

EYE OPENER (DALLAS VERSION)

EYE OPENER (CHICAGO VERSION)

E! NEWS LIVE

KTLA MORNING NEWS

WHAT I CAN DO FOR YOU


I will come to your newsroom – anywhere in the world – as an interim Executive Producer or some similar title, with the authority to make changes and establish accountability. I will not come solely as an adviser or coach. If I can’t ensure follow-through, I have no way of actually producing on-air results. Results are what drives me.

I may also consider working remotely depending on the situation.

To be clear, I am so NOT a consultant. Consultants provide data.  I don’t examine your ratings or listen to the thoughts of people screening your show in focus groups. Most consultants take no responsibility and they don’t hold you accountable for follow-through.

AREAS OF FOCUS


Here are some areas of focus I will address with your talent, producers, directors and writers:

THE MECHANICS OF SHOW STACKING
  • First, stacking the show. I give producers a simple formula for stacking four complete news segments, two segments for Hour #1 and two for Hour #2 that will not over-stress the writers and editors;
  • I show producers how to make the best use of reverse pyramid stacking;
  • I show producers how I stack a four-hour show, from first sitting down to printing out the rundowns, in 20 minutes – and how they can do that as well;
STORY SELECTION

Story selection is an art form – plugging in a stabbing here and a fire there is not the way to stack a show. Here are some tips I show producers:

  • I show producers how to effectively use their “live” news reporters – and why they should keep them away from most overnight spot news stories;
  • I explain to producers and assignment editor what kinds of stories they should be selecting for their “live” reporters and which ones work most consistently to keep an audience;
  • I explain why they should rarely if ever, lead with international stories, and very selectively with national stories;
  • I show the writers little tricks to get viewers to walk away from the bathroom mirror and head to the TV for “must see” stories;
  • I show producers how to truly become the “news leader” in the market, by having the competition repeatedly “rip off” their stories – stories the competition would never otherwise have covered;
  • I show producers how to instantly improve the pace of the news segments by avoiding the number one trap they fall into when stacking;
TEASING

This is the one area that sinks many newscasts.

  • I show producers why teases are the most important writing assignment on their show;
  • I show producers where to find certain stories they should include in their newscast – just because they make for great teases;
  • I show producers where to stack them in the show so that they are not “killed” for time reasons – so they are not teasing stories they don’t ultimately deliver -which pisses off viewers most;
  • I will show producers how to effectively cross-promote content on the stations’ other digital platforms to get the most audience flow to those areas;
  • I show producers why exaggerating or blatantly lying in teases, as the ultra-competitive entertainment strip shows do regularly, always backfire with your viewers;
  • I show producers how to use labels such as “exclusive”, “breaking news”, and all the others without misleading the viewers;
ON AIR: GOING WITH THE FLOW
  • Early on, my biggest problem in producing personality-driven shows was that I felt I was giving up control to the talent. I help producers avoid the pitfalls I fell into with this format;
  • I show producers how to keep their egos in check – as that can make or break a successful transition to this type of format;
  • I show producers how to effectively manage their use of the anchor’s IFB’s without your talent feeling they are puppets on a string;
BACKTIMING AND COMMERCIAL BREAKS
  • I show producers how to avoid “missed opportunities” that the show is presenting them – and how to recognize them when they happen;
  • I show your producers how to efficiently backtime a show so that there is always a cache of time for unexpected moments that turn into memorable moments;
  •  I show producers how to manipulate station breaks to their best timing advantage;
  • I tell producers the four moments in each hour when they absolutely, positively should NOT be in a commercial break;
CONTROL ISSUES
  • I show producers why it is essential that they have a “Plan B’ for every minute in the hour;
  • I demonstrate why that plan has to be easily executed at a moments’ notice;
  • I help your producers learn to communicate with the director in the booth. On a show like this, when change is constant, a producer needs to have the ear of the director;
  • I show your producers why they should see their rundowns as “an ever-changing road map” and why they must continually make changes and adjustments throughout the show;
THE DIRECTOR

The director’s job is the most clear-cut – get the show on the air with as little breakage as possible. Walking into the control room on any given day, I often (secretly) felt sorry for my director for what I was about to put him/her through. Here are some of the areas I focus on with directors:

  • I will help your director get past the #1 cause of friction in the control room between the producer and the director;
  • I will help directors get past the old style of directing news including not having the rundown dictate every camera shot and tape roll;
  • I will prepare your director to anticipate what wasn’t planned and to act before reacting;
  • I will show your director how to properly code the show so it can be as flexible as ever even with automation;
CUTTING THE SHOW

In the control room, if I end up watching the “line” monitor, you can be sure the director is strong because s/he’s showing me what I want to see, when I want to see it. It’s when I end up looking at the camera monitors I realize we have a weak director. Cutting a show is all about timing and it’s something that really can’t be taught. Either the director “gets it” or s/he doesn’t.

  • I show your director why this show format requires a completely different cutting style than a traditional newscast;
  • I explain to your director why this format opens up a wide range of directing opportunities and allows for creativity and the development of a signature directing style far beyond what a tradition newscast can provide;
  • I challenge your director to put his/her own mark on the show – one that dovetails with the producing and anchoring styles;
  • I determine whether your director is capable of directing a show with this format – which requires a lot a foresight and a sense of timing needed to cut the show – without dragging it down;
CLOSEUPS
  • I show your director why sitting on 2, 3 & 4 shots is the kiss of death for pacing a show;
  • I demonstrate how, during non-news segments, close-ups – tight close-ups – almost to the point of being uncomfortable – are the way to go;
  • I demonstrate why the standard “network close-up” that’s been in use since the ’50’s needs to be retired;
  • I will nix “setwalking” – when anchors move from set location to set location for no apparent reason other than to “mix things up”;
BOUNDARIES
  • I help directors get over the notion that “clean” shows are “perfect” shows when just the opposite is true;
  • I help directors take risks with camera shots, audio cues, live remotes, graphics, chyrons, all the stuff that’s been relegated to be used only in traditional ways;
  • I help the director earn a directing rapport with the talent, so that expectations are achieved on both sides which helps expand the boundaries of the show;
TALENT – WALTER CRONKITE SYNDROME

With all due respect to Mr. Cronkite, this is a syndrome that many anchors and reporters suffer when they start to transition to a looser format. It’s the feeling that they must give up their credibility and their “Capital J” journalism status and lower themselves to become TV news clowns. What we’re actually doing is not diminishing their newscaster side but enhancing their personality side.

  • I show your talent why they are not throwing away the journalist in them by revealing their personalities;
  • I help your talent seamlessly transition from “light mode” to “breaking news mode” without it feeling awkward or forced;
  • I will explain to your talent why more and more local news shows and network shows prefer hiring former sportscasters over news people as lead host talent;
AD-LIBBING

The term, ad-libbing, kinda cheapens what anchor people do. I think of an ad-lib as one or two lines, while modern anchors need to carry on conversations with their co-anchors, guests, etc. Anchors who are totally dependent on the prompter are problematic in news formats. I have been known to deliberately jam the prompter (a little computer trick I learned) in order to force my anchors to learn to operate without them. It’s not pretty at first, but you’d be amazed at how, eventually, the prompter becomes nothing more than a nuisance to anchors who no longer have any dependence on it

  • I will help your anchors to overcome their fear of ad-libbing. They need to realize that once they throw a ball, their co-anchor will catch it. If the ball continuously drops to the floor, there’s a problem with the co-anchor;
  • I will take your anchors from 100% dependence on the prompter to 10%.
  • I will raise your talent’s comfort level with ad-libbing to the point that you will be “pulling them back” rather than “pushing them forward”;
  • I will prevent your anchors from falling into a trap that many do after becoming overconfident in ad-libbing;
ON-AIR PRESENCE

Some say when it comes to on-air presence, you’ve either got it or you don’t. I disagree. On-air presence can be manufactured. I will oversee a combination of factors that will have a wallflower anchor jumping off the screen.

  • I will teach your anchors how to effortlessly interact with the cameras in a way that draws the viewer into their conversation;
  • I will make it easy for your anchors to interact with each other on camera, including correcting habitually bad body language that sends out negative impressions to the viewer;
WARMTH

Warmth is the one issue with TV talent that is out of my control. I cannot manufacture warmth for a talent who, for whatever reason, does not come across as warm. Examples of such talent include Megyn Kelly, Katie Couric, and film actress Anne Hathaway. For whatever reason, technical or biological or psychological, their warmth does not emanate from them on-set to the camera through the digital transformation process and ultimately to the TV screen at home.  If you have a talent that I believe has no on-air warmth, I will give you a heads-up in advance that there’s not much I can do to get them to come across as relatable to women viewers.

SCRIPTING & TALKING
  • I tell your anchors the #1 mistake they’ll make when it comes to reading scripts for this type of news format;
  • Some talent have annoying on-air voices. It’s not always their fault. Sometimes, it’s the way the voice is retransmitted after traveling through the mic and into the audio board and finally out onto the air. I’ll tell your anchors a simple trick to make technology work for them – it’ll make their voices “phonogenic”;
LIGHTING

Lighting is the most overlooked on-screen element of any newscast. It can make the most highly-paid personalities look low-rent when draped in shadows and harsh glares. While I admit I’m no lighting expert, I can certainly tell well-lit talent from those poorly lit. Lighting is a key issue in which there can be no compromise. I may ask a lighting director to relight some of your talent.

It’s interesting to note that when I produce TV in Hollywood, some of the most TV-savvy celebrities will come out onto the set to check out the lighting before sitting down to be interviewed. Many will insist lighting changes be made during the break leading into their segment – it’s that important to them.

  • I’ll expose the key mistake most stations make when it comes to lighting their news talent
  • I’ll work with your lighting designer to make sure your anchors “glow” in a bath of soft lighting
SIGNATURE SEGMENTS

Along with your larger-than-life hosts, signature segments are the elements that begin to define the personality of your show. A good example of a signature segment is “Where In The World Is Matt Lauer”. It’s a segment that viewers immediately identified with the Today show.

  • I will show your producers how to find or create sigsegs that are right for your show. In fact, many times, the segments find you;
  • Signature segments are usually built around one of the show’s talent. Ultimately, you want to build sigsegs around each on-air person. Sigsegs can also be segments that are stylized;
BOOKING GUESTS

Booking interview guests is not as easy as making a call and getting the guest to the studio on time. With this type of format, the first consideration should always be “how will the talent come off in this interview”? The guest is always a secondary consideration, assuming they bring an interesting topic to the show.

  • I will show your producer why just filling the slots with guests isn’t enough and doesn’t buy you anything except time fillers;
  • I will show your producer how to pick and choose guests that make for good TV – but also showcase your talent I will help your producer determine which interview guest is right for which type of interview format;
  • I will explain to your producer why booking someone like Richard Simmons is always a much better strategy than booking someone like Nicole Kidman;

That’s where I will begin with your shows.

Here’s how I operate:

PRE-INTERVIEW


When you first contact me, I will request a link to a complete aircheck of the show you’re looking for help with (if applicable). Once I’ve gone through it, I can give you my thoughts about what I would need to do to make it come alive.  I will need your good-faith assurance that the talent, producer(s), and director are willing to grow, take risks, and move out of their comfort zones with my help and guidance. I will also need your assurance that I have the authority within your organization to make the changes necessary to create results.

I would also hope you do your due diligence on me. My management style is simple – I tell people what I’m looking for and then let them do it.  I’m not a chair thrower or a screamer.  I truly believe what’s on-air is a reflection of what goes on behind the scenes, so I make the working environment one that is relaxed and creative and open to experimentation. But I insist on follow-through, and I can be the bad guy when it’s called for. There are countless people in the industry who can verify how I operate.

MY FEE


I prefer to work in your newsroom – directly with the staff who get the show on the air every day. In some cases, I can work remotely depending on the situation. There are quite a few factors that will impact my fee, so I’d rather give you a number once I know your specific situation. Your inquiries and any work we do together will remain confidential.  I welcome your NDA.

Let me know how I can tailor my abilities to your needs.

CONTACT RAY