My biggest observation about newscast line producers is that, since automation has expanded over the last decade or so, producers have been very well trained in controlling all the technical aspects of putting a newscast on the air – desktop editing, rundowns & formats, coding fonts and shoulder boxes and video – but they haven’t had much practice in the actual art of producing a newscast. That’s not the producer’s fault. It’s just what the job has evolved into over the years. Producers need to be somewhat left-brained to control the technical aspects of the show while also being right-brain creative to allow the newscast to develop its own personality. I call this process an art because producing is 99% subjective – there aren’t always clear cut and right or wrong decisions. These subjective decisions include:
- Deciding what the lead story is;
- Deciding what stories to send your live reporters on;
- Finding the right stories to produce around your talent (such as the sniffing story in the homepage video)
- Oftentimes deciding when NOT to continue covering a story that’s been ongoing – when is it played out until any new developments come about?
- Which international and domestic stories deserve time in a local newscast;
These are just the first decisions you make on a given day. Producers need to focus on the four P’s – producing, picking, packaging, and presenting. Once you master these four pieces of the newscast, you’ve completed the puzzle of creating that day’s newscast. When a producer decides to work with me on perfecting his skills as a producer of personality-driven newscasts, I go through the four P’s in depth. I also tackle these topics:
THE MECHANICS OF SHOW STACKING
- First, the producers must stack the show. I show them 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 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 will 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;
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;
- 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;
There are endless topics to discuss when producing a newscast. My key focus is what it is you want to get out of our time together and work from there.
HERE’S HOW I OPERATE:
We start with a 20-minute (free) introductory phone call. Before we talk, I will have watched a link you send me of your most recent work (a show from the past week). That will give me an idea of what we need to work on – along with what it is you want to achieve from our sessions. We’ll decide if we can work together as a team and then decide if we move forward.
If all systems are go:
FIVE WEEKLY ONE-HOUR SESSIONS
We will meet via phone or Skype once a week for five weeks. In those one-hour sessions, I will review your most current work (which I will have watched prior to the session). I will listen to what it is you want to achieve and I will guide you forward. I will also give you homework and to-do lists – small steps to attempt on-air in the next week, and then we’ll review the results in the next session.
My fee for the five weeks of sessions is $3000, pre-paid in full by check or credit card. Check with your CPA. but this amount could be tax deductible as it’s a business expense. I realize that’s a lot of money – but I’m a far better investment in your career and your future than, say, the latest iPhone! I will only work with people who can commit to the five-week program. Because of my time investment in viewing your airchecks, one-hour single sessions are not feasible.
My work with you is confidential. I will not use your name or on-air clips in any fashion on my website. I welcome your NDA.