Welcome to the PIT List!

I'm a network field producer who also worked in local tv as a line producer and field producer. Over the years, I have had the great fortune to work with super people. Now I'd like to pass along what I know and rant a tad.

"Dear Maggie..." pitlist@gmail.com
I check it sporadically, but I love answering emails, so if you have an issue or difficult person you need help with, don't hesitate to shoot it my way.

Maggie L

Maggie L
One of the rare times I'm in the office

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Greetings All

It's been like a million years since I've posted and here's why-- I'm back in local TV news! Still taking your questions though via email. Always happy to help. As always, you are overworked and underpaid for a really tough job. Hang in there! And make sure you get a life outside of work!!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Writer's Block & Some Tips

Most of the time, you crank out story after story with nary a thought. But occasionally, you get writer's block. What to do? Whenever I would get stumped, I'd pretend to call my grandmother on the phone and tell her the story I was writing. Think about it. It's easy to tell a story verbally (Hey Grandma, would you believe???)... but for some reason when you sit down to write the exact same story, it becomes a bigger deal. When you talk to people, you automatically put the most interesting stuff first, etc. So next time you're stumped, think of someone you talk to on the phone often, and just write down what you'd say to them if you were describing the story. It's a start. More tips... For the lead graph.. think-- what is happening with this story right now? Are police investigating? Is someone recovering? Is a family mourning? Figure out, no matter how small, what is happening right now and lead with that... along with the most important bits of the story (why it was important enough to put in your show). Lose adjectives and adverbs. They are generally not very useful unless they are factually descriptive (as in red car, 14-story building, etc). Horrible accident? Says who? Compared to what? Paramedics rushed them quickly to the hopsital? Well no duh. Jettison useless verbage. Real people sound is generally more interesting that official sound. "I could have swore the whole sky was coming down!" vs. "We had a building collapse in the 84000 block of Main Street." You might also consider using sound when you have not a lot or not great video (instead of :30 vo, think :25 vo and :05 of sot. Look for nats full you can use in scripts (and not just from concerts). AND--- always always always always--- look at your video first before writing-- never write a script without looking at the video-- it will help your writing immensely.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Building a Brand Using Social Media

You've heard of singers or bands being discovered or popularized via YouTube. I ran across an interesting article at the Nieman Journalism Lab about a student photographer who's making a name for himself via Flickr's Creative Commons. He's not a journalism major-- he just started taking pictures of politicians. The article says his photos may have been used more than a million times online. I remember reading another article about how a wedding photographer built their (now big) business using Facebook-- they'd take pictures at a wedding and then tag participants (who would then tag other people in the photos). Finally... KOMO is using twitter hashtags during its news to connect with viewers. They're also using it during programming. A press release describes their effort- something you could steal for your newscast?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Roll with it Baby

Watching (a lot) of local television coverage last week for Hurricane Isaac reminds me of some sound advice, whether you are in the midst of hurricanes or some other live coverage, and that is this: If there is something compelling going on in your liveshot, don't break away to go to a taped piece. This is especially true in breaking news situations. Going to something taped in the middle of an active liveshot brings the liveshot- and your show- to a screeching halt. Also, it leaves the viewer to wonder, what's going on out there while I am watching this? Live is almost always going to be more interesting than what you have taped. In breaking news situations--- BE FLEXIBLE. Don't be married to your rundown (actually that is good advice in any situation). Judge each liveshot on the basis of each liveshot. Going well? Can't turn away? Give it more time. Dull? Same thing you've seen four times in your show? Wrap it up. Get a feel for your show and let it flow accordingly. Another tip.... in breaking news, you don't have to produce the whole hour (or hours) you just have to figure out what to do next. I call it-- at bat and on deck. Which reporter is at bat? And who is on deck? That's all you need... Let the rest of the newsroom... Assignment desk and managers help you and line things up. You just take it one segment at a time. Finally, I saw one of the stations last week do something interesting and worth copying. They basically had their reporters tape look lives at (it seemed like) every location they visited. Nothing fancy... Just a minute of walk and talk, showing and telling what was going on at that location. Works out well for coverage that lasts hours on end. Gives anchors a little break and revisits locations where you may not be able to be live. Note I say anchors toss to these -- not reporters -- and certainly not reporters on active liveshots. And honestly, these types of look lives might be fun to work into regular shows as well... If there was a reporter on something good at six, have them do a quick looklive for you instead of a vosot for ten.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Lead? What Lead?

I received an email from a producer concerned about a new nightside gig where it seemed like producers, not reporters, were expected to come up with the lead every night. It's always easier for someone in the field to come up with good story ideas... but that said, it takes a village, and sometimes producers have a better-- big picture sense-- than field crews. By nighttime... the day's news has unfolded and there's generally something obvious. It's how you treat that lead that can really make a difference. Are you just phoning it in and tossing to a reporter pkg or are you thinking of interesting /creative ways to showcase your first story? In terms of staying on top of news, I think the easiest way is twitter lists. I have a list for every area I cover and I put papers, TV, cop shops, anything from that area on the list. You can do the same in your market. You could do lists by area or by beat or both. You'd be amazed the little things you can come up with that might get you through a slow day or even just add a little interesting vo here or there that separates you from the competition. You don't always have to lead with a pkg. Has something intersting happened since the 6pm that can be an anchor vosot-- but with bigger "lead treatment" (graphics, set up etc)? Use it first and then go to the reporter pkg that's been out there all day. Also understand with social media, people have already probably seen your lead so what is your story bringing to the party? Hopefully context... and something fresh. If there's nothing obvious with which to lead... you can always try to localize big national stories. So today there was the shooting near Empire State Building. Can you do a workplace shooting folo locally? Also news from Aurora shooting that you could use to get in or out of it. How about hurricane stuff-- any impact on your area? People headed to RNC convention worried about it etc? Local Red Cross or utilities folks keeping an eye on it? I also like a lead to be a talker-- something that people go-- what, wait, are you kidding me? If you are new to the market, or even if you've been there a while, I think it's good for show producers to check in-- face to face-- with various PIOS around the city. Get a ridealong with cops and fire. Take a lunch with a councilperson's PR guy. Contact the local university public affairs person. When you talk to them, leave it open. Ask them what's important that maybe doesn't grab headlines? What do they find interesting that's outside their area of concern? What's their connection to the city? This is a great way to make contacts but also a good way to give you a sense of the city. It's also nice to call on PIOs when you don't need something RIGHT NOW! Finally, when in doubt, you can always lead with weather. A Little joke. But maybe not.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Words Match Graphics

Please make sure your words match the graphics you have. I like to take graphic requests directly from the script so that it matches the graphic exactly. It's much easier for viewers to understand. You don't want a viewer being distracted from your story or show because they're trying to read a graphic that isn't matched to what's being said. Ditto if you have any kind of print on the screen-- read it verbatim. This is especially important when referencing Twitter and Facebook pages.

We Got that Broll!

This has been floating around for a while but if you haven't seen "We got that broll" it's funny. Change the words to "We got that file tape" and it's even better. At one point, the guy makes the point that if video is too specific, it's not broll. In terms of file tape, you also want to be careful about tape that's too specific. Use it for sure, but please reference it. All it takes is a line: "This was so and so during their last court appearance." Or, "This was Diana Ross when she played the coliseum in 1976."