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

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

My Right to Tease Supercedes Your Right to Exist

There's a tough-in-cheek phrase people use in news-- don't let the facts get in the way of a good story. You could modify that and say-- don't let the facts get in the way of a good tease. You know the situation. A reporter calls back and says something like, "This is a dumpster fire with a house about a football field away," only to hear it teased later as, "There's fire raging on the West side. Could homes be at risk?"

While everyone loves a good solid tease, and it can help pull viewers through your show or into it, you do viewers a disservice when you overhype a story. Because as much as you'd like there to be a raging fire on the West side, there isn't, and when you toss to your reporter, he or she is going to say so going to say so and your viewers are going to feel ripped off. Or worse, they don't see even your story and come away with an inaccurate perception of what happened.

Producers: when field crews object to your teases or intros, you may feel like they are parsing words, but it is they who will feel the effects of an inaccurate or overhyped tease. In the fire on the West side example, the fire chief will not complain to you about the tease, it will be the reporter who hears it and looks like the idiot. That's why they're so sensitive about teasing. Backing off or softening up a tease when a reporter asks you to not only makes your newscast more accurate, it's throws goodwill in the bank with your reporter, so that in a situation where you do overrule him, he will have confidence that you actually heard him and may feel better about the decision making process, even if he disagrees with the outcome.

There's another problem with teases-- no, or not enough, payoff. Apparently, I am a pretty good tease writer. So good that I got drilled by a news director for it. He had stayed up to watch a story I had been teasing all night. The story was accurate and interesting-- and all of :20 long. You may want to spend as much time on the actual story as you do teasing it. I could have easily made the story longer, or added a sot, or even had a reporter front it from the newsroom to make it feel a little larger-- and less like the throw-away it was, however well teased.

I am reminded of an editorial cartoon by Jim Borgman with the Cincinnati Enquirer. It had several frames, each with an anchor teasing the same story, "Could your socks be killing you? Find out tonight at 11." "Is there something deadly lurking in your sock drawer? We'll tell you tonight." Then in the final panel, when the story airs, the anchor says, "Are your socks deadly? .....No."

((Credit to WLW's Bill Cunningham for the title of this article. On his radio show, he uses the phrase, "Our need to know supercedes your right to exist."))

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