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, October 11, 2007

Field producing

Someone asked about field producers. You can usually find them in mid to large markets, lots of times in health, consumer and investigative units. The job description varies from shop to shop, but basically, if you have some poor reporter or anchor expected to turn segments in several shows, they're going to need some help. I've field produced in three markets, all 30 and higher. In each of them, I acted like an off-air reporter. I'd take stories from start to finish and then hand them off to a reporter or anchor to voice.

It's a great gig. In Cincinnati, I was a weekend producer and weekday field producer. So about the time I'd get fried on show producing, I could break out of the building and just be in charge of my 1:30. It also made me a better show producer. You get a much better sense of what crews are going through and what you can ask of them when you're stuck out there a couple days a week. You also have something to bring to the party in terms of contacts and story ideas. For every story you go out on, you should be looking to bring back at least one story idea culled from the people you've interviewed.

Years later, when I worked in Phoenix, I got burnt out on show producing and I didn't want to go into management. The station management at the time was very kind and wide-minded enough to allow me to field produce full-time. I was assigned to our consumer/investigative unit. It was a great crash course on research and customer service for viewers. I got to be one of the "experts" in the newsroom, a person reporters could come to when they needed a source or if they needed ideas on how to flesh out a story.

While I loved show producing in that you could really impact what people are seeing at home, field producing is also really gratifying. If you'd like to try it out, I suggest volunteering to go out with a photographer on your day off. Do it a few times and you'll get into a groove of how to work with a photographer and how to interview and turn stories. You can also ask your station managers to let you take a "break" by field producing. Maybe ask for a day of field producing after a tough book, for example. Finally, you can find opportunities to field produce on big stories when there are multiple crews in the field. Often, your coverage will go better if you have a producer out there coordinating coverage. I find that show producers often make the best field producers because they get the big picture and can mediate well between field crews and the station.

At the network level, field producer duties run the gamut. I may do an interview, write, do story set up and research or make travel arrangements. I always coordinate live shots, letting New York know what tapes we'll be using and when, as well as making sure those tapes are fed and everything's ready to go. It's not so much to do when you only have a couple live hits during the day, but on breaking stories, we'll have hits on the hour or half hour or more, as well as affiliate hits, radio requests and sometimes the odd liveshot for Sky news.

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