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

Friday, October 12, 2007

Producers Should be Pessimists

It would be nice to have a good show. We all certainly don't work 9 or 10 hours hoping to have a disasterous one. But do yourself a favor. Plan for the worst. Expect your lead to go down. Have a backup plan. Or, as a producer Alice Main once said when I worked with her in Cincinnati, "Have a backup plan. Have a backup plan for your backup plan."

Generally if your lead is ok, you can wing the rest of the show. About 10-15 minutes before showtime, I would highly advise you to go back to where liveshots are tuned in and see what's up. Who's tuned in? Who has fed? Any problems with any of the liveshots?

Likewise, go back to editing. What's done? How is my lead? What do I need to worry about? Answers to these questions will help you create a workable backup plan.

The "keep it simple stupid" rule is applicable here. Generally, the best way to go if your lead is MIA is just on to the next story. Don't reinvent the wheel. If it was supposed to be "lead pkg" then a "vosot," just come out to the two shot or however you start the show... and then just go to the Vosot. Don't change anchor reads. Just keep going. If the pkg does come in, DO NOT try to throw it in immediately. Wait till you are in another pkg, a long sot or a break. That way you can tell the anchor, director and everyone else what you're planning. You may have it in your head exacly what you want to do, but everyone else has to be on board too. If you announce these kinds of decisions in a pkg or a break, everyone has a second to adjust and get their head around it.

You want viewers at home to have no idea anything went wrong. One of the biggest compliments I got was from a boss one time after a show where I did some major surgery. He called and questioned me about the placement a certain story in the show. The show was so smooth, he had no idea we went to that story only because we didn't have something else.

After you work with folks for a while, you will know which reporters you can count on, and which ones will give you heart palpitations. Some stations have a ten minute rule. I don't buy hard and fast rules. Use your best judgement-- it's news, things happen. But if there's a reporter who misses slot without a good reason (breaking news, equipment failure, act of God), you may want to start pestering them at fifteen out. If their story's looking iffy, tell them you'd prefer a clean vosot to a no show pkg. If it's an ongoing problem, try to address it and solve it with them first. As a last resort schedule a meeting for the two of you to discuss with your boss.

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