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, March 25, 2008

Producer Opening

Heard about a producer opening in a top 20 SW market. Shoot me an email if you might be interested and I can pass along some details.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Drag Racing Live Trucks

Two TV crews in El Paso doing a story on drag racing decided to race their live trucks.
Here's the video and story with thanks to the El Paso Times.


Monday, March 17, 2008

Web Stuff

My employer has launched a new "On the Scene" blog. Thought I'd put in a shameless plug:

Anybody doing anything interesting with the web at their station? If so, shoot me a note. I'd love to hear about it.

New Term: News Nun

I just heard this from a producer friend of mine-- as in, instead of being married to God, you're married to your job. I'd be laughing hysterically if it didn't hit a little too close to home.

Three Words or Six?

One of the Poynter instructors had an interesting exercise. Basically, when you're writing a story, try to distill it down to three words. So for example, "Tornado hits Atlanta," or "Wildfires burn Texas." Some are easy, but most stories almost seem to defy boiling down to three words. The point of the exercise is to narrow your focus-- and then toss what doesn't fit under your three word description. For more on Poynter, go to www.poynter.org

Another six word exercise is something I heard on the radio and it's just for fun. This one is called the six word memoir. There's also a book out collecting a bunch of them, subtitled, "Not quite what I had planned." From the website (www.smithmag.net) :

Cursed with cancer, blessed with friends

I still make coffee for two

wedding cancelled: forks are too heavy

Day and night, like zebra stripes

Baby teeth, buck teeth, no teeth

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Stop me if you've seen this one before

Some days it's tough to fill a newscast. That is especially true on weekends. This is no reason to essentially rerun your early newscast again at ten. Change up the stories, the format (pkg to vosot or vice-versa) and the bites you're using.

Do not rerun packages. A reporter can rework the pkg they turned at 6p into something new at ten. It's not that hard to write a second version once you've already written the first one.

The point is, if viewers see the exact same stuff within the first five minutes of your newscast, they can rightly assume there is nothing new and just go to bed.

Don't assume your viewer at 6p automatically won't watch at 10p. Give them a reason to watch by changing it up a bit. Resources are slim to be sure- no newsroom has enough reporters, editors, etc., but do what you can and don't be afraid to get creative.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Consider Your Lead-In

If there is a big national story, you may be tempted to lead with it. Be cautious if your newscast occurs right after your network's nightly half hour. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to lead with the exact same story your viewers just saw a half hour ago. The big exception to this is if it is an ongoing story and you have something to update or- if there is some local angle to the story.

Obviously, this also doesn't apply to huge national stories like 911, for example. But for your average killer tornado, etc., get creative and find a local lead. Otherwise your show will feel like a rehash.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Life of Kings

“As I look back over a misspent life, I find myself more and more convinced that I had more fun doing news reporting than in any other enterprise. It is really the life of kings.”—H. L. Mencken

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Say you have a big story. You have a lead pkg but you want to break out a sot to use after the pkg to make the story feel larger. If you are going to use a sot from an interview who's in the pkg, have enough common sense to pick a bite that is different than what is in the piece.

Case in point. I was watching a top 20 market newscast. The lead pkg was about a murder-suicide. The second story was a vosot on the murder-suicide and not only was the sot exactly the same as one we just heard a minute ago in the pkg, but the copy sounded like it was lifted from the piece as well. Who was approving scripts? How was this not caught? Or did they catch it and then decided to go with it anyway?

Gum = Immediate Detention

I cannot believe what I just saw on a small market local television newscast. Gum! A reporter DOING an interview was actually smacking his lips chewing gum! It wasn't even live- it was taped! And they still used it! Gum!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Anchor vs. Reporter-- On Air

This is making the rounds. With thanks to St. Petersburg Times TV/media critic Eric Deggans:


The Future is Now

I had the great fortune to work with some cool new technology. The above may look like a regular Expedition (sorry the pic's not better) but it's not. It's a sat truck. Sort of. My company is trying out two of these things. The vehicle has a big flat-ish disc on the top of the roof that basically tracks a satellite. You flip a couple buttons and you are live on the bird. It's crazy cool. When it works. The vehicle we had was slightly temperamental, but the fact that it can be done at all is just amazing to me.
The vehicle we worked in has two permanent cameras, one aimed at the passenger seat (for talent) and one on the roof. There's also wireless camera gear that you can take out and use. I've seen live trucks decked out like this but the fact that they've done it so that you can get on a satellite that quickly-- is just awesome.
In case you're interested, here's a link to the blog about our roadtrip.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Special Event Coverage

With elections upon us, here's a tip to make your life much easier. Include the people who will actually be doing the coverage in on your planning sessions. For example, doing something big out live election night? Include a good photographer, live or sat truck guy, and a reporter who's done it before. Maybe director or font operator. The tech people, especially the photogs, I guarantee you will come up with issues that you've never dreamed up. They'll alert you to possible problems that you can manage on the front end instead of the night of. The reporter can also give you perspective on what to expect.

Time and again when I've worked special events coverage, whether it's been a New Year's Eve show or breaking news special, it seems no one who plans the events checks with the foot soldiers. That's a shame. They can make your coverage one hundred percent better.