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

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Be Cool

A work about behavior in the booth. At least a modicum of restraint is required. You may know that your show is on the verge of exploding, but best not to let everyone else know by losing your mind. Other folks in the booth can take their cues from you. If the producer is screaming, how is everyone else supposed to stay calm? Pretend you are a 911 emergency dispatcher. No matter what the situation, try to stay on an even keel. Calmly make a call and stick with it. Remember, it's better to have a clean show, than take a huge risk that doesn't add much to your show but has the potential to crash it. If possible, talk to people in breaks, PKGS and sots, in that order. Less is going on then and you are more likely to be heard. This is especially true with anchors. Don't talk when they're talking and stay calm in their ear.

DO NOT try to problem solve in the booth. There is no reason. It just gets people upset and won't erase whatever mistake has already been made. Move on. Unless it's an ongoing issue, figure out what went wrong AFTER the whole show is over. This can keep small mistakes from becoming a complete cluster.

You're Hot

"You're hot." Two little words that can save your show from looking sloppy. It's one of the biggest complaints from photogs in the field... they put a picture up... and you take it without telling them. And because they don't know it's live... they readjust right in the middle. Make it standard operating procedure to give cues to anyone who is live in your show. Give them one a couple minutes out... a minute out... a standby... and you're hot. Follow up with "you're clear." Then the photographers can give you their best... and maybe do a cool move while you're live.

Bigger markets often assign someone to coordinate live shots in the booth. If this is the situation at your shop, make sure this person is on top of it.. and if not, have a follow-up conversation.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Size Does Matter

Your first block ought to be at least ten minutes long. I saw a newscast the other day that was 6 minutes! Obviously, something had gone very wrong because why would you ever make the first block so short? I could feel viewers switching to another channel to watch the rest of someone else's first block. Some T.V. stations monitor when their competition is in commercial so that they can be the last ones to go. It's a thought.

Getting the Other Side

Make sure if you're doing a negative story about a company, even if it's a vo, to get their side of things. I was watching a story a while back about a salmonella outbreak at a local chain of restaurants. Lots of people got sick. There was no company response or statement included in the piece. Not even a quick full screen: "We've cleaned up our restaurants." Nothing.

If you're running a negative story on a company, you have to at least try to get their side of it on the air. They may not want to talk with you. If the company doesn't respond, include THAT in your piece to show viewers that you've done the work:

"We called XYZ Restaurants but they didn't want to comment for this story."

Or use comments they've previously given you:

"We couldn't talk with XYZ today, but in past stories, they told us they're working hard to get everything cleaned up."

If all else fails, quote another reliable news source:

"We couldn't contact XYZ, but the AP is reporting that because of the outbreak, the restaurant will be offering everyone free tacos tomorrow."

Finally, don't forget the web. Many companies utilize their sites to communicate with the media. They may not return your calls, but a brief statement might be posted on their press page or even their home page.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Sign of the times?

New story out on how NBC in Philadelphia is in a video sharing agreement with Fox Philly. I used to work for WCAU and I now work for NewsCorp... but I don't have any inside info. Just ran across this on "Media Week."


HD Pitfalls

Something to keep in mind as we head into the brave new world of HD.

Most stations are implementing in various stages. The ones I've seen so far have the anchors back at the station in HD... but the field crews are regular. This is weird but I guess unavoidable. When you're watching on a HD set... you see crystal clear anchors, wrinkles and all... and then they toss to reporters in the field... who now look sort of fuzzy. The point is-- might not make a whole lot of sense to put them in double boxes together where the two different qualities of pictures stand out more. Graphics are often in high def too. Just something to think about.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

CNN Election Night Hologram

Did you guys see this? CNN "beamed" a reporter into the studio via a hologram... like the ones they had at Disney's Epcot Center back in the day. I thought it was interesting. But I wish they would have had some video of the setup as she was explaining how it works. It might have even been worth a quick piece.