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

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Next Job

There is a huge need for producers because there aren't a whole lot of people who want to do it (comparatively). I've said that for any reporter opening, news directors get dozens of tapes, but for any producer opening, they'll get like, four. And half of those may not be qualified. Stations cycle through producers because producers get hired away by other markets and/or get promoted into management positions. So! Good career choice. As a producer, your career is golden!

As for tapes, I've usually just recorded whole shows and sent them out. I'd try to record your show every night. Save one if it's good, but keep recording each night (as an aside, review your show the next day so you can self-critique). I've always liked being able to send an interested news director my tape with a note that says-- here's last night's show. As in, I don't have to save up a good show for you, I do good work every day of the week. On the other hand, if you have a kicking show-- by all means send that. Just make sure it's recent.

TVJobs.com is a good place to look for job postings. You can also target markets. Say you're dying to get to Austin. Call each station-- you guys looking for producers? Find out who the news directors are and send them tapes with a note: "Hey, I know you're not looking for anybody now, but keep me in mind if something opens up. If you have a sec, I'd love your feedback on my tape." I have no pride when it comes to looking for a job. But you'd be amazed how many news directors will chat with you even if they don't have an opening.

How I got my jobs:
In HS, a reporter came by our school for a story. I attached myself to her and asked if they needed any help. She said call the news director. I did and they needed someone to rip wire (AP wire stories came over printing machines and you'd have to monitor it to make sure you weren't missing breaking news) and do beat checks.
By the time I went to Cincinnati for college, I had a year experience. I hounded each of the TV stations there and one of them had an opening for a PA.
After college... FOX was starting news at its local affiliates. I had a friend who got hired there. She put in a good word and I got hired as a weekend assignment editor/weekday field producer.
Next, Phoenix. I targeted Phoenix as a market where I wanted to go. I hounded the news directors and eventually (within a year) something opened up at a station I liked.
For my job in Philly, it was just an ad on TV jobs I think. They called and like me.
Finally, for my current job, I found out about it through a friend and he recommended me.

I think the common denominator is just being persistent and not taking it personally if you get blown off. For a lot of postings, they may already have someone in mind but they have to post it anyway for legal reasons.

A great way to find out about jobs is through friends/former coworkers. Since you've been in your newsroom, there have probably already been people who have moved on. Keep in touch. Over the years, you may hear of something they're interested in. Tell them about it. Hopefully they'll do they same for you. I have also enjoyed going to meetings/classes through professional organizations like RTNDF and IRE. They're great places to learn and meet people. Again, stay in touch. You never know when they'll have an opening-- or, your station might-- and you can help someone good get a job in your shop.

What news directors are looking for? Warm bodies. Just kidding. Really-- it depends on the news director. I'd say if you're looking at a specific station, you obviously want to do your homework. Check out their station's website. What kind of feel does it have? Is it a real hard news place or does it do a lot of lifestyle pieces? See if you can watch a newscast online or get a tape. You want to get a sense of their culture so that you can tailor your pitch to them. More importantly, see if the shop is a good fit for you. If you live and breathe spot news and they're doing stories on "do these jeans make my butt look fat," it may not be a good fit. Sometimes, news directors have you critique a showtape. I love doing this, but it can be tricky. You want to offer enough criticism to show you have something to bring to the party but not so much that you sound like a cocky idiot. I tend to fall on the cocky idiot side.

I think most news directors are looking for someone who is sharp, innovative and organized. You have to be able to play well with others and problem solve. In terms of shows, I think it's important to stress that you enjoy spot news and don't have a problem juggling a rundown at the last minute. Be aggressive in terms of news. Don't be afraid to change things. Some producers put their rundowns in at 5pm and nothing changes till ten pm. That's unconscionable and lazy. Embrace change. Find the freshest stuff to put in your show. But also look for places to "produce" your show. Sometimes in smaller markets, you don't have any help and it's all you can do to write your show and get it on the air. Maybe give special attention to your open/headlines or teases. Always give the top of your show special attention because it's the news director's (and viewer's) first impression of you. Do what you can. Eventually, you'll be in a market where you have some help and you can focus on the "look" of your show as well as the content.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post. This is exactly what I needed to hear. I am seven months into my first producing job and really needed to hear words of wisdom from someone who knows the business like you! =)