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, January 28, 2009

Shameless Self-Promotion

This is a promo for a documentary I worked on a few years back. Very good cause-- this guy has pretty much single-handedly saved the sea turtle population in his village in Mexico. For more info, check out www.papatortuga.org

Former Employees of KTVK

If you haven't heard about the reunion this summer, email me andI'll shoot you the info.

Weather Coverage & the Web

Al Tompkins with Poynter did a nice piece today on how an Oklahoma newspaper used the web during its coverage of the storm. None of these items are very big ticket-- you could try some of them in your day to day ops so that for your next storm or spot news... you'll be ready. Coverage on the web can drive traffic to your show and vice-versa. Plus, it's cool.

Here's the article:


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Double Boxes

I've been seeing double boxes used a lot lately and here's something I've noticed. A lot of the double boxes have a "live" bug on them, but they're not specific to either box. So for example, on that plane crash the other week in New York, you'd see a liveshot of the plane in one box and video in the other. Sometimes in these situations, it's hard to tell which box is live and which one is taped. It might make some sense to have a conversation with your graphics people to see if two versions can be made up--- or if you can font "live" hot over the appropriate box.

Be Prepared for Bad Liveshots

There's a lot of new technology out there that can get us live. You can go live from your computer, live from your phone, etc. But as you may have noticed, the quality of these liveshots is not as good as if say, you had a live truck or sat truck transmitting the video. Keep in mind, the switch to HD makes the quality of the pictures stand out even more. I'm not saying don't use them-- I think you should always use whatever you have access to-- but I am saying compensate for bad pictures.

What to do? I've seen some of these liveshots put in a special graphic frame which makes the picture smaller and the poor quality less obvious. This doesn't have to be any big project-- just have something simple and generic made up that you can slip these shots into when they arise. That way you're not scrambling at the last minute and your show looks a little cleaner. You could also double box these shots with video on the other side... or squeeze into a full screen with bullet points. If your double box is big/little (big on one side, little on the other), I'd suggest you put anchor or video in big box, liveshot in the smaller. As always, use your best judgement and experiment.

Inauguration Pool

If anyone's interested on what it took to do the inauguration pool, one of the NBC photogs (@newmediajim) put out this post on twitter.com

Monday, January 26, 2009

Honey & Money

So should you date people at work? I say, proceed with caution. There's an old saying, "Don't get your honey where you get your money..." and it's floating around for good reason. That said, if you're working overnights and have Mondays and Tuesdays off... who else are you going to date? Cops, firefighters, nurses... and co-workers.

If you DO decide to date someone at work, keep these things in mind:

1. Unless you're going to marry this person, you WILL break up at some point. Whether it's you or the other person doing the breaking up, it's difficult to see that person day in and day out, even in the best situations.

2. Respect your co-workers and be discreet. Shocking as this may sound, your co-workers may not be as into your love fest as you are. At work, pretend you are not dating and act professionally at all times. Save the schmoopiness for when you're off the clock.

3. Don't date anyone under your direct line of supervision (or above for that matter). So producers, don't date writers. News directors, don't date anyone in the newsroom. You're just asking for trouble and/or a lawsuit. There are a million people out there... find someone else.

I have dated folks at work. I ended up marrying someone outside of the business. For all of you struggling to find a nice guy/gal with whom to spend your off-time, may I suggest match.com? Widens the dating pool significantly.

Monday, January 19, 2009


If you have a good piece of video or picture, but it is not immediately obvious what you're looking at, do your viewers a favor and make it obvious. So, for example, the plane that landed on the Hudson. There were a couple cell phone pics of it, but it took a sec or two to see-- oh, there's the plane. Circle it, highlight it, whatever, but don't make your viewers work when looking at your newscast.

Same goes for audio. If you get a piece of audio (like 911 call) that you want to use but YOU have to play it two or three times to understand it, consider that your viewers will be hearing it once and will likely be frustrated. Go ahead and font it with the words they are saying.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Autographing Head Shots

Got this email from Brooks, a friend of mine at Fox. Thought it was funny:

I laughed out loud at this. If you have ever read The Watercooler on Shoptalk, you know that fellow TV journalists toss around ideas, thoughts, criticisms and praise. Others will also ask for feedback or advice on a question or issue they have. Here is a response I found today to a budding anchor who asked “how to autograph headshots?” There were many responses. Some gave truthful advice on what to do if someone asks you for an autograph or signed headshot. Others chided him for even asking the question…take a look at this response to that young anchors serious question about signing headshots!

HOW DO YOU SIGN HEAD SHOTS!!?!?!? Only an anchor would ask that type of question. OMG! You've got to be kidding me! What's next? "Do I casually toss my suit jacket over my left or right shoulder for the promo shoot?"

Amazing! Shows where talent priorities are…and the fact that other anchors jumped in with "helpful advice" shows how screwed up anchors really are! The fact that people actually gave this question thought makes me want to throw up.

Here are my suggestions for "how to sign head shots"

1) I'm totally irrelevant.. thanks for watching
2) They are going to cut my salary in half because I'm irrelevant.. thanks for watching
3) I've never heard of you either.. thanks for watching
4) I work a four hour day.. how about you?
5) I can complain all the time and my boss can't fire me.. thanks for watching
6) I kick ass at solitarie.. thanks for watching
7) I'm on TV.. that makes me cool.
8) I spend more in a month on teeth whitening and hair spray than you spend feeding your family.. thanks for watching
9) I'm a celebrtiy.. quit bugging me for head shots
10) All I really do is read the prompter.. can you believe it!!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Should You Stay Or Should You Go Now?

I got an email from someone with a contract coming up. The million dollar question-- stay or go? Tough question. It always makes sense to check out other options. It never hurts to cast your net. Check with friends/professional organizations. Check tvjobs.com. Cold call markets where you're interested in moving. See what's out there. You can always use a new offer to help your negotiating position. Sadly, TV stations don't give employees raises just because they're good workers. They give you a good raise when you have another offer.

However. There's something to be said for staying put, especially now. It might make some sense to do some digging both on what your company is doing and also what any company you're interested in is doing. For example, is your company laying off people in other markets? Does the new company have a history of laying people off when it gets tight or does it cut overtime instead? How fat is the old or new company? Reading the WSJ might not be your cup of tea, but it pays to be informed about the overall health of your and other media companies as well as the industry as whole.

Again, always have a resume and demo ready, just in case. Stay in touch with people and send info their way so they'll do the same. It's a scary world out there with a lot of good people in local and network being laid off-- so there's a lot of talent out there for the open jobs that are being filled.