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, January 29, 2010

Video in Video

I saw a couple uses of video boxes that I thought were interesting.

One was during a pkg. A small box with video came up with a snipe teasing a story at 6pm. So you're watching a story (for example) about politics and a small box down near where the fonts go pops up with video of overweight people with a title next to it "How to lose weight, at 6."

On that particular usage, I'm lukewarm. I don't hate it but I don't love it either. If I were EP there I'd probably want to see it done for a week to see if it grows on me. Of course you'd have to be very careful that what you're teasing is appropriate to run inside the other story.

The next use of a video box I liked a bunch. The weather guy was standing next to a chroma key map and they had about three boxes pop out one at a time showing the bad weather around town. Each box popped out, he talked about ten or fifteen and then it popped back. Looked super smooth. Nice way to highlight talent and still have video to boot. How else could you use this? Anytime you have multiples... so for a crime reporter... maybe there's a bunch of burglaries... "The first one was here... the second here.." Or whatever.

The point is-- try stuff. Be adventurous. Take risks with your show. Sit down with your director. Maybe he/she has some ideas to try. Start simple and go from there. If you hate it, you can always never do it again.

Parody Package on How to Do a Package

I thought it was pretty funny...

Monday, January 25, 2010

Haiti Coverage

What does everyone think of the Haiti coverage? I have seen a lot of editorials saying line between "covering the story" and "I am the story" has been crossed a bunch.

Have you guys been using much of Haiti in your shows? Maybe in the first week and now it's tapering off?

I meant to mention this early on, but maybe you do this already. On any big national or international story, it's always handy to do websearches to check for local ties. It might be as broad as "your state/city + Haiti..." just to see what pops up. Also, remember your local Universities. You'd be amazed. There always seems to be a language program or perhaps local students studying in the region that's impacted. In the case of Haiti, there were lots of U.S. aid (including local church) groups. Check with your local Red Cross, Salvation Army, Catholic Charities. Don't forget local businesses that might import/export/have-some-kind-of-tie there. Or maybe someone from your area who's set up a business in the city that's been hit (like a hotel or restaurant). If your region contains a military facility, definitely check in with them.

All of this can make your coverage more local and relevant. Maybe you can arrange a trip with a group that's going? Or at least--maybe you give them a cheap disposable camera or a Flip camera and have them take pics. They can send them back during the trip if there's internet or you could just do a story once they get back. Even if it's only for the web, it adds a layer to your coverage and could be a really compelling first person account.

Finally, don't forget about using Skype. It's become more popular and you can search users by place. You might be able to set up interesting interviews with local people who are in the impacted area.

Monday, January 18, 2010


I saw something I liked with promos. Instead of having it taped, saw one local affiliate use that time for what was essentially a :30 live tease from a reporter in the field. It looked good and caught my interest. Maybe it's not something you do every night, but something to keep in mind to try.

Golden Rule

There's a lot of gruesome video coming out of Haiti. Understand, just because you have the video, doesn't mean you have to use it. You will never lose a night of sleep because you did not air something. When faced with the "should I run it or not" question, ask yourself this-- "If this involved someone I knew, how would I react?" Balance this with, "What do we lose and what do our viewers lose by not seeing this? Will they still understand the story and get the same impact?" The right decision is the one you go home feeling good about. The wrong one is the one you still question yourself about years later.

If you decide to use something graphic, please warn viewers. Consider putting it on show when kids might not be up. And NEVER and I mean NEVER use graphic video as wallpaper or in teases.


A couple things to remember on liveshots...

First, it's important to communicate with your crews. Give them cues-- 5 minutes out.. 1 minute.. 30... and then during the liveshot, tell them if they're in pkg or video or sound. This is especially important for the photographer who made be doing a move for you live... or may need to use the break of a pkg or sot to adjust his/her shot.

Also for lives, encourage your reporters to move around and show stuff if warranted. Standing in one place is boring especially when there's something to show. Encourage people to take risks in their storytelling. Encourage creative thinking and ideas by giving good feedback when you see them done in your show. And if something you try doesn't work out? So what? It's live TV not brain surgery.

Finally, if there is more than one hit, consider trying to change up each hit. So maybe you focus on one person and one area in this hit... another person and another area in the next. You can encourage this by checking in with the reporter at the end of a hit... "What are you doing for the next one?"

ABOVE ALL, if something is interesting and it is happening live, SHOW IT!! I was watching some live winter weather coverage and there was a live crew near a road that had iced over. At the end of the reporter's liveshot, he points out the car that is just now going around all the other cars toward the big ice patch on the road. The car starts sliding... and .... they go back to studio. ARG! What happened? In that case, the reporter could have said, "I know we need to wrap up, but let's just watch this guy... this is why these storms are so dangerous..." Or the anchor could have jumped in "Hey Bob, can we keep that camera up? Let's see what happened with that car."

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Quick Snapshot on Haiti Prior to Quake

PBS aired this on Monday. Thought since we're all doing a lot of Haiti coverage, worth checking it out: