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

Monday, June 28, 2010

Interesting Story Structure

I was listening to a radio story on the oil spill a while ago. It had an interesting story structure that you could steal. The reporter in the piece basically structured the story to follow a Presidential visit. So President stops here first, we go back and talk with someone there and then present that part in the story first. It was an unusual way to tell a story and I think really effective in this case.

Here's a transcript if you want to check it out yourself:


Congrats to me

I've been doing this blog, what, three years, and only now I've finally figured out how to provide a direct link to websites? Obviously, I'm no web genius. Thanks for bearing with me.

Faux News Reports

I ran across this and thought it was interesting-- a political campaign is churning out its own "news" stories. Thought I'd pass along the link...


Putting out You Tube videos on your candidate is nothing new, but these have the look and feel of real news pieces. Here's one:

Maybe that's because the Press Secretary fronting them used to be in TV, says the Baltimore Sun.

All's fair in campaigning or crossing some kind of line?

Of course, it's not just campaigns creating their own "news." BP also has its own "reporters" covering the latest developments from the Gulf.


Thursday, June 24, 2010


I just took this "empathy" quiz given to college students (apparently, they're not so empathetic). It's supposed to measure how well you empathize with others. Of course we all THINK we are pretty empathetic people, including me. But then a few of the questions really got me thinking:

-I try to look at everybody's side of a disagreement before I make a decision.

-I believe that there are two sides to every question and try to look at them both.

-When I'm upset at someone, I usually try to "put myself in his shoes" for a while.

Do I make a concerted effort to see everybody's side of a disagreement or do I just bulldoze through and make a decision? Was there some voice in the room that could have saved me from making a bad decision had I just listened? How do people with whom I work feel when they haven't been heard?

Do I believe that there are two sides to every question? How many times to we go into a story with a subsurface preconceived notion about what that story ought to be? Do we really have an open mind coming into a story-- or newsroom debate?

Finally, that last question. It is really easy to get hot under the collar sometimes in TV news. There are big deadlines, big personalities and sometimes those clash in the worst way. How many times do we really, truly, try to imagine what the person we might like to scream at is actually going through? Can we take a break from our anger, take a breath, surrender our ego and try to get to where the other person is coming from? Or do we stick to our guns and possibly make the matter worse?

I am in no way advocating that you be wishy-washy in your decision-making. As one former boss told me, "It ain't a democracy." But'll you'll go a long way in making good decisions by at least listening to what everyone has to say and empathizing with their position. Well informed decisions are the best ones.

You can take that quiz yourself here:

WatchYour Lead In

If you do an evening newscast and you follow a network newscast, be really careful about what you put in your show. This may sound extreme-- but I might avoid putting any national news in your show unless it's a developing story or has a local angle. Why? To avoid repetition. You have no idea what the national cast is putting in the show so you don't want to come on right after them and rehash. It's the same reason you and the show after yours check each other's rundowns to make sure you're not repeating each other.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Graphics Gone Wrong

If I've said it once, I've said it a million times. PLEASE double check your graphics. The best story comes to a screaming halt when there's a misspelling or typo. Have some kind of system in place to do a final run through of both your chyrons and graphics. Even if it's an intern-- any warm body-- have a second set of eyes go through each and read them out loud. You'd be amazed the little mistakes you can catch that have the potential to sink your show with the viewer. Nothing screams sloppy like bad graphics. If you can't get something simple like graphics done right, why would viewers trust you with the big stuff-- getting your facts and information straight?

The Story's Not at the Press Conference

We all cover press conferences. But the story is generally not at the press conference. Go to them. Shoot them. But then figure out a way to get out of there. Get someone who's actually impacted by what's being said at the press conference. Find a real person who is not a politician.

Easy example-- a city announces budget cuts. Find someone impacted by budget cuts. The fire station that will lose overtime. The old lady who won't get her garbage collected. Lots of times the real people might actually be there at the press conference, listening, or they may even speak at it-- but definitely reinterview them in their own environment, at their home or work. Or ask the parties giving the press conference to direct you to someone impacted.

Press conferences are deadly boring video. Make the extra effort to find someone personally impacted and peg your story on that person or persons. You end product will be much better.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Field Producing

I try to make this blog for local line producers but I've been getting some emails about field producing so I thought i'd write a bit about it...

Field producing is fun. At a network level, the job title varies depending on the network (even within the network). Some field producers write-- some don't. Some come from an assignment editing background, some from a producing background. At my network, I do a lot of story setup and what's called "editorial" -- basically information gathering. So, for example, on breaking news, I'm calling people trying to get info, figuring out where our "roving" crew should go (one crew may do lives shots, another may shoot videotape nearby). I also liason with NY and others about our live hits. I'll work with a writer in NY and tell them-- we'll need this video, may I order a graphic... etc. I also try to help steer the ship in the right direction by providing logistical info (maybe we should move live locations because this one over here is better, for example).

Our "liveshot" days are long. we're usually 8am EST -8pm EST plus travel time from where ever we are staying. We're on the road about 50-75% of the time. I am on call 24/7 unless I have specifically asked for days off.

When we're not doing breaking news, we do "assigned stories." I or another co-worker may pitch a story, and if it's approved, I'll research it, make calls, do story set up. You may also log tape and write. I try to do as much as I can for the web as well.

I also field produced at a local level, which I liked a lot. There, I basically took stories from start to finish like a reporter would but then just handed them off to an anchor to voice. In big breaking stories, I'd go in the field and coordinate coverage, much like I do now. If you're interested in field producing, whether at a network or at a local affiliate, I'd try coming in on your day off and going out with a photog. Do some interviews, write some stories, see what it feels like to be responsible for 2:00 of the show, rather than the whole show. But also understand, it comes with some trade-offs-- if you like being one of the decision makers, field producing is not the way for you.

The good news is, I think show producers are well equipped to be field producers. You know how to work with talent and you’re good at big picture stuff. Many of you already work the phones to get info for your show. And you’ve already made tons of coverage decisions.

If you’re interested, like I say, try to get experience at your station even if it’s on your days off, and network like a big fiend. Get in touch or stay in touch with former co-workers through Linked In, Facebook, Twitter. Meet new folks by attending conferences like IRE, RTNDA/F, NAHJ, NABJ, NPPA.