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

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Orlando TV Crew Attacked

Be careful out there. A crew in Orlando was covering a memorial when they were attacked by friends and family of the victim. No news story is worth getting hurt. Whether it's a funeral or trying to contact family of someone who's just been killed or arrested, understand there's a potential for things to go downhill. Try to be as respectful as possible, and put yourself in their situation to get a sense of how they might be feeling-- but as it seems in this case, something things come out of nowhere. If you're a line producer, understand that asking your reporters and photographers to do these things involves them taking a risk, so it's up to them to decide what their level of comfort is. Don't encourage anyone to go beyond that.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

It's all a Matter of Timing

As a show producer, you have to be a stickler on time. You're out at 10:59:30, not 10:59:29 or 10:59:31. Timing things to the second can be a real challenge, especially if you are on a new show or are with new talent. My advice is give yourself some breathing room. Until you get a really good feel for your show and your anchors, build flexibility into your show, especially toward the back end of it. I liked to "hide" time in my show. So the end of the show might be :45 in the rundown, instead of the :15 or :30 I really need. I'd also have "killables." That's a story here or there that's not teased that you know you can kill. So maybe before or after weather you have a killable story. Maybe there's one right after sports. Or maybe you have a few kickers and a weather update at the end of the show.

Timing sports can be a sore spot. It's not fair to kill sports stories (in a normal situation) because your part of the show is running heavy. It is fair to ask the sports producer (or anchor if he or she produces his own segment) -- "What can you kill if your segement starts to run heavy?" Having this conversation, every day, prior to the sports segment gets everyone on the same page. Make sure the sports anchor is included in it. Maybe the sports producer tells you-- I can kill this sot or this story at the end. It's best that they make that call-- not you. Of course, with BIG breaking news (I'm talking where you're killing significant portions of your show) - all bets are off and you need to do what you need to do to get off on time.

Speaking of breaking news-- for me, there was no greater joy I had as a show producer than the thrill of tossing out stuff, juggling, and producing a show on the fly. Every day, take a minute to look at your rundown and think-- if I had some big breaking news... what could I toss? This goes beyond normal "killables" that you jettison when you're running a little over. Think drastic cuts. Maybe write yourself a little post-it with the stories that you've teased. To that end, try not to tease everything in your show. Pick a handful of interesting/compelling stories that you tease several times in different ways. By thinking about this stuff ahead of time, every day, when you do get breaking news, you won't have to think too hard-- it comes almost automatically.

Finally, when you kill stories, any stories, remember to do it at a time when everyone is available to you. Killing the next story the anchor is about read as they are finishing one prevvious is a big no-no. Time your show well enough so that you can kill in breaks-- and tell everyone-- director/anchor/crew-- at the same time if you can. If killing in a break is impossible, tell people about kills during pkgs. If that's not possible-- kill during sots. And again-- if you have a sense ahead of time about what you're planning to do, let people know even if they might not need to act on that information. For example, you're running heavy. In the break you tell everyone "If I'm still heavy after weather, I'll kill C8." That way if you do kill the page, it's not a big surprise to everyone. Ditto at the top of the show-- and you think you're lead might not make it. Tell everyone "I think the lead's going to make it, but it will be tight. If not, we'll go to page A4. I'll make the call at the end of headlines." That way, everyone knows what your backup plan is-- and when they'll hear what you'll do.