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

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Live Presser, Interrupted

This is why I love live television news. You never know what's going to happen. Press conference, meet irate bus driver.

Here is the link in case my hyperlink doesn't work.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Filling (A Bunch of) Time

I got a letter from a poor producer who now has a HUGE amount of extra time in his show to fill. He asked for ideas so I include them below.

1. Choose where you'll focus your effort.
You can't do it all, so decide, ok, I can do tasks #1, #2, and #3 well
but the rest are going to slide. I know that's an awful thing to tell
you, but you know that all parts of your show are not created equally and you only have so much energy, staff etc. Make headlines, teases super simple and when possible... if the reporter is doing something--- have them tease their part of the story... weather guy does his tease etc.

2. Talk to your boss.
Schedule a time, tell him you need 5-10 minutes b/c you'd like to get "feedback" now
that the new mega-show's up and running. Don't go in with -- this
sucks and it's not working, even though that's the case.
Instead say... how do you like how things are going? How do you
envision this? Do you think resources are managed appropriately?
Maybe by his answers, you can get him/her to the conclusions you have
already made. Probably not. But just by asking, you may open lines of communication that may benefit you. Maybe take a note of one issue he says during the meeting-- like-- he really wants to do XYZ. File that away... and then maybe you notice, there's an overlap of reporters on say Wednesdays... and in a future
conversation, you can say, hey you know I remember you really wanted
to focus on XYZ. I notice Suzie Smith is not overutilized on
Wednesdays. Since we have two reporters that day, would it be possible
to have her do XYZ for my mega-show? Also... maybe you can sneak in reporters from other shows into your show. Meaning if a reporter works 2-11, say, and they're out on something... have them do JUST a straight liveshot or a quick Q&A (no pkg or vosot or big scripted thing) for your show. You can sell this to your ND as a tease for the other shows... say hey, if I get Suzie Q to do a 1:00 story/extended
tease for one of my shows, this drives people to the other show for more info.

3. Nothing eats time more than guests. I'd develop a deep rolodex and
use it. Have some go-to PR people. For example, if you have a strong
relationship with a University or hospital nearby, maybe they have experts they
can send your way quickly. Talk to them in advance and tell them if they can get you folks quickly, you'll put them on air. So if the big GOP debate was last night,
you do a vo or vo/sot to cover that and then launch into Dr. Politics
discussing the big night. Big storm last night? Have a NWS service guy
come in. New cold research? In comes the good doctor. There are tons of things like these that you can tie in to daily news to add depth and fill time. Maybe you have standing guests-- feature or otherwise, depending on style of your show. Maybe
it's Back to Work Mondays... Politics Tuesdays. Whatever. You can do hard news
but I'd also check out more evergreen talk about items. Anything that
people are interested in and would want to hear more about qualifies
in my book. There are all kinds of things you can come up with when you have no time constraints. Get creative. Talk to people who are not in news for their ideas.

4. Be a spot news whore. If you have one reporter... make them live
guy. Let's say there's a fire at 8am. Send them. They go live. Make
sure you let them know they don't file a whole bunch of elements
(don't feed vo or edited pkg) just take them talking about whatever it
is that's going on behind them. Then big accident at 9a? Send live guy. Spot news is easy, especially if you are just letting them ad lib about what's going, not making them file a super comlpicated story. Obviously this type of thing is better
suited toward some reporters than others so wade in carefully. Before
they leave a scene, you can ask them to file a look live--
basically they just repeat the liveshot they just did and you record it back at the station for use in a future hour.

5. Be your weather man's best friend. These guys can ad lib about
anything. Give them extra time. Mabye there's bad weather somewhere nationally
overnight... get some vo cut and let them knock themselves out. Maybe
there's a segment they've always wanted to do? Wx people are great
educators-- maybe it's today's weather term of the day-- what's
tornadic activity vs a tornado? Straight line winds? Make it connect to the current weather outlook.

6. Sports guys & Extra Content. Do we have sports departments in local news anymore? I keep hearing that they've been cut way back.. but if you do have
resources... tell them that you're open to content. Were they out on
an interview with the coach of the big game Fri? Is that something
where you could just take a 2:00 chunk and roll with it? Same with
reporters-- did they go out on an ongoing story where you could
repurpose a one of two minute chunk of that interview? Better-- let people know you're looking for this stuff ahead of time-- so if they go out on the big accident or fire-- can the last question they ask be about general driving or fire safety you could use? Interviewing the mayor or councilperson? Ask the reporter to let them ramble on another issue that you could use. If you let it be known (to sports, weather, reporters, photogs) that you've got time and you're willing to check out their pet projects... maybe you'll get some interesting stuff. Journalists often feel padlocked by the 1:20 format we've gotten into. Also, if it's as simple as just asking another question at then end of an interview (as in, they don't have to write it or front it) you may be able to add content that way. Look at your assigments in the am and then figure out what questions could be used later that day or the next from the people who are already going out on today's stories.

7. Viewer submissions. There, I said it. Most of them I've seen can be ghastly, but that said, on breaking news, it's the guy with a cell phone who has the best (because he was there first) video. I'd start with weather video. Ask viewers to send their best weather video or pics each day and pick one or two (or 8 depending on time) to use and identify the person who sent it in (see "Wasting Time with Wx Guy, above). You can create a segment each day-- "Your View of the City." If you get folks in the habit of sending you videos/pics when nothing is going on and they know you'll use them, then when real news happens, you may get better submissions. I picked weather because just about everyone can do a good weather pic. Maybe out of that you notice a few people aren't bad at it and they send you things regularly. Maybe you ask them to do a quick video about a story in their community (nothing controversial-- just stuff that's interesting and easy to confirm). You could call it-- "What's up in the city?" And Joe Viewer delivers his small piece of it. Maybe it's Joe viewer's favorite pizza shop-- and open it to discussion -- is he out of his mind? Rinaldi's is the best? What about Grimaldi's? Just a thought.

Throwing spaghetti at the wall in hopes that some of it will stick and that some of you can find something that's useful.