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, August 24, 2012

Lead? What Lead?

I received an email from a producer concerned about a new nightside gig where it seemed like producers, not reporters, were expected to come up with the lead every night. It's always easier for someone in the field to come up with good story ideas... but that said, it takes a village, and sometimes producers have a better-- big picture sense-- than field crews. By nighttime... the day's news has unfolded and there's generally something obvious. It's how you treat that lead that can really make a difference. Are you just phoning it in and tossing to a reporter pkg or are you thinking of interesting /creative ways to showcase your first story? In terms of staying on top of news, I think the easiest way is twitter lists. I have a list for every area I cover and I put papers, TV, cop shops, anything from that area on the list. You can do the same in your market. You could do lists by area or by beat or both. You'd be amazed the little things you can come up with that might get you through a slow day or even just add a little interesting vo here or there that separates you from the competition. You don't always have to lead with a pkg. Has something intersting happened since the 6pm that can be an anchor vosot-- but with bigger "lead treatment" (graphics, set up etc)? Use it first and then go to the reporter pkg that's been out there all day. Also understand with social media, people have already probably seen your lead so what is your story bringing to the party? Hopefully context... and something fresh. If there's nothing obvious with which to lead... you can always try to localize big national stories. So today there was the shooting near Empire State Building. Can you do a workplace shooting folo locally? Also news from Aurora shooting that you could use to get in or out of it. How about hurricane stuff-- any impact on your area? People headed to RNC convention worried about it etc? Local Red Cross or utilities folks keeping an eye on it? I also like a lead to be a talker-- something that people go-- what, wait, are you kidding me? If you are new to the market, or even if you've been there a while, I think it's good for show producers to check in-- face to face-- with various PIOS around the city. Get a ridealong with cops and fire. Take a lunch with a councilperson's PR guy. Contact the local university public affairs person. When you talk to them, leave it open. Ask them what's important that maybe doesn't grab headlines? What do they find interesting that's outside their area of concern? What's their connection to the city? This is a great way to make contacts but also a good way to give you a sense of the city. It's also nice to call on PIOs when you don't need something RIGHT NOW! Finally, when in doubt, you can always lead with weather. A Little joke. But maybe not.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Words Match Graphics

Please make sure your words match the graphics you have. I like to take graphic requests directly from the script so that it matches the graphic exactly. It's much easier for viewers to understand. You don't want a viewer being distracted from your story or show because they're trying to read a graphic that isn't matched to what's being said. Ditto if you have any kind of print on the screen-- read it verbatim. This is especially important when referencing Twitter and Facebook pages.

We Got that Broll!

This has been floating around for a while but if you haven't seen "We got that broll" it's funny. Change the words to "We got that file tape" and it's even better. At one point, the guy makes the point that if video is too specific, it's not broll. In terms of file tape, you also want to be careful about tape that's too specific. Use it for sure, but please reference it. All it takes is a line: "This was so and so during their last court appearance." Or, "This was Diana Ross when she played the coliseum in 1976."

The Elephant in the Room

I was watching a morning newscast a while back and they had a guest segment. The pet expert was in with tips on how to train your dog. Strangely, the shot did not include the dog. I don't care how many great tips you have, better to talk about them over a shot of a dog instead of a shot of an anchor or guest. What's even funnier about this one is that the dog was barking during the whole segment, as if realizing that he was not getting the camera attention that he deserved. The anchor and guest went on as if nothing was happening. If something happens in your show-- whatever it may be-- and it's obvious to your viewers that something's happened or is happening, address it. Otherwise, it's distracting and you look foolish. In the above case, all it would have taken was a wide shot and the anchor making a little joke about it.