The Truth About Producing

by - September 27, 2012

We recently had a producer/reporter position open up at my station, and while I haven't been directly involved in the recruiting process, whenever we do bring someone in for an interview I get to kind of assess their potential.

Usually that assessment is pretty standard: they take a writing test, and I describe the duties of whatever job they're applying for. When I'm concluding my quote-unquote interview, I always ask, "Do you have any questions?" If they do, it's usually along the lines of clarification, or they ask about money and where a good place to live would be, maybe about the area if they're not from close by.

Earlier this week I oversaw a writing test and then had some one-on-one time with a potential candidate. The test part typically takes an hour, and the interview part doesn't last more than 15 minutes if that. After I described the job, I asked the obligatory "Do you have any questions?". This is what she asked: What do you find is the most challenging/difficult part of being a producer? My answer probably scared her...

I love producing. Other than magazine layout, it is my dream job and perfectly suited to my talents. With that being said, I truly believe that producers have the toughest job in the newsroom.

As a producer, you are responsible for everything that's in your show, regardless of if you pulled it from the Associated Press, a national news network or one of your local reporters handled the story. If something airs wrong or incorrect information is put out over the air, it falls back on you. Other than your director, who's only looking at the technical aspects of each story, yours should be the last eyes on a story before air time.

Time is your worst enemy. Either you have too much content and not enough time to fit it all in, or you're running out of time to get all of the pieces of your show produced. Deadlines are not flexible. Once you're on the air, you're out of time. And your time management skills aren't the only ones you have to be mindful of -- Reporters can either make or break you when it comes to the actual timing of your show and getting content into your show.

Being a producer means constantly thinking about your overall product. It's being flexible and going with the flow, even when stories are falling apart or something huge blows up right at news time. It's about knowing when to give an extra 30 seconds here and take 15 there. It's about relationships -- with the reporters, anchors, meteorologists and sports guys. It's knowing your audience, their tastes and interests, even those little things that get them all fired up. It's about vision and knowing how you want your show to look on air.

Make no mistake.
Being a producer is stressful.
You either love it or hate it.
There is no in between.

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  1. That's great, Ashton, and everything you told her is true. Your answer takes me back to my producing years. It's a demanding and stressful job but there's no greater feeling than the one you get when all goes according to plan and you put that baby to bed.

    1. What's sad is that a lot of people use a producing position as a way to get their foot in the door, and to be perfectly honest I don't want those people for producers. You can definitely tell a difference in their shows.