So You Want to be a Producer

by - June 07, 2016

An open letter to journalism graduates applying for producer positions:

Congratulations. You've chosen to pursue one of the toughest jobs in the business.

I hope you're organized, have excellent writing skills and good grammar, and like being busy.

Not only will you be responsible for crafting a show ... or two ... or three, but you'll also have to worry about what your reporters are doing, if you're going to get to take a lunch break today, and - oh yeah - social media.

On any given week day, I fully produce two shows and stack a third. I build all my own graphics, write between 20 and 40 stories daily, post to the station's website and social media pages, answer viewer phone calls, schedule interviews for our noon show, coordinate with reporters ... and the list goes on. I am literally busy from the time I get there until I leave.

Producing is stressful. Not only are you responsible for the stories you're writing, but you're also responsible for the stories everyone else is writing for you. And let me tell you, keeping up with what 10 other people are doing throughout the day can be frustrating.

But once you get past the stress and the frustrations, producing can be extremely satisfying. Putting together a show is like building a puzzle, and there's no better feeling than sitting in the booth watching what you created come to life.

Another thing -- don't be a pushover. Producers are strong! It takes dedication to be a producer. Dedication and determination. You have to stand up for your show and what you want it to be.

Oh, one last thing. Producing is certainly not for everyone, but it also shouldn't be treated as just a stepping stone into a reporting position, although producing skills will make you a better reporter. If you're not passionate about news and only see producing as a means to the next job, maybe you should be applying for the next job instead.

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  1. Hi, Ashton!

    You summed it up nicely. A producer's work is never done. When I was a producer we didn't have websites and social media to worry about, but I stayed very busy writing, editing, blocking segments, solving problems and making changes to scripts. Individual reporters have no way of knowing what it is like to be a producer. Reporters are only responsible for their specific assignments. A reporter can hand in his package or vo/sot and be home having dinner with the family or sitting in a bar somewhere by the time the newscast even begins. The producer presides over the entire half hour and all its content, works with reporters, the director and the rest of the production crew and oversees the real time execution of the cast in the control room. Sometimes tough decisions need to be made. Stories are shortened or dropped to adjust for a time problem. Sometimes those decisions are called into question and create hard feelings. In this position of authority and control, a producer is not likely to win any popularity contests. (At least, I never won any.) Yet, at the end of the day, after you and your team worked together, met the deadline and put a great cast on the air, there is a spirit of camaraderie in the newsroom, a feeling that can't be beat.

    Thanks, Ashton, and enjoy the rest of your week!