(Not So) Basic Journalism Skills: 4 Tips for New Producers

by - December 20, 2016

I started the (Not So) Basic Journalism Skills series two years ago with the goal of sharing some of the things I've learned from the newsroom that weren't taught in school or are often taken for granted as something you should already know how to do. It's been over seven years, and I still haven't run out of things to write about.

Within the past year, I've trained two producers who don't have degrees in broadcast journalism - one was a print major like me, the other has an English degree. There's been a fairly big learning curve, much like during my first few months as a producer, so I've had to come up with unique ways of bridging that gap, which is what inspired this post.

I've put together a list of four tips to help new producers find their footing and keep their sanity during their first month.

1. Establish a Routine
In this business, deadlines are a blessing and a curse. They give you something to work toward, but, in the beginning especially, they can seem synonymous to failure. That's why it's so, so important to establish a routine early. I have a printout that I give all my new producers to help them get started. It's the exact same routine I've been following for the past seven years.

2. Time Yourself
I learned the hard way that having a checklist isn't always enough, especially when you're a brand-new producer. When I first started, I worked overnight by myself. There was no one there to hold me accountable or jump in and save me if I got behind, so I set myself deadlines throughout the night to get things done. I've found this to be very helpful for the last two producers I've trained.

3. Prioritize
My newest producer was having a hard time meeting final deadline, even with a timed checklist. Turns out, we hadn't allotted enough time for her to edit video and had it too far down her checklist. So we rearranged and blocked out her time differently. Basically, we reprioritized so that the hardest thing for her was higher on her checklist. Bottom line, do your hardest thing first. After you've picked your content, that is. It's kinda hard to do anything else before that.

4. Watch/Look Back
This may be the best piece of advice I can give you. Go back and look at past shows, both the rundown and the air-checks, to see how things are put together, how stories are written, etc. This is a visual business, so reading old copy and watching old shows will give you a strong visual of what your end goal should be ... at least in the beginning. Obviously, your goal should always be to improve upon the product.

All of these tips are tried and true. I've used all of them myself or have employed them when training new producers.

For more tips and tricks on surviving the news business, check out my other (Not So) Basic Journalism Skills posts.

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  1. I am not in the same biz, but I appreciate and respect those that take time to fine tune their efforts. I try to be smart and efficient with everything that I handle at work. Sometimes there are goofs. I am always determined to learn from them and not make the same mistakes again even if they were not exactly my fault (control is an illusion -- many outside factors weigh in!). It drives me CRAZY when people do not live and learn! ZERO TOLERANCE FOR THAT!

    Hope all is well in your world too!