Friday, June 27, 2008

Mailbag: Field Producing, part deux


You've got an awesome job. Someday when I get 100 years of experience like you I'll try to follow in your foot prints.

Question: You mentioned the network reporter had a producer with him as well. Is that normal for the big time reporters? What does the producer do? Also, I'm curious... do the network reporters write all their own stuff? Like, the setup, intro, pkg... everything? Sometimes I wonder if they're just there for their voice and pretty face.


Dear Anonymous,

Well, you should understand that I don't do this every single day. Sometimes you're called a lot, sometimes not. Hence the term "freelance." One day you're working side by side with a TV legend, the next day you're cutting the lawn like everybody else.

As for your questions... Sometimes a reporter shows up with a network producer, sometimes not. Sometimes you don't get a reporter at all. On many occasions during which the reporter cannot physically get to the location in time or is tied up with something else, I've done the interviews myself and then uplinked everything. (I did that last week when the reporter was in Iowa covering the floods and the flooding expert was in Mississippi.) Then you talk to the reporter or producer to let them know where the good stuff is, if you have a money shot, etc. When a producer is on site, I've seen him do legwork, edit, write, knock on doors, book guests, you name it. Everything a reporter does except get on camera.

I also forgot to mention the photog works with a sound guy who takes care of all the audio gear, makes sure the sound is crystal clear, etc. No room for mistakes with the network.

I've yet to run into a network reporter who didn't write his or her own copy. While many are attractive and have the great voice (you ought to hear Martin Savidge on the phone) they work as hard as anyone, often in brutal conditions and under crazy time constraints. While they worked hard to get there, they have to keep doing it to stay there. I continue to be amazed at how polite they are, as I really expected to be working with some big egos. But out in the field they're one of us, a member of the crew like anyone else. (Nasty News Directors take note... nice people seem to go far in this business. Hmmmm.)

The comment that really made my day was during that tornado coverage when a producer in New York called me and said, "We aren't paying you enough for what you're doing today." When you're tired and soaking wet, stuff like that is nice.

As for my 100 years of experience, I hope you mean dog years. Those of us on the back nine are a bit touchy about the age thing. Some waitress gave me a senior discount the other day without asking. Really ticked me off.


What's the deal with some stations and the "July book." I thought there were only three rating periods, now I find myself at a place where no one can take time off in July. What gives?


Dear Vacationless,

True, most stations don't care about the July book. Let's face it, one look at prime time television during the summer will tell you viewership is going to be down. (Though "Burn Notice" is a pretty cool show.)

Many stations use the July book in the hopes it will be a lot better than the "big" books. Let's say your station is in last place and, for whatever reason, you get a good July book. The sales people can tell their advertisers, "The ratings are trending up." If the July book is a clunker, they can just ignore it.

Books or not, you build viewers every single day, whether in the dead of summer or the middle of November. Managers never seem to "get" that concept.


I like the photogs I work with but their choice of music gives me a headache. What is the proper etiquette for picking the radio station in a news car? Don't I have any say in this?

-Rocked out

Dear Rocked out,

Unless you want to pull back a bloody stump, don't touch a photog's radio.

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