Creative People: Executive TV Producer!

10:38 AM

Want to know what it's like to be a badass Executive TV Producer? I was curious, so I quizzed my best friend Amanda, who produces morning news in Harrisburg, PA. Her job involves lots of planning and being plugged in to current events at all times. Read on for her take on staying positive, taking responsibility for others' mistakes, and the joy of having a clean slate every day.

Could you walk me through your typical workday?

My workday usually starts around 1 a.m. For the first few hours I scan the internet, Twitter, and the AP looking for news we may have missed. I also call around to police dispatchers in different counties in our area, searching for breaking news.

Next, I go through the morning show, updating scripts from the night before. I help the producer write new stories for the morning.  I also edit and approve our two morning reporters' scripts.

Then it's show time. Between 4:30 and 7 a.m. I watch the other three television stations to make sure we're not missing anything important. I also keep an eye on Twitter and the AP. News is all about listening and watching for breaking news and the next big story.

After the show, I usually lead the morning team meeting. We discuss how our show went that day and then we discuss what I have planned for the next day.

I then spend 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. planning for the upcoming days, weeks. I pitch story ideas to reporters and help them set up interviews. I also work with the anchors to schedule guests and segments for our morning show.

At 9:30, we have our daily editorial meeting, I'm the liaison between the morning and daytime newscasts. So, during this meeting I talk about what we did that morning, and what the other producers/reporters need to follow up on and stories we told the audience we would stay on throughout the day. And that's my day! I leave at 10 a.m., only to still have to answer emails and schedule things from home.

What do you consider the most creative aspects of your job?

Days when I can break format and try things differently are fun. For example, sometimes we can make new graphics and add something special to the story. Or we can throw an anchor out of the studio and live at the scene to give the story more coverage. Or in studio, we can invite a guest and get the anchors involved in cooking something new or have performers showcase their art live on the air. I love being able to think of ideas and fun segments for our show!

What do you find most challenging about producing TV?

This is going to make me sound really type A! I don't like when things go wrong that I don't have control over. When equipment fails or someone else makes a mistake. A newscast is a like a puzzle with many different pieces, and as the Executive Producer, it's my job to oversee everything. So, when something goes wrong, I feel personally responsible for the error. I hate making mistakes, but I dislike even more when someone else makes a mistake and I don't realize until it's too late.

What keeps you going on days that are frustrating?

It's a hard deadline, every day. Our newscast starts at 4:30 a.m. Everything has to be ready by then. I find it exhilarating and challenging.

But on tough days, it's good to know that once the show is over, so are the problems. It’s a clean slate the next day. You get to start all over again.

What do you consider your greatest success in your career thus far?

A few years ago, I organized and produced our 5-hour-long morning show from Hershey Park [a chocolate-themed amusement park in Hershey, Pennsylvania]. It took a lot of planning and coordinating, but it went off without a hitch and everyone enjoyed doing it. There were moments when many weren't sure it would work, and I got a lot of complaints and faced some roadblocks, but we did it!

The biggest roadblock was just getting people on board. It took a lot of manpower. So I needed to switch some people's shifts around. Then there was the question of whether we would be able to do it technically. Would all of the equipment work from there? The head engineer and photographer came with me to Hershey to survey the site and meet with Hershey's planners to determine where we should set up the location. Other roadblocks included keeping people excited and not letting the naysayers bring me down. It required a lot of attention and extra work.  Just getting people to understand they might need to do something extra was a challenge. I got people to think outside the box, step outside their comfort zone, and we put on a really good show.

How do you keep things balanced in your life with such a hectic and unconventional schedule?

I'm still working on this. To spend time with my husband, I try to sleep in shifts. I'll sleep from 12 to 4 p.m. and then spend the evening with Jeff before going back to sleep at 8. Though it's sometimes difficult, I try to disconnect as much as I can on the weekends. Sometimes there are still e-mails to answer. With social media and TV, you can never truly get away from the news, but I try not to get too wrapped up in things.

If you could give your younger self career advice, what would you say?

Don't listen to naysayers. You will encounter people who are either just very negative or lazy. If you have an idea, go for it. If you have an opinion, share it. Stop trying to please everyone. Most of the time people tell you something can't be done, because they're too lazy to try something new. Don't let them stop you. And don't let negative people affect you. Try to stay positive and keep working hard. It’s advice I try to follow every day. Don't let people get you down and when they bring negative vibes into your life, be extra nice to them!

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