News Producer Jennifer W.

April 21, 2010
By , Aurora, IL
When everyone watches the morning news, we only see the people who are reading from the papers and computers in front of them or giving the daily traffic or weather reports. No one ever credits the heart of the news production, the cameramen, producers, and writers, who work crazy hours to bring us our local, breaking news. From balancing two kids to a hectic work schedule as a producer, Jennifer W. has learned to always be ready for anything on a moment’s notice.

What is a producer?

A TV news producer is responsible for putting together the content of a TV news program. In my job as the 8am producer of the Morning News, I decide what stories to include in the show, who writes them, what format they're in, who reads them, how long they are, the artwork that goes with them, etc. I also am responsible for guest segments in the show, what type of segments, how long they are, who does the interview, etc. The producer is also in charge of the timing of the show, and the overall flow of the show.

You work for live news, how is this different than a movie producer?

As a live news producer, your job changes every day, due to the changing news stories and guest segments every day. You must be able to go with the flow, and adjust differently every day and meet different deadlines. Especially when you have breaking news, which is a story that comes out of nowhere and it's your job to get the information on the air in a timely accurate fashion. A movie producer deals with a set script that doesn't change, or at least not as often.

What type of education did you have and how did this help you?

I majored in broadcast journalism at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I got my bachelor's degree there.

What other previous jobs have you had that led you to being a news producer?

I have also worked at newspapers, radio stations and other TV stations that gave me a lot of previous experience in this field. I worked as a newspaper reporter and a DJ and news announcer for radio. I also had a lot of TV news internships that helped get my foot in the door.

What kind of personality or character traits makes you a successful producer?

You have to be able to adjust on the fly, and adjust quickly to various changing situations without losing your cool. You also must be able to manage time well, and meet deadlines. You must be an organized person, who can work with a lot of different and sometimes challenging personalities. You must be a good leader, and someone who inspires others to follow.

How is working behind the scenes different than being in front of the camera?

They are two different worlds. Being in front of the camera requires you to be able to connect with your viewer and come across in a way that appeals to them and encourages them to watch you because of your likeability and news persona. Working behind the scenes, your "face" isn't on the line, but you still have to be accountable for your duties and perform them accurately and efficiently. Being in front of the camera holds you more accountable to the viewer, because that's who they see/identify with.

What is your normal schedule when you get to work?

On a typical day I get to work at 3am and then start looking through stories on our previous broadcast from the night before, plus read the newspapers and online sites for the latest most current news of the day. Then we have an editorial meeting with the other producers and assignment editor, to decide what our live shot will be for our reporter that morning. Later, I start building my show and putting in stories and assigning them to writers. The show goes on air at 8am and off at 9am and then we have a post-show meeting to talk about how the show went and then I start building the show for the next day. I usually am done by 10:30am.

What is your favorite memory from your job?

There are lots of favorite memories so it would be hard to pick just one. I like when we have busy shows with lots of good/interesting guests/segments, especially celebrities! It's also fun, yet stressful, to deal with show that have breaking news stories.

What piece of advice would you give to young adults who are starting to think about pursuing a career?

I would say if you want to pursue a career in TV news, you really need to want that career! It's not a cushy 9-5 job, the hours are long, you have to work holidays and weekends and nights. Sometimes you have to work in the middle of the night! So you really need to be committed to wanting to be in this field. Plus it's a huge help to be a good writer and good communicator. Also it helps to be a good time manager and organizer.

Was there anything that surprised you about your job?

Nothing that really surprised me too much, I kind of already knew what I was getting into, as far as the work hours, work days, etc. I was probably most surprised by how much I liked it. I never knew I wanted to be a TV news producer. I also thought I would be in front of the camera or just a writer. But when I started producing, I really enjoyed the job.

What is the "All-American Dream" mean to you?

I think for me, the All-American dream is just finding a balance between what you love, family and work. I am truly happy when I achieve that balance!

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