Beginner’s Guide to Being a TV News Producer

Do you have a knack for writing? Are you good under pressure? Looking for a job that will get you out of the typical nine to five shift and look different everyday? If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, you should be a news producer! Don’t know how? No problem. This article is going to introduce you to what a producer does, what a typical day looks like, and list some skills you should acquire before applying.

What is a producer?

This is me, a producer for WHO 13 News, in Des Moines, Iowa. WHO 13 is owned by Nexstar and is an NBC affiliate. So, you may be wondering, what is a producer and what do they do? A news producer is in charge of the overall structure, scripting, and general production of a newscast. This means that producers choose and write the stories in their newscast and select what visuals they would like to show while the anchor reads the script. Producers are also in charge of sending reporters out on stories, timing the newscast, communicating with police, and more.

What does the typical day look like?

There is nothing “typical” about working for news, as our world is constantly changing and everyday will look different. There are several different shifts producers could work: Morning-side (12 a.m. to 8 a.m.), Day-side (8 a.m. to 5 p.m.) or Night-side (3 p.m. to 11 p.m.). The shift you work will determine what show or shows you are responsible for producing. On the weekends, I work a combination of morning-side and day-side, arriving to the station around 3 a.m. and leaving around 11 a.m. I produce a 2 hour long show with my co-producer. My co-producer and I lead a team of one anchor, one reporter, one meteorologist and about 6 more employees that are responsible for various tasks. Let’s walk through my work day to give you a better idea of what to expect:

3 a.m.
  • Arrive at work and clock in
  • Check police scanners, Facebook, Twitter and other websites for anything that happened overnight
  • Open ENPS (pictured) to today’s rundown. This is where I will stack and script the show.
  • I will usually open last night’s rundowns and see if I want to use stories from the night before in my show. If I do, I will copy drag and drop them into my show.
4 a.m.
  • Once I have last night’s stories dragged over and positioned to where I want them in the show, I start looking for new news this morning.
  • If there was breaking news, such as a tragedy that happened overnight, I will text our police communications personal to confirm the story.
  • After confirming any breaking news, I will usually check the Iowa Crash Reports website to see if there were any noteworthy car accidents, see if there are events going on in the Des Moines area, or find any other potential local stories that I want to write.
  • I will then repeat this process for the rest of the show until the entire 2 hour time is filled.
5 a.m.
  • Around 5 a.m. I will begin to write the show. Producers are responsible for writing what anchors will read, making lower thirds for source’s names and titles, making fullscreens for events or phone numbers, and much more.
  • It usually takes me about an hour and a half to write the 2 hour long show.
6 a.m.
  • At 6 a.m., the editor, anchor, and reporter get to work. I usually take some time to communicate what I need them to do in preparation for the show.
  • If there is breaking news, I will tell the reporter where he is going and he will begin to prepare to go live on breaking news.
7 a.m.
  • In the last hour before the show, I will go through the rundown top to bottom and see what needs to be done, fix any mistakes I find, and put in any last minute stories that may get to us later into the morning.
8 – 10 a.m.
  • Show time! My favorite part of my job.
  • During the 2 hour newscast, I communicate through IFB with anchors and reporters, time each story, and move the script along story by story.
11 a.m.
  • Lastly, I will prepare for the next day’s show before clocking out and heading home.

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