Career Story: News Producer For A Public Radio Network

News Producer For A Public Radio Network

Job Title: Radio News Producer

Type of Company: I work for a public radio network producing news "magazines," a news-related website and hourly newscasts that air around the clock.

Education: BA, Broadcast Journalism, University of Maryland •• M. Ed, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

Previous Experience: I got into radio news through the sales department of a local all-news radio station. In the early 1980's the job market was very crowded and I wasn't able to break into the news side of the station for years.

After about 7 years, though, I became a production editor and producer at a national radio network, working there for three years before I switched to another network. When that company merged with another, I was out of work for about six months before landing a producer's job with a very large national radio network. I've been with the same company now for 14 years.

Job Tasks: My job is very simple. I am responsible for the five minutes of news that airs at the top and sometimes at the bottom of the hour. In my job, we live by the clock. The newscast has to begin and end at exactly the same time every hour and half hour.

My job requires me to make sure that the anchor or news reader is acquainted with the main stories and that the editor proof-reads the news copy. I'm also in charge of the assistant producers whose job it is, in turn, to ensure that the audio heard in the newscast, apart from the anchor's voice, is fed in accurately and on cue.

Another aspect of the job is making sure the stories in the news are being covered by reporters on duty that day. Sometimes an editor from a certain beat (or department: foreign news, science news, etc.) will help to arrange for the reporters to write and record their news spots. But most of the time the newscast producer has to assign reporters stories and let them know when the stories are needed.

As producer, I spend a lot of time on the phone fielding calls from reporters who need their copy edited or have story ideas to suggest.

All in all, the job is very fast-paced and stressful at times and requires you to be a pretty quick study and to know a little about a whole lot of things.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: Because the newscast is always live (apart from taped reporter's spots), many things can go wrong. A reporter can be delayed, for example, in filing or recording his report and we can be forced to go live to him instead. Computer failures too can play significant roles, keeping us from printing out copy or playing audio back. News can and does change (or we'd have nothing to do), but what that also means, sadly, is that our stories are rapidly outdated. The anchor and producer have to be quick on their feet and even quicker to re-write their copy.

Just when one newscast is written, edited, produced and aired....we start all over again. A producer has to plan far ahead or his job will overwhelm him. Because of the intensity of the work, we take only a few quick breaks and snatch our meals while we're working.

Job Tips: Try to get an internship at a local news operation, although that's harder now than ever with many newspapers going out of business and radio stations giving up on news. Whatever experience you can get on the job, the more you'll know and the more desirable you'll be. Just getting your foot in the door is the main thing. But be prepared to work long hours and weekends, if necessary. Read everything and have a wide interest in the world around you. A sense of wonder is a must.

Additional Thoughts: The one thing I regret is that I wasn't as aggressive as I could have been in getting my first real job in news. I wasted too many years in the sales department because I was having fun and I let my goals slide for a while. If your goals are important to you, make sure you keep them in focus.

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