According to research at the University of Mississippi, a review of more than 500 job openings in television news revealed producer jobs topped the list. Here’s how about half the openings in the Top 10 TV companies broke down: producer (18.8%), photographer (12.2%), reporter (11.6%).
Bob Noonan, assistant news director at WREG-TV in Memphis says producers are always in demand, even in these tough economic times.
“Right now in newsrooms producers, good producers, are hard to come by,” Noonan said. “If you’re a good writer, have good news judgment, this is your ticket to advance quickly in the industry.”
If you’re looking for more evidence to back that up, a check of the Hearst Television job posting site found 17 producer jobs open and just 10 reporter jobs.
Noonan, who was news director at WGNO in New Orleans before moving to Memphis, still thinks most producers will start their careers in small markets, but the rise to a big market can be very rapid.
“If I were starting school again, [producing is] absolutely where I’d go, that’s where I’m going to advise my daughter to go, but she wants to be a reporter,” said Noonan with a smile.
One of the reasons some people used to favor reporting over producing was the salary discrepancy, but that’s clearly diminishing. In the most recent RTDNA survey, the median salary for a news reporter ($26,000) was actually less than the median salary for a news producer ($28,500). The highest paid reporters ($250,000) still make a great deal more than the highest paid producers ($110,000), but that may be changing as well.
So, what skills does a producer need to develop? For Noonan, writing is critical – especially tease writing.
“You have to be a good tease writer,” Noonan said. He points out that in metered markets, you won’t hold the audience through the quarter hours if you can’t write compelling teases.
For the personality of a producer, Noonan says you have to develop a thick skin.
“You have to be tough, you don’t have to be a jerk, but you’ve got to be tough,” Noonan said. He says producers have to be able to stand firm when a reporter comes in with a story that’s too long. “You have to be able to say ‘go back and take 15 seconds out of that.’”
So, how do you develop writing skills, creativity in crafting shows and the producer personality? Noonan advises getting an internship to learn all you can about putting together a newscast.
“Find one producer that you might really hit it off with. Producers are sometimes a strange lot; there are some that can be a little caustic and others who are very nice and will teach you the right way,” Noonan said. “Those are the ones to hang around with. And I would just jump in and say, ‘Let me write;’ but be prepared to have it ripped apart. This is not a business for the thin-skinned.”