Producing newscasts for speed

In an on-demand world, technology has and will continue to change the newscast producer’s job.

“A digital rundown allows you to be more immediate. It’s the news, not the ‘olds,'” says Rick Russell, news director at WJTV in Jackson, Miss. “Producers must be organized and able to change things on the fly.”

The station uses the AP’s ENPS to put together its newscasts.

Each story element — the intro, the graphic elements, the video, the tag, etc. — has its own line in the show’s electronic rundown.

Russell says that allows the producer to make changes to the content much more rapidly.

Producers can adjust the anchor intro to add information or drop a graphic that includes an error, without having to “float” the entire story to a later time.

Russell, a former producer himself, says the system has cut down quite a bit on the chaos of a live newscast.

“The control room is much quieter now, except for election nights when I’m in there,” Russell says with a grin.

ENPS and other digital news producing systems also allow you to build content in the rundown without it actually appearing in the live newscast until you need it.  At WJTV, they call this floating content that the “Z-block.”

If the newsroom learns about a potential story but doesn’t have all the facts yet nailed down, someone can easily begin writing and preparing the elements in the event that the story does get confirmed and ends up in the live show.

Russell also asks his producers to create newscasts so that every story has what he calls “its own entry point.”

“It’s really the end of ‘flow,'” says Russell.  “No more grouping together a bunch of stories on a similar topic, we look at each story as unique, and we try to grab the audience’s attention at the start of every story.”

What hasn’t changed from producing in years gone by?  Russell says you still need to know what’s going on in the world and you still have to have passion for the job.

“Producers have to understand technology to be able to get the most out of it,” says Russell, “but don’t let technology dictate the way you produce, make the technology do what you want it to do.”