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TV News Writers
By Gene Lenore
March, 2007, 07:49

Working in television news is a demanding job, but it's a job with lots of benefits.
In the mid-1960s, the news departments at network affiliated television stations had people called writers. They wrote just about everything from anchor pitches, to commercial breaks, to condensed versions of news wire stories. And when they gained some knowledge about constructing TV news stories, they even wrote voice-over stories for anchors to read.

Today, television stations, large and small, have people called writer/producers or simply producers. These producers come in all shapes and sizes (different titles and job descriptions) with varying degrees of responsibilities, but they all have one thing in common: getting  newscasts produced and on the air.

And there are a lot of newscasts to get on the air early morning, noon, five, six, and 10 p.m. Additionally, network affiliated television stations will have news inserts in the network's morning shows, afternoon news breaks, and breaking news when it happens.

It takes a lot of people and a lot of material to fill several hours of television news programming every day. This is where writer/producers and producers come in. Without them, there would be no newscasts.

At the head of the list of producers is an Executive News Producer. Under him or her are all the other producers. These people may be called news producers, associate news producers, assistant news producers, or news writer/producers.

What are television stations looking for when they have producer openings to fill?  What follows is a sampling of descriptions and the qualifications stations are seeking in prospective employees.

Executive Producer Oversees the on-air presentation of daily newscasts. Be a creative team leader who can help producers and reporters craft compelling newscasts with great writing, interesting video and intelligent graphics.

Producer Must have solid news judgment, superior writing and organizational skills, and proven track record in handling multiple live shots, breaking news, and newscasts with high production value.

Associate News Producer Must have excellent writing skills and work ethic. Duties cover all aspects of the broadcast: news writing, editorial judgment, guest booking, and coordination of live shots.

Associate Producer Edits video and writes scripts for assigned newscasts. Candidates must have strong written and verbal communication skills and be able to handle deadlines.

News Writer/Producer Must have solid news judgment and superb writing skills. Candidate must also know how to put production values to great use.

Re-read the qualifications. Notice the references to writing: great writing, superior writing, excellent writing skills, strong written and verbal communication skills, and superb writing skills.

If you're a good writer and can handle the pressure of newscast deadlines, the other skills needed to qualify for jobs like those listed above can be learned. Sometimes you can pick up the other skills on the job after you've been hired because of your writing ability, but more likely you'll want to enroll in broadcasting/communication courses.

While seeking to fill jobs such as assistant news producer or associate news producer, television stations often include in their want ads a sentence such as, "A degree in broadcast journalism is preferred but not required."  In other words, a station is looking to fill a position and would like to hire someone already trained in broadcast journalism, but is willing to train the right person.

Your goal if you want to make the move into TV news is to convince the News Director, or whoever is doing the hiring, that you've got good writing skills, are a fast learner, and can be trained in a hurry. How you do this has a lot to do with your background and your own personality.

Have you written news stories for a local paper? Bring in your clips. Have you had magazine articles published? Bring in your clips. Do you know an editor that would give you a good recommendation? See if they will provide you a letter that spells out how good a worker you are, how you pay close attention to details, how well you work with others, and how well you take direction.

Working in television news is a demanding job, but it's a job with lots of benefits. News was once described as "history in a hurry." Working in television news often means you have a front row seat as history is being made. You get to see and do things that most people can only dream about, and that's not a bad way to earn a pay cheque!
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Gene Lenore is an award-winning creative talent with more than 30 years of experience in television, radio, video, film, and print. A former radio/television and print journalist, he is a veteran writer, producer, and director currently operating Red River Productions, Sherman, Texas. Red River Productions is a Telly Award Winner for the DVD "A Passion for Excellence: The Story of Sherman High School" E-mail or call (903) 893-8952.

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