Last month, Pierpont sat down with Michael O’Neill, News Producer at Houston ABC affiliate KTRK-TV, to get his insights on the world of broadcast news.
What we learned isn’t really all that surprising. Here are a few golden nuggets that I took away from his presentation on how his newsroom works.
Timing is everything
Know your angle. When approaching a broadcast station, identify where your news is most likely to fit. Is it a fit for a morning news piece or 10 PM time slot? A station’s morning content is very different than its evening focus. Once you have determined the timeslot, identify the news assignment editor or, for hard news, a reporter who may have a vested interest in the story.
Be old fashioned. Pick up the phone.
Nowadays, pitches frequently go out by email often to be lost in inboxes flooding with information. As O’Neill informed us, many mailboxes are accessed by multiple producers and editors, and pitches are often over looked in the transition from day to night staff.
What’s the best way to get your story in the hands of the station? Pick up the phone and call the station. However, knowing when to call is key.
O’Neill advises that news teams work at least eight hours during their workday – consisting of varying hours depending on which show they work on. If your story is good for the morning newscast, stay up a little late and call the assignment editor when others might still be sleeping. If they don’t answer, don’t take it personal, they simply just don’t have time as they approach their impending deadline.
Put it on the “board”
If the assignment editor, reporter or producer is interested, they will add the story to the book of the day – otherwise known as the “board.” Depending on the caliber and frequency of pressing news items, it may or may not make that day’s cut at the production meeting.
After the day’s stories have been selected, the reporters begin development and assembly of support materials. Of course, if a breaking, hard news story arises, that becomes the primary focus of the broadcast. Stories are always subject to change up until the moment the newscast goes live, but your chances for coverage are always better if they make it on the board.
Have a reporter in your back pocket. Develop relationships with reporters and let them know you are a resource for them. They want good stories as much as you want to inform them. However, before reaching out, ask yourself – “Is this news worthy?”
O’Neill began his career as a photojournalist in Austin where he quickly realized his passion and talent for producing. Mike has been a producer with KTRK Houston for the past 15 years. He lives in Houston with his wife and two kids and is involved with many local organizations including the Houston Press Club.