Want a Job in Television News? Think like an Executive Producer

television jobs think like an executive producer

Job seekers are drawn to the urgency and action of a television newsroom. (Photo Courtesy: Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

Simply put, an Executive Producer in television runs the show.

They control content, assignments, hiring, timing, slotting – you name it, the EP has final say. It’s a pinnacle position, one that takes years of experience to obtain and even longer to master.

Executive Producers have to be decisive, and in so being they have strong opinions on everything from politics to demo reels.

“I’ve thrown away demos of eye catching talent, when I realized that’s all they were and they couldn’t report their way out of a paper bag,” remembers Central Florida News 13‘s Executive Producer Doug Prusak. “I actually once saw in a demo reel a woman reporting from a water park in a bikini and heels.  Had a good laugh, never called her.”

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Talking with a seasoned EP like Prusak is like discussing karate with Chuck Norris, there is just so much to absorb:

When you interview someone for a job, what are you usually looking for? Is it tangible skills…or other “soft” skills?

Prusak: They’re not in my office if they don’t have the tangible skills or at least that on a resume.

I’m looking for “fit”. Will they be good “clubhouse guys”…will they have leadership potential. I never look for worker bees. They’ll burn out.

Would you advise someone interested in a Broadcast Journalism career to focus most of their time on journalism skills, or more of the technical ins and outs of television?

Prusak: Minor in journalism. Major in a field that can carry you if you ever get out of TV, like politics or history or sports management.

Journalism degrees aren’t worth as much if there’s not something solid behind it. I was a history minor with a target on getting into news when I was in college.

In your view, has technology and social media assisted journalism, or hurt it?

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The internet has changed journalism, and may change TV news, for good.

Prusak: Both. News gets out quicker, but you have to sift through such quantity to get it.

It enhances the race to be first, but it also enhances the number of folks trying to be first, and thus has an impact on accuracy. It also enhances the news gathering process. You can get more leads, but you have a lot of “hacks” on there who take shots at other people.

I enjoy Twitter now for sports news, signings, trades, etc., because it’s interesting to see who does get it first, but I am still a newspaper guy. Nothing like the Sunday Boston Globe and coffee for me.

I still believe in working the phones. There’s nothing like a good conversation. News relies too much on viewer input and viewer journalism. Why?  It’s free.

A news station can save the cost of a reporter each year by devoting air time to viewer thoughts, input and journalism. This reporting is OK for the occasional tornado or bear in the trash can story, but does little in my eyes to replace 95 percent of what we see on air.

Lets talk about the future of news broadcasting – Technology makes news available as it happens, which puts traditional network news outlets on at 5,6 and 11 at a disadvantage since no one waits around anymore, but your station covers the news 24 hours a day in your specific region, is that the direction you see more markets heading towards? Regional news outlets on 24/7 to essentially combat technology?

Prusak: No. I see folks heading away from 24/7 news because it’s fairly expensive. When you can get news all the time online and it’s much less expensive to produce, that’s where it’s headed. They’re using technology to save money. A reporter’s story now ends up online as well so it’s a two for one cost savings for the stations.

I believe TV news will be all but extinct 10 years from now and stations (if they still exist) will be reporting for your laptop or mobile device. The shift is already underway. My old station said “web=air”, but now, web supersedes air.

They will get breaking news on the website quickly and drive folks to the TV. It’s the fastest way to be “first” with something.

Soon, it will all go online.

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Jack Edwards, the most excitable play-by-play announcer this side of Gus Johnson, was an important mentor to Doug Prusak

Coming up in the television industry, did you have any mentors and if so is there any advice they gave you that sticks with you today?

Prusak: Yes, I had several… Jack Edwards and Frank Shorr (Executive Producer) were especially influential. I worked with both at Ch 7 in Boston in the mid 80s to 1990.

Jack taught me a lot about preparation and knowledge. He is still the most prepared individual I’ve ever worked with in television.

Frank taught me how to look for the “other” angle on stories.

Gary Gillis also taught me how to tell stories and write a great package. I used those influences through my entire career.

Describe your role as executive producer at Central Florida News 13.

Prusak: I ran the newsroom. Basically made sure my midday team was on top of and updating stories constantly. I made sure the web had the same information that the on-air folks had and coordinated the efforts of the assignment desk with the control room.

I produced the control room coverage of breaking news as well as major events like presidential visits, state funerals, major stories.

What do you think was the best training/experience that put you on course to be an Executive Producer?

Prusak: Experience. Learn to do the little extra things that need to be done. Learn to make decisions that are a little above your paygrade. Pay attention to those above you and watch what they’re doing right and wrong.

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Observe.

Learn to “serve” as well. Listen to those who report to you if they have concerns. Never say “just because” when they ask a question.

Gain their confidence, try to explain management’s decisions, and they’ll work better for you.

Which is better…covering news or covering sports? You’ve done both over your career so you can’t hide from this question!

Prusak: Sports…no question. I loved news when I first made it to CNN Headline News because I believed in the power of good reporting and what CNN could be.

I gradually got sick of the entertainment news and crap stories we had to cover because its what we thought the people wanted. That’s a catch 22 that became a downward spiral to the “news” stations cover now.

We think they want this “news” instead of good reporting, we give it to them, then good reporting gets lost along the way. There’s very little left that isn’t slanted in some way. CNN has lost it’s way completely. Fox and MSNBC are too slanted. I’m an NPR guy now.

Sports was great fun. I have been to most every major event you can think of (US Open Golf, Stanley Cups, Super Bowls, NBA Finals) and met a lot of the famous athletes of our time (Jordan, Mickelson, Montana, Gretzky) as well as my childhood heroes (Orr, Bourque, Yaz).

It’s been quite a ride and I loved most every minute of it.

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About Brian Clapp

Brian Clapp has worked in the broadcast media for over 14 years as a writer, editor, producer & news director. After beginning his career in Atlanta at CNN/Sports Illustrated, he switched coasts to Seattle to work at Fox Sports Northwest. In 2010, Brian began pursuing a new found passion on the digital media side, launching a successful website and then taking on the role of Director of Content for WorkinSports.com & WorkinEntertainment.com.

Recently Brian has become addicted to Google+ and LinkedIn so add him to your circles and make him a contact. No seriously, you should.

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