Taking the editorial overview
The news producer has an essential role to play in any news organisation. Their job is to add depth to the content being produced, make sure it is well-researched, arrange interviews, manage resources, assist reporters and correspondents with the logistics involved in gathering and processing news, and oversee quality control.
Some media organisations, particularly newspapers, will have different names for the role, but whatever it is called, the person will be expected to ensure that all significant angles are followed up, and that related issues are investigated. Their job is to take the overview.
In many cases they are the bridge between the editors and reporters, ensuring that both can do their jobs efficiently and effectively. Some media organisations try to cope without news producers.
They expect the journalists and correspondents to take care of all their production needs. Of course the stories will still get produced, but the likelihood is that they will not be as thorough, that effort and resources might be wasted, and sometimes deadlines won’t be met.
At times the news producers will be offering support from the newsroom, at other times they will be in the field. When they are working in the field, the relationship with the reporter or correspondent will probably be one-to-one.
However, when they are working from the newsroom, a good news producer might be able to help several journalists at the same time. And this is where the efficiencies start to show.
The role of the news producer
In an earlier module we looked at the best way to run a news meeting. The graphic, below, is taken from that training module as a reminder of the important role the news producer plays in the news business.
A journalist should be able to gather most of the information they need in order to produce a story. However, they are often out of the office where access to computers can be a problem.
They might be working to tight deadlines, and unable to research adequately. Perhaps they need to contact someone at short notice but don’t have the time to make the calls. It could be that they need to access archive material to add to their piece but they don’t have time to search for it or are unable to get back to the office in time.
They might need a comment from a correspondent for the piece but are unable to contact them. At times they might need to refer up the editorial chain regarding a legal or ethical matter but a senior editor is not available.
These are the times when a news producer, sitting in the office or working in the field, is invaluable. They can take on all these responsibilities. The graphic below shows how the process should work.
The qualities of a news producer
In some media organisations a news producer is a specialist job requiring someone with a keen eye for a news story, who has great research skills, who can demonstrate excellent organisational abilities, and who is able to see the bigger picture.
In some newsrooms the news producer is a career-progression role between the reporter and the editors. If they have worked as a reporter, both in the newsroom and in the field, they will be able to understand the pressures the journalist they are facing is under and will be able to provide the support they need.
Efficiencies and savings
For media managers, having news producers can result in efficiencies and savings.
They can help avoid duplication of effort, they can help manage scarce resources, they can help schedule editing to remove log jams and better utilise downtime, and they can act as a reference point where both senior and junior staff can turn in order to assess the status of a story and when it is expected to be ready.