Directing a Live Newscast - Not for Slackers

By: Karin Goodhue
By: Karin Goodhue

Being a Director is pretty awesome, but it is not easy. It’s complex and stressful. It takes a special person to do what we do. But we do it because we love it. So beware you slackers out there. Live television won’t wait for you.

I remember the first time I sat in during a live show. I was an intern at WLOS in Asheville. Everything seemed so fast-paced and exciting. I watched everyone perform their fascinating jobs in this dark hole called a control room. I observed the producer sitting next to me, the audio guy in a glass cave near the back, the graphics operator calling up supers, and my favorite…the director. The director sat front and center in front of the monitors, yelling at everyone and pushing all these pretty buttons that lit up. I told myself right then and there that I wanted to be that person. Unfortunately 30 minutes later, I discovered that news production does not take interns, and the station wanted to stick me in the newsroom for the next 4 months of my life. I responded with a laugh and a stern "no". So they put me in creative services. Two years and one station later, I accomplished my dream of being a director.

It’s been three years, and I still like my job. It’s fun controlling the video aspect that goes on-air. I supervise a crew and bark out orders. Usually they ignore me, but I still have that privilege. I get to design graphics, which are set to a specific standard really preventing any design at all, but I edit them as requested. I run around like a crazy person on crack when we are two minutes out from the news open and the live shot goes down. And thousands of people see my mistakes. What’s not to like?

But it's not all fun and games. Keeping focused is crucial for success. I have hundreds of different thoughts running through my head before and during a show. There are so many factors to take in to consideration, such as: How are the camera shots? Where is my video? How long are the breaks? Does the reporter have IFB? Are closed captions working? Why is Doppler barking? Will that tie work on the blue wall? Where is Tom Skinner? Do I have an audio operator today?  Why does NO ONE hear me!?

These things keep my brain pretty occupied, so when people start yelling things at me all at once during crunch time, I have to pick and choose what I want to hear. Because if I were to take everything in at the same time, I would be crouched in the corner like a child who found out there is no Santa Claus…hah just kidding, kids. He’s real…(no he’s not). But it's frustrating trying to listen to everything at the same time when I'm trying to do equally important tasks. I often find myself saying “ok” subconsciously to people just to make them stop talking, not realizing that I just agreed to something.

Also, words that I use in my work are seeping into my everyday life. “Standby” is now frequently used in my personal vocabulary. My boyfriend will ask me what I want for dinner, and I respond with “standby.” Then I think about it. Or while I am out and about and a random person asks the time, I will say "standby" and then look at my watch.

There are some pretty sweet perks to working as a director, though. I don’t really have the authority on what we air, per-say. That is the producer’s job. But I do get to choose my transitions. Sometimes I decide to use a star and sometimes a circle. Depends on my mood. I also have the honor of witnessing the animal guests freak out and launch themselves into the reporter’s face BEFORE we go on-air with them. Why they can’t just wait until they are actually on-air is beyond me.

There are way too many reasons my job is so awesome. But it is not easy, either. It’s complex and stressful. It takes a special person to do what we do. But we do it because we love it. So beware you slackers out there interested in directing, because live television won’t wait for you.

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  • by Kate Location: Eureka, CA on May 11, 2010 at 01:57 PM
    right on!! Standby for awesomeness!! I've been a newscast director for two years now and I love it too!
  • by Jesse Location: Greenville on Aug 26, 2008 at 10:22 AM
    You said its not for slackers? Thats it, I'm out...
  • by mom Location: pitt co. on Aug 19, 2008 at 12:55 PM
    That was an interesting spelling of 'per se.' Is per-say supposed to be funny?
  • by Jared Location: Subway on Jun 22, 2008 at 05:04 PM
    Cute pic!
  • by janet Location: ASHEVILLE on Jun 17, 2008 at 06:50 PM
    AHHH! Brings back memories! I would love to work with you again...I bet you have major terrez! lol I miss the old days!!!
  • by Dr Mike Spurgin Location: Int Space Station on Jun 15, 2008 at 09:58 PM
    i work in the surgery center on the floating int space station, and i can totally relate to all the button pushing, monitor watching, yelling at the crew, eating floating skittles, etc. our jobs sound like identical pressure cookers, with the heat turned up to high. we're not allowed to do crack in space though, so not sure that comparison is a match. standby........the rest is right on however. standby............tom skinner is entering the recapture bay on module 2. can't wait to watch your work again when i get back down in 2012. cheers from the stars.
  • by Tom Skinner on Jun 13, 2008 at 12:55 PM
    I'm Right Here!!! In the Newsroom in Washington!!!
  • by NA NA on Jun 13, 2008 at 12:01 PM
    So you mean you're not just a faceless button pusher?
  • by CHris Location: Raleigh on Jun 12, 2008 at 03:25 PM
    LOL. I like your sense of humor. You really paint a good picture of what's happening with your descriptive style of writing.
  • by Debbie Location: Burlington, NC (formerly Greenville, New Bern, & Plymouth!) on Jun 12, 2008 at 03:20 PM
    What a hoot to discover you interned at WLOS, where I grew up, then ended up Down East, where I spent my whole adult life until the past year. I miss having WITN as my local station, so keep them on their toes and setting an example to follow for other stations. Better you than me on the pressure of those broadcasts!
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