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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