If you ask, they’ll tell you. Ask anchors about the producers they’ve loved working with. Ask producers to describe as the best anchor partners they’ve had. You’ll love the stories.
There are things that set those great relationships apart – and they go beyond simple competence. We expect the people we work with to be competent. But some colleagues make the work more creative, more enjoyable – and frankly, more successful.
Having asked those “great partner” questions of anchors and producers in the many workshops I’ve done, I can tell you some of their secrets. But I won’t tell you all of them – and will explain why at the end of this column.
Let’s look at some of the secrets of great anchor-producer teams:
1. They share customized communication.
Great partners know how to give and get information, especially on deadline or while a program is in progress. Every on-air talent is different. Some want lots of info, while others want minimalist messaging. Some appreciate a bit of humor; others want straightforward speech. Some want to know the why and how of a producer’s decisions; others want to go with the flow. Smart producers learn the nuances of communicating with individual anchors and hosts. Conversely, anchors understand precisely how every producer prefers to hear from them before, during and after a broadcast.
2. They agree on when to rescue and when to redecorate.
Newscasts and programs often need edits and changes. Great teams understand that “rescues” -- correction of errors, addition of essential missing information, or upending all plans because of breaking news -- can happen at a moment’s notice. But “redecoration” – tweaking words, changing graphics or re-ordering with the rundown – should be done early enough to avoid causing other problems downstream. The teammates share a tacit understanding of timing: when to button things up and when to blow them up.
3. They provide each other frequent and fair feedback.
Many newsrooms hold post-show meetings, but lots of those reviews focuses on production only. When anchors and producers are true partners, they discuss every facet of the broadcast – content, production values, technical execution and the talent’s performance. They do it to build on what works and fix what didn’t – not to point fingers or assign blame.
4. They respect each other’s roles and work ethic.
The best teams understand the demands that come with their respective jobs. Producers are often tethered to their desks. Anchors are the face of the station, on and off the clock. Producers know that if mistakes make it to air, the audience may blame the anchor, so they aim for excellence. Anchors know that producers’ workloads can be massive, and so they stand ready to help with writing, editing – and even making the fast food runs for the team. Neither partner feels the other is doing less than 100 percent of the job.
5. They share strong journalistic values.
Together, the top producer and anchor teams work through the many ethical decisions that come with quality newscasts. They aren’t afraid to raise issues of accuracy or context or fairness. They ensure that diverse voices and stories are represented in their journalism. They love the thrill of winning the big story by out-thinking and out-reporting the competition, not by cheesy or sleazy stunts. They are happiest when their news makes a difference in their community.
These are only five of many secrets. And there are strategies for making them come to life in you newsroom. But like a good tease writer, I have to leave you wanting more.
Because we’ll deliver that part in person – at the RTDNA/Loyola Anchor and Producer Leadership Summit, July 10-12 at Loyola University Chicago. Check out the jam-packed agenda, the expert faculty and keynoters, the bargain-price tuition and the producers and anchors who’ve already registered. Registration closes June 26!
And be ready to come home with more secrets, partners!