TV news producers are usually invisible. We write, we coordinate, we assemble, we make snap judgments that shape each newscast. We get no byline on the TV screen or biography on the website. On a good day, our work is more or less unappreciated by the audience -- if you aren’t consciously aware of what we’re doing, that probably means we’re doing it well.
For the last 3 years, I’ve been fortunate enough to get to break those rules. Launching Live @ 7 gave me a platform and a voice that very few producers have. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.
Free from the constraints of a traditional newscast, and with the help of an amazing anchor, we got to create something totally new. It’s almost impossible to convey how rare that is in local TV: In a business that is dominated by consultants and imitation, our News Director and General Manager told us to toss convention out the window and make something different.
Every day, I got to make a show that was filled with things you rarely see in local television:
- 2- and 3-minute long stories that gave our reporters time to explore a topic using more than 8-second sound bites. The average reporter story in a traditional newscast clocks in at less than 90 seconds. Getting to double that time, and look at the day’s big story from an alternate angle, was always a pleasure.
- Live interviews that ran 5 minutes or more. Over the years we’ve talked to everyone from then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to geek icon Wil Wheaton. Politicians, academics, actors, authors, activists... I’m still amazed at the number of brilliant and talented people who graced us with their presence.
- Local arts reporting. My undergraduate degree is actually in theater -- musicals, primarily. So it was a pleasure every day to feature hardworking local artists, musicans, dancers, and theater companies. That’s something that simply doesn’t happen on commercial TV anywhere else in the country. Having the platform to connect those artists with a broader audience, and hopefully attract people who wouldn’t otherwise expose themselves to live art, is one of the proudest accomplishments of my life.
- The motley assortment of intelligent, humorous, informative, and often bizarre things we found online today. Years before the Today Show and Good Morning America turned viral videos into morning talk fodder, we were there. As those viral videos went mainstream, it gave us the chance to veer further off the beaten path, finding stories and clips that hadn’t yet gone national, but soon would. I loved to find stories for the Weird segment early in the week, then have them turn up on national broadcasts two or three days later. Even more importantly, we could highlight long-form investigations and opinion pieces worth reading, provide a summary or tease on the air, and drive viewers to great journalism you usually don’t encounter on TV.
- Best of all: A community of passionate people. Long before anyone in broadcast management knew what Twitter was, Live @ 7 was shaped by Portland’s amazing online community. Stephanie and I were welcomed with open arms by people who had generally turned their backs on old media. Being a part of that community, and bringing that community into the fabric of the show, is something that I suspect couldn’t or wouldn’t happen in any other city. You are the part of Live @ 7 I will miss the most as I begin my next adventure.
I’m beyond pleased that so many of the things that began as experiments on the show have seeped out into KGW’s other newscasts. Even beyond Steph’s presence, Your Four O’Clock News is heavily influenced by the things we learned on Live @ 7, and improves on them in many ways. Including social media feedback on the air is now common in every show we do. Everyone at KGW is always eager to step outside of the usual wire-report-and-press-release story assignments that are still far too common in this business.
And so this is goodbye. I’m hopeful Live @ 7 will be around for years to come. The search for my replacement will begin shortly. I’m confident whoever steps in will shape the broadcast in different ways than I shaped it, and that’s as it should be. Live @ 7 must keep evolving, and a fresh perspective will be wonderful for the show. I can’t wait to see what comes next. In the meantime, I’ll still be just a tweet away.
To Pat Dooris, Joe Donlon, Erica Heartquist, Joe Smith, Director Paul, Director Carey, Engineer Dave, Editor Zac, and everyone else who’s been a regular or irregular part of our Live @ 7 crew: You’re the best. Thank you for putting up with all my crazy ideas, and coming to work every day with as much joy and enthusiasm as I did. In many ways, Live @ 7 is an exercise in smoke and mirrors -- making a small show appear so much bigger than it is. You’re the magicians who make it happen.
To Steph: You made my job easy. You gave my words heart and soul every night. You always knew when to push things a little farther, and when I was pushing too far. It’s way too easy in this business to refer to on-air personalities as “the talent” without taking that word seriously. Your talent and your passion are the real deal, and it shows every time the red light goes on. I’ll miss our daily collaboration more than you’ll ever know. Thank you.