My producer is telling me I have three minutes as we come out of the commercial break. A producer is in charge of keeping the newscast on time. News anchors read a teleprompter, so scripts are written and timed before the show. Most broadcast meteorologists ad-lib through their weathercast, and need to know how much time they have left in the weather hit. If the met goes too long, the producer has to trim out news content elsewhere in the show. If the meteorologist goes too short, they need to add in more content somewhere in the show to make it time out at the end.
One of the advantages of having live, half-hour newscasts in college is that you get to practice with a real news team and a producer. You need to learn how to respond to time cues and stretch or fill the weathercast on the fly. It is one more thing that a broadcast meteorologist needs to consider during a live newscast.
Your producer will talk to you throughout the show using an IFB. It consists of a plastic earpiece connected to a box that allows the producer to communicate with you during the weathercast. When you are first starting out, is very distracting for someone to say numbers in your ear like, “90” or “30” while you are trying to talk about the high today of 70, or the low of 40. With some practice you can learn to keep that voice in the back of your head. Producers are also pretty useful at keeping you informed when things go wrong. If a package is dropped early, you forget to turn your mic on, or you’re looking at the wrong camera; your producer should have your back. Learning how to deal with time cues in college can make life a lot easier once you get your first job in local television news. Hopefully, your first experience with a producer won’t be your first day on the job. You’ll have enough to be nervous about as it is.
Your relationship with your producer is an important one. Here are few suggestions for starting things off on the right foot.
Be clear about what you need. Let the producer know what you need for cues to end on time. You want your producer to talk as little as possible during the course of the weathercast. There is absolutely nothing harder than trying to ad-lib with someone chatting in your ear. Set up a system with them ahead of time, and make them stick to it. When you get used to hearing the same voice give you the same time cues, it will be a lot less distracting.
Be a team player. There will be days when news needs extra time, and weather will often be the first to get cut. Hopefully it works both ways so when you need some extra time to cover a severe weather event, they can return the favor. The sooner you let them know before the show, the better. On quiet weather days, its usually pretty easy to trim a graphic or two, and you should always be willing to do so. What is important is that you build a relationship with your producer so that you can easily give and take the time.
My producer is telling to wrap it up. As usual, I’m going a few seconds over because I’ve got too much I want to talk about. I think she knows that, and now times me out accordingly, giving me fake time cues to account for that. Good producers know you and take care of you. Hopefully every met gets the chance to work with a good producer. Make friends with that voice in your head, and your show will be better for it.