It’s been a year since I last started posting on LinkedIn about the producer crisis as part of the Great Resignation. Honestly, I have dedicated the last 10 years as an agent for producers and managers to help producers’ needs be heard.
Consulting groups and recruitment agencies are raising the alarms, saying the candidate pool isn’t there anymore. Broadcasting groups are creating training programs and hiring extra talent acquisition specialists to get more producers in place. I talk to them frequently. They work hard. A lot of phone calls. Still a lot of dead spots in terms of recruitment.
I understand that means the focus is on hiring. Bring them in, and hope they love us. Show we care. But I don’t feel I am doing my duty as an advocate for producers well if I stay silent on what the even larger problem is right now. You aren’t going to keep the producers you already have. Future industry leaders are going to continue to give up and leave. Managers are too overwhelmed with digital plus on-air demands to truly focus on continued training and development.
Glad to see more talk of adding bonuses and looking at pay structure beyond just what the competing stations pay. I mentioned these types of ideas a year ago and they remain valid. But we all must sit in a cold hard truth. Companies are not willing to spend more on these pay raises, bonus structures, and more than a couple of easy incentives. The fear of digital options continually eroding profit margins looms large. Want proof, consider this: In placing managers over the last year nearly every broadcast group lowered the pay by an average of 10 grand per job. Many management jobs, your in-house trainers that the industry leans on so heavily, were eliminated during COVID and have not come back.
So let’s get down to brass tacks. Producers can only be assigned to one newscast per shift. Period. ONE. That newscast can only be at most an hour in length. Executive producers need to be in charge of one day part. Not the whole newsroom. Not weekends too. And they truly do oversight and brand protection. Manager pay is not where you make cuts to your budget.
The training programs set up are heavily focused on new producers. You need to bring in separate trainers, who can look at the nuances in your newsroom and tailor continued training for your more experienced producers and executive producers. There is too much one size fits all in training. The needs get much more specific once a producer understands the basics of the job. If they made it for two or three years in the industry, you need to focus on ways to invest deeply into that individual. Most producers do not feel heard. They largely do not feel valued. A weekend seminar isn’t going to fix that long-term. The way producing is taught in this industry is not consistent, so many are coming to you with different needs. Newsroom structures and systems vary more wildly than before as well. A set of eyes coming in and telling you ways to work with the resources you have to build up your producing ranks is key. For too long the focus has been on getting the most out of the few journalists in the room. Now the focus needs to be on helping the producers be able to turn quality newscasts and grow as leaders.
The people you need to train and retain, to help with recruiting short and long-term are right under your nose, in your newsrooms right now. Just because they trusted you to come on board, doesn’t mean they feel valued now. That is the largest core issue when it comes to producers. Provide more reasonable workloads right now, then start a real dialog about ways these producers can be part of the solution for retention, leadership, and frankly the future of the industry. Trust your managers when they tell you the workloads are too high. Give them some room to try scheduling flexibility and targeted training. Producers are your first and best line of defense in protecting the integrity of the industry. Show them you see their worth. Let station managers come to you with newsroom structure recommendations and let them try those structures instead of telling them to get more done with less. Help them retain the people you have right now.
Top News Talent can help provide a targeted set of eyes to tailor the training per individual, per newsroom. We also truly speak producer. Let us help you retain your producers and grow the leaders you will soon need.