Today lends a perfect example of “it’s the producer’s fault.”
I didn’t mention it in my previous post, but the 2:45pm meeting in which the producers pick the stories for their prospective shows is also the time when the nightside reporters pitch their stories and the weather anchor gives an overview of what we can expect in the forecast (so that we, as producers, can whip out snazzy bump lines and graphics that read teases like “CLOUDS RETURN?” and “WET WEEKEND?” or “IT’S RAININ’ SIDEWAYS!”)
Well today’s meeting was unusually brief since the Executive Producer was off and there was absolutely NO news to report (the curse of newscasts on federal holidays. Thanks, MLK.) The weather anchor scheduled to work was the girl who anchors on weekends. She was scheduled in place of our chief meteorologist who had the holiday off. Said weather girl (can’t call this one a meteorologist, I’m afraid, she’s merely a pretty girl who likes clouds) was noticeably absent from today’s meeting, but based on it’s brevity, none of us thought anything of it. She probably was just late getting into the conference room and upon finding it empty, went back to the weather office to resume building the graphics for the shows.
At 4:30pm (30 minutes prior to my show) I called the directors to make sure that they knew that we had a fill-in weather anchor for chyron purposes. But as I reached for the handset, it dawned on me that I hadn’t seen her at all yet today. I asked everyone on the assignment desk if they’d seen her floating about the newsroom, but no one had. So I opted to take a trip to the weather center, which I found dark and desolate and clearly lacking human existence.
My associate producer called her right away only to be greeted by a high-pitched voicemail message. She gently left a message saying, “Hi, we’re down at the station wondering where you are. Call us back. Thanks.”
Weathergirl called back roughly ten minutes later apologizing profusely, explaining that despite an email to everyone in the newsroom and a schedule swap printed and posted on a huge bulletin board in the newsroom, she was unaware that she was working today. She said she was leaving immediately and that she’d make it in time to go on air at 5:00.
Now, the protocol for this type of scenario is that the producer is to immediately inform the news director of the almost-crisis, so that in case said anchor doesn’t make it, everyone is on the same page and a back-up plan can be easily implemented. So after we called her and she didn’t answer, I completed step two, and told my boss.
After telling me to make sure I had several stories on hold, and after telling him that I’d figure out a way to put up the five-day forecast over music so that my anchor could ad-lib, it turned on me.
It was then that I fell at fault for her tardiness because I didn’t realize her absence before 4:30pm.
First of all: None of the other producers knew she wasn’t at work, either. Second of all: I KNOW that if anything goes wrong in my show, the blame falls on me. But if an anchor doesn’t show it’s my fault, too?
I can’t wait to get yelled at the next time food goes bad in the fridge or a reporter quits or something. I really need to get better at this whole, “being prepared for everything” thing.
Tomorrow I’m going to go to work and call every single one of my on-air talent just to make sure they plan on being on TV that day.