Spotlight: What I Do As a TV News Assignment Editor

Producing daily news is a challenge for any media outlet, and when you are dealing with live television the complexities are endless. How do news channels find their stories and decide what to cover?

To learn a little about how a local TV news station works, we spoke with Alex Yoder, an assignment editor in Tallahassee, Florida. It tracks a variety of sources, from an old-fashioned police scanner to social media feeds, to find stories as they emerge and coordinate with reporters and film crews to provide the best news coverage possible.

Tell us a little about yourself and your experience.

My name is Alex Yoder and I am the editor of WCTV Eyewitness News , a CBS television station in Tallahassee, Florida. I worked at WCTV for a little over two years. As the assignment editor, I sit at our assignment table and work with our team of reporters and photographers to define and develop story ideas. I also track several sources for the latest news throughout the day. If something happens, my job is to get our teams to the scene as quickly as possible. Prior to working in Tallahassee, I worked as a producer, photographer and forecaster at a station in Sarasota, Florida.

What prompted you to choose your career path?

I always trust my grandfather. As far as I remember, he always watched the local news at 6:00 pm and the national news that followed every day. I think it was the constant familiarity with the news that drew me to this area.

I am also a very curious person. I kept asking why and always wondering how things worked as a child. I can’t think of a better job than one that requires you to ask questions every day!

How did you get a job? What kind of education and experience did you need?

I actually went to college with a degree in meteorology. As part of our meteorological program, I met with the chief meteorologist at our station. He came to me and asked if I wanted to work part-time as a forecaster. I got this job when I was still in college, and I managed to move up to where I am now. While education in this area is certainly essential, experience and connections are essential.

I have a degree in Information and Communication Technology from Florida State . This is a newer degree that includes some classes in the communications program and some in the IT program. This allowed me to take courses such as media law and social media management. Before college, I was in a TV and film production program in high school.

What are you doing besides what most people see? What do you actually spend most of your time on?

I spend most of my time looking for potential stories that we could cover. It takes a lot of time to dig through social media posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to find out what people are talking about in our area. I also spend a lot of time reading police reports and court cases. Florida has a very open public records law. This allows anyone (not even a member of the media) to request police reports and other law enforcement and government documents. I spend most of the morning reviewing the latest arrests in our area, looking for serious charges. When accusations look like they could lead to a story, we request a police report to find out the details of this person’s arrest.

I also spend time each day planning coverage for future stories and events. It can be as simple as deciding which reporter will cover the press conference the next day, or as difficult as planning election coverage months in advance.

What misconceptions do people often have about your job?

That the people working at the competing stations are mortal enemies. While we will do our best to get the best and most accurate stories first, we are always friendly to each other and sometimes even communicate outside of work!

What’s your average uptime?

I have a normal 40 hour work week. Since our evening news broadcasts run from 5:00 pm to 6:30 pm, I usually work from about 9:30 am to 6:30 pm. I love what I do, so it’s common to be at work early, late, or even on weekends. It is believed that I am always in touch. If there is breaking news or bad weather, I am expected to work to coordinate our coverage. We can also have very long days with the latest news. I think my longest day was over 18 hours last November while filming at Florida State University’s Strosier Library.

My schedule seems quite normal, but a 24/7 TV station requires someone to be at the station around the clock. In the newsroom, we also have a shift from 23:00 to 8:00, a shift from 3:00 to 12:00 and a shift from 14:30 to 23:30.

What personal tips and shortcuts have made your job easier?

Google Alerts . This makes it incredibly easy to find news about what’s happening in each of the cities we are looking at. I also make extensive use of search and lists on Tweetdeck . This allows me to track the groups and newsmakers in our area and what they are talking about in real time.

What are you doing differently from your colleagues or colleagues in the same profession? What are they doing instead?

I am acting as an air traffic controller in our office. I constantly follow what is happening in our community and try to get the news to our viewers as quickly as possible. New technologies and social media have certainly changed the way local news works. I’m always looking for ways to use this new technology to help us get the job done. We’ve been experimenting with Meerkat and Periscope over the past few days. We’ve never seen this new idea of ​​live video streaming to social media before. Our reporters can not only send live video faster than conventional methods, but also allow our viewers to share the news they see in real time.

What’s the worst part of a job and how do you deal with it?

The stress and emotional aftermath of some of the bad stories we have to tell.

Journalism can be extremely stressful work, especially on television. We have very tight deadlines during the day. Add the latest news and equipment that can stop working at the most inopportune moment, there will be times when you want to scream. But you can’t. You must remember that it is important that you do your job of informing the audience. We usually always look back at these stressful moments to try to find out something about what happened, to see if there is something we can do to avoid it in the future.

Then there is the emotional part of the job. We talk about the worst things that can happen in our area. We have to gather information about what happened, decide how to present that information, and then broadcast it on our news bulletins. Sometimes the details of what happened are so graphic or disturbing that we decide not to broadcast some of them. Other times, we have to share some of these details to tell the whole story. These details can be tricky to read, and sometimes the stories make it home. I think everyone has a slightly different attitude to this. The easiest way is to leave as much as possible at work.

What is the most enjoyable part of the job?

I think my favorite part of the job is that I am always learning something. From the stories we broadcast, you will learn about interesting people and groups in our community. We often have to do preliminary research on different topics when we start working on new stories. I don’t think that a day will pass when I don’t learn something new just because of everything that I read as part of my work.

How much money can you expect at your job? Or what is the average starting salary?

Starting with local news? Probably barely enough to get by. You can certainly earn more by moving to other stations in the larger markets. You won’t find many people doing any form of journalism for money. We do this because we like it.

How are you progressing in your field?

Hard work and experience. Like any other business lately, journalists have had to do more with less. This means intervene from time to time and help do things that are not part of your daily work. Those who are willing to help and complete several different tasks will be distinguished by employers. This shows a willingness to do the best on the air and an ability to intervene where needed.

What advice would you give to those who want to become your profession?

Many people will tell you “don’t”. Sometimes they joke, sometimes they don’t. Working on local news is not easy and challenging. It’s also very helpful if you really enjoy telling a story every day.

Here’s something I say to all of our interns and students I meet who are interested in working on local news. Try interning or spying on someone in both the small market station and the large market station. Anyone who wants to work in the news wants to cover the most important news in the largest markets. You will eventually get there, but you have to spend time in a small market. With experience in both directions, you will learn what to expect immediately after graduating from college and what to expect in the future.

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