Producing in Dharamshala, India: Pulling up the baseball scores in the one corner of the garden where you get a signal, because the legendary correspondent you are working with wondered how the Mets did. (2007)

The mechanics of producing

Jennie Josephson
The Mechanics of Producing


What is a producer and what do they do?

Producing for TV, radio, podcasts, and other digital media formats is the ongoing and never-ending act of solving 100 problem a day, one problem at time.

That’s it.

If you are a producer, your job is to solve problems for other people: your correspondent, other more senior producers, your camera or sound people, your radio engineer, the satellite truck operator, the London bureau desk, the kids who cut tape in the basement, the president of CBS News, and every once in a while, for yourself.

Everyone likes to get all bunched up in the knickers about journalism — and don’t get me wrong, it’s worthy profession to think deeply about. I still do.

But the act of thinking about journalism can often get in the way of the mechanics of producing — the way a hitter worries about his mom and all of a sudden the mechanics of his swing are off. If you are in journalism and cursed with the gift of overthinking, this can cause you to freeze up to the point of inaction. Then comes the imposter syndrome, and before you know it, you’re crying in a very deep bathtub at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City, Utah, wondering how you got into this mess.

So I thought I would shake a few ideas and tips out of my brain about what I’ve learned in the 20 years since I started producing for a living. I want this to simple, useful and fun.

We can talk about the mindset of a producer, how to book guests in competitive and non-competitive situations, we can talk about working with talent, dealing with difficult but talented talent, and how to safeguard yourself from a superior asshole. We will definitely be talking about the most important rule in any form of journalism — always make sure the crew has lunch. I’ll keep a running list of articles here, so you can find them with greater ease, and if I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll go find some people who know much more about this than me and ask them.

So what do you get from producing, at the end of the day? Sometimes, you just get…the end of the day. Sweet, merciful sleep is often reward enough. Sometimes you get an award, although as a producer, you may not always get the actual award. (Take a lot of pictures). Sometimes you meet a spouse! And every once in a while, you solve enough problems, you get to do something that is so unbelievably awesome, you’ll be telling stories about that day for the rest of your life.

When something this cool happens, you should immediately quit. (Kidding. Sort of.)

Jennie Josephson is a writer and producer. She has worked in television, radio, digital media and now corporate communications. Her company is Infinite Gain Studios, from which she has launched and produced many podcasts. You can find more stories about producing here, including:

The producer’s mindset

More I’d like to write:

How (and who) to book for radio or television (non-competitive)

Getting the shot

Getting the sound

Satellites and other things that cost money.

Budgeting a podcast

Budgeting a television show.

How to book for competitive guests for radio or television

If you don’t know, ask.

If you fuck-up, don’t lie.

Time zones are magic.

Template the things you repeat every day.

How to deal with talent: The good, the bad and the RUN FOR IT.

Managing up

How to find the nearest bathroom in San Francisco