“You look very nice today, Molly.”
“Pft” was her response, followed by a sharp look that let me know I was wasting my breath. Molly Baker, WXIA’s 7pm producer, always looks nice. It was no secret I needed a decision that would seal my fate for the day. My initial approach was hamhanded and pathetic.
“What about me?” Marcita’s desk adjoins Molly’s. She saw an opportunity to exploit my growing embarrassment, and took it. “Don’t I look nice too?” Marcita Thomas produces the 6pm newscast.
Rarely does a day pass when I don’t end up at the cubicle pod dominated, during daylight hours, by Molly and Marcita. I am nearly always there with hat in hand, hoping to sweet talk a few extra seconds out of them for whatever awesome TV story I’m producing for that night’s newscast.
Although I will typically approach a specific producer about a specific newscast, all ears in the pod will perk up. Judgments are made, not only about the outrageousness of my request for fifteen extra seconds of time, but also for the logic offered. Style points are added and subtracted, depending on my level of humility and / or humor. But the response to any request for additional time is almost always a cold calculation, regardless of how charming I try to be and how flawless my logic is.
Lisa Turner, who produces weekend newscasts and often steps in for nightly newscasts as needed, is the most Type A of the three. When I approach her for extra time, the initial answer is often an incredulous outburst, high in volume and pitch. I’ve learned to wait for the eruption to subside as she starts to do the math in her head.
Like Molly and Marcita, Lisa strives to be agreeable. Problem is that every knucklehead assigned to a 1:20 slot in a newscast seems to want / need more time within the finite confines of the thirty-minute broadcast.
Molly is the towering upper Midwesterner who betrays an occasional Fargo-type accent. Marcita has deeper Atlanta roots and is the only producer in the room who predates my 2009 arrival at WXIA. Both retain an admirable, evenhanded Zen quality about them even as some of their excitable co-workers are pronouncing stories to be “huge” while the details are only beginning to dribble out.
Eighty percent of the time, they say “yes” when I’ve offered a proper grovel. When they say “no,” they mean business.
Producers have only a measure of control over the time slots allotted in their newscasts. Loquacious anchors and weathercasters will ramble on sometimes, buoyed by the certainty of their own cleverness; reporters doing live shots will go long out of a sense of if you’re gonna make me stand out here, then by gosh, you’ll get an earful.
Bottom line is, if a producer wants me to stay within an allotted time, I’ll try to bust my hump (and even gut my story) to do it. Because she’ll remember if I don’t. And next time, I want her to say “yes” when I come groveling.