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KOLN-KGIN 10/11 news producer has a ‘hand in the entire show’

Amber Smith
KOLN-KGIN 10/11 News

By Lindsey Berning
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Amber Smith knew she wanted to be a news producer since the start of her college career. She got there with a lot of hard work.

“I liked the idea of being part of the whole picture,” Smith said. “As a reporter you only get one story a day. As a producer you get a hand in the entire show.”

Smith attended Hastings College in Hastings, Neb.,  earning a bachelor’s degree in media production.  She wasted no time and got experience working as a reporter for her hometown newspaper, The Pender Times, in Pender, Neb.  Next, she got a part-time job at KHAS-TV News 5 in Hastings, while she was still in college. She was a weekend web producer, and it was there she got a good feel for the newsroom.

Two days after graduation in May 2007, Smith started working at KOLN-KGIN 10/11 as a producer. Since then she has produced every type of show on 10/11 and has been promoted to senior news producer.

Smith manages a team of newscast producers. She also manages and edits content on 1011now.com. She said her job is much different than a newspaper editor’s because her job is multi platform on-air and online. She has less time to do word-for-word editing, but she does read over stories and fact checks them.

“We put a lot of trust in our reporters that their stories don’t need a lot of fine tuning,” Smith said. “Broadcasting is very fast-paced.”

In a typical day, Smith works 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Her day starts off with a meeting at 9:30 with the assignment manager, news director and all of the reporters. They all pitch their ideas and decide what to cover that day. Next, she prepares for the noon show. Throughout the day, she constantly checks social media and the main news sources.

At 2 p.m., Smith attends an afternoon meeting. “It’s like the morning meeting; we use the same stories except we decide which stories should go in which show and assign stories to the evening crew,” Smith said. “The day gets really busy from two o’clock on. We have a four, five and six o’clock show and I am helping people get organized for those.”

Smith writes some breaking news stories online herself. “A reporter will call me from the scene and tell me what information they have,” Smith said. “I write that into a story for 1011now.com first, and then we put it in the newscast.” They also have other stories coming in from the AP wires. Other times she assigns reporters to post  stories to the website. She makes sure the most important stories are posted.

Social media plays a big part in Smith’s job. She gets a lot of story ideas from Facebook. She checks the 10/11 News’ page, high school sports pages, the Nebraska Central News page and her own personal page that viewers have posted on. She wants to know what people are talking about. “I want to make sure it is an interaction, not one-sided,” Smith said. There is also a 10/11 Twitter account that automatically tweets stories posted to 1011now.com. Every on-air talent also has a personal Twitter page that gives a taste of what will be in the newscast. Smith said Twitter is more about building relationships with the viewers.

Smith uses several sources to come up with stories. “We don’t have a beat system like a newspaper where sometimes they have an advantage with that system,” Smith said. “A lot of it is up to the reporters themselves.” Smith said they have a calendar of what events are coming up, they constantly call their contacts, talk to people and learn of some stories through word of mouth.

Smith gave several tips for aspiring journalism students. “You’ve got to start early,” she said. “An internship is crucial.”

She also said it is a good idea to get a smartphone. “You’ve got to always be plugged in. Be connected.”

She said students should get their resumes online, even if it is just on a simple website. Also, get professional Facebook and Twitter accounts. “One of the first things I do when we have a student apply for an internship is check their Facebook and Twitter.”

Smith said her least favorite part of the job is that it can be a little stressful at times. “Sometimes you just want to be everywhere … that’s hard.” But, “I like seeing everything come together. I don’t think there’s anything more exciting than producing a newscast and when all those pieces come together for people to see.”

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