Home > finals > From Air Force to KOLN-TV, Baker’s career takes him soaring

From Air Force to KOLN-TV, Baker’s career takes him soaring

brett-baker-lg11

Brett Baker of KOLN

Joe Harris
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

From an early age, Brett Baker wanted to be on the air.

“I’m one of those weird people that knew what they wanted to do when I was like 8 years old,” Baker said. “So, my whole life was just school and activities and everything I did was geared toward finding my way into broadcasting.”

Baker’s path to becoming a producer at KOLN wasn’t smooth. His pursuit of a broadcasting career began when he attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, but was, as he put it, “a horrible student…wasting my parents’ money and my time.”

Baker then joined the Air Force as a reporter at the Air Force News Agency, which had a television show. It was a job he held for nine years, and with it, he traveled the world; he visited countries like Somalia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Croatia, Poland and Norway.

“Anywhere before 2001, it was a hot spot,” Baker said. “You name it.  I was there. We’d take a flight down. You’d shoot whatever story (while) you were on the ground. Usually it was about the Air Force crew that was running the UN port that was there to get in aid, and then you’d get out.

“It was an awesome time, man. I did a lot of cool stuff that people can’t even pay money to do, and they paid me to do it.”

 The Malcolm, Nebraska, native ended up in San Antonio, where the news agency was based. There, he freelanced with the ABC affiliate KSAT-12, which eventually offered him a job. He was KSAT’s senior sports producer for 12 years before joining KOLN-TV in Lincoln.

Baker said a typical day for him involves a 20- to 30-minute news meeting at 2 p.m., which covers who is shooting what for the 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. broadcasts and how the broadcasts will be packaged and formatted. He said he also talks to the night reporters about what stories they’re working for the 10 p.m. broadcast.

 After that, he starts “building” the show, which entails organizing templates. The first templates he works with are KOLN’s content — stories its own reporters cover. Next, he’ll add Nebraska news content generated from wire reports, CNN or CBS.

It doesn’t end there.  KOLN produces the broadcasts of five other stations.  Baker looks at their stories and adds them to KOLN’s own broadcast if they have statewide interest. Then he goes through CBS or CNN reports for the show’s national and international news segment.

Of course, the producer must do plenty of editing.

“Every day you’re going to be dealing with scripts,” Baker said. “You’re going to be writing scripts…being an editor is one task along with dozens that you have every day.”

Baker said the anchors edit a lot of scripts, but so does he. He rewrites material that’s not produced by his anchors or reporters. Even then, he said anchors will usually tweak one of his rewrites to fit how they talk.

This leads into what he said is one of his biggest challenges of being a producer: Getting the facts right.  When several anchors or reporters rewrite a news report, they often can leave pieces of information out or change them. His job is to make sure the information is still correct after all the modifications. He said he usually goes to the original reporter or press releases to check information. He said he still does not take press releases at face value; when reading more into them he finds the “real story.”

Baker said the most valuable skills for his job include focus, discipline and flexibility. He must be able to task manage and be confident in making decisions, but also be ready to make changes when there’s breaking news.

“I am…an over-preparer.  I build things to help myself when breaking news happens. If stuff happens, boom, I know exactly where to go. I can grab the exact pieces I need that’s going to round out that part of the broadcast…that way I don’t have to create it from scratch every time.”

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