"I didn't know someone had to organize behind the scenes?!" says Cari, a 10th grader from Metro Achievement Center for girls.
"I have a new respect for producers...really opened my eyes. I never paid attention to what [they] do so that I can enjoy what I watch on TV," echoes Guadalupe, also in 10th grade at Metro.
Astrid Greve, the Weekend AM News Producer for ABC7 Chicago, took generous time out of her busy schedule to deliver a career talk for young Chicago girls at Metro Achievement Center. Born and raised in Germany, Ms. Greve has quite an impressive educational background and professional media career, and she came to give the girls a sneek peek into the life of a television producer for the number one station in Chicago.
A TV Producer: Captain of the Ship
"I'm captain of the ship. The first line of defense," says Astrid. She is responsible for the entire newscast, ensuring punctuality and accuracy. "You need to be detail-oriented, quick, and able to rearrange on the fly, with a plan B, C, and D." In charge of overall production, Astrid plans weekend guest segments and writes for the local news, working two back-to-back overnight shifts. "I'm also the motivator...when things get side tracked or when equipment fails, I help keep things on time."
Q: "How does one become a producer?"
A: "Start with internships. No matter your background, you don't need a particular degree. You can carve out a niche for yourself based on your interests." (For example, a degree in political science can help get you working on political stories, but even an interest in health can put you in nutrition and lifestyle section of the news.) "You can do whatever you want as long as you get the training and acquire the skills."
Q: "How do you become good at writing?"
A: "Practice! There's no way around it. Everyone starts slow. Write faster and faster -- time yourself. Sometimes I only have a two-minute break to write a breaking news story. It just has to be the best it can be. Develop a formula (The 5 W's: Who, What, When, Where, Why). Build on experience: write fast, but make sure the facts are correct."
Student insight: "As I approach the SAT/ACT timed written test, I will take [Astrid's] advice to practice writing quickly in timed sessions. If she can write with just two minutes available, I can do it in time too!" -Cari
Achieving Work-Life Balance
Q: "How do you manage the stress?"
A: "I work out when I can, try my best to have a regular sleep schedule, focus on things outside of work, and talk with friends outside the business. We do our best to distance ourselves from crime and the more horrific news. We have to deal with these stories without letting it drag us down," says Ms. Greve.
Student insight: "She's so passionate, with the willpower to endure some stress so that the news gets out. At the same time, she encouraged us not to make work your whole life. You need a breather. It's important." -Guadalupe
TV News: How to get it, How to deliver it
Q: "Will TV news broadcast ever become obsolete?"
A:"That's a huge discussion in the biz. We adjust and shift focus. Because our culture demands instant access, the news works to reflect that in order to keep the viewer interested. So we make it fast-paced with animation and use social media for our breaking news."
Q: "Where do the stories come from? How do you deal with media bias?"
A: "Reporters generate stories, and we get others from the assignment desk, scanners, news/magazines, wires, and alerts." Regarding bias, "We try our best to avoid it. You have to report on the story but not be a part of the story. Stick with the facts. Don't embellish. We are not commentators or analysts. We try to cover as many different points of view as possible, but there will always be someone who's not satisfied. I always ask myself, 'Am I telling the story correctly? Have I covered all my bases?' You want to give just enough so that the viewer can make his/her own judgment call."
Despite the hard work, a fulfilling career
Q: "If it's hard to take a vacation and the hours are long, why choose this career?"
A: "I like to know before others and I like to know more than others. I enjoy being able to take complicated information and make it easy for others to understand. I want people to get to say, 'Hey, I saw that on Channel 7!" I love the fast-paced environment. In this work, you want to be interested in knowing what's going on in the world."
Student insight: "That's dedication. A lot of people don't have the same kind of dedication to do what they love. I'm so grateful for people like her. If it weren't for news producers, [like Astrid], I wouldn't know what's going on in the world." -Guadalupe
[Tessa McEwen, Director of Communications (left), Astrid Greve ABC7 Producer (middle), Christina Villa, Program Director at Metro (right)]
Astrid Greve holds a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism/Communications and a Masters in Magazine Design from the University of Missouri. Beyond working full-time, she is currently pursuing a dual degree in Management/Public Relations with an MBA from the University of Maryland-University College. Thank you, Astrid, for your inspirational talk and generosity!