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REGIONAL OPPORTUNITIES

Job Title: News Producer

Job Overview

Assignments vary, but some of a news producer's functions include: searching out potential guests, conducting pre-interviews and writing them up, making arrangements for interviews to be taped, and producing segments. After filming, the news producer may work with an editor to edit the story, and arrange for the correspondent to do a voice-over. Some producers may also be charged with writing segments or editing copy.

Special Skills

News producer/correspondent Jeanne Ringe recommends majoring in English, history, or liberal arts. “You have to be able to think clearly and write clearly. Writing for television is different than writing for print. You can learn the lingo and restrictions of writing for timed pieces once you get into television. If you're a good writer to start with, you can refine those skills.”

Advice for Someone Seeking This Job

After obtaining a bachelor's degree, some recommend going on to journalism school. Others, like Ringe, advise going directly to a job in a newsroom. A college internship is a good way to get into a newsroom, learn the various job functions, prove your work ethic, and make contacts that might lead to future employment.

Professional Profile: Jeanne Ringe, News Producer and Correspondent

“In the right place at the right time” is the theme of Jeanne Ringe's career. The Virginia native originally enrolled in high school Spanish because she wanted to communicate with her Latin American boyfriend. Excelling in the language, she went on to major in Spanish at the University of Texas with the intention of working as an interpreter at the UN until marriage and children came her way.

To support herself during her last two years of college, Ringe worked at the state legislature. She got involved with the Jimmy Carter presidential campaign, but did not survive the transition into the White House. On her way to apply for a job in a think tank, she got off the elevator on the wrong floor and stumbled into the offices of the Mutual Radio Network. Ringe decided to put in an application, was interviewed by the news director, and was hired on the spot with the promise to make her the next Connie Chung. Until then, she was to serve as the newsroom secretary and learn the business of news. When the news director was fired a couple months later, Ringe learned the first rule of broadcasting: “Never believe anything anybody promises you.”

Ringe worked for Mutual from 1977 to 1980, earning a meager $200 a week. When the company put the Larry King Show on the air, they offered Ringe an extra $10 a week to help book guests. She was later promoted to producer of the show for another $15 a week. “That was probably the toughest schedule of any job I ever had. I would go into work at 10:30 or 11:00 at night. The show started at midnight and we were on the air live for five and a half hours. I would go home and unplug my phone and sleep from 6 a.m. to about 2 P.M., and then get up and try to book guests for that afternoon. At the time, nobody knew who Larry was. Guests had to pay their own cab fare, find their way into this confusing building in Crystal City [Washington, D.C., area], and there was a complicated elevator security system. We were losing guests all the time—it was a nightmare.” After a time, Ringe asked for an additional $15 a week and quit when she was refused. “I was making so little money at the Larry King Show that I had to sell my car to pay my rent one month. Yet, we were taking the show on the road 12 weeks a year, staying in great hotels, riding in limousines. I'd come home and have no food in my refrigerator. My parents and everyone else thought I was nuts for killing myself for this job, but I loved it. It was in my blood by then.”

While working on the King program, Ringe would sometimes pitch ideas to the Tomorrow Show. “I was a big fan of Tom Snyder. I just called up one day and said, ‘Look, we've had these guests on and I think you should have them on.’” She continued to call and became friendly with one of the producers, who got her an interview with the executive producer when she quit King's show. Hired to work for five weeks on a temporary basis, “I sold everything I had and moved to New York.” At the end of the five weeks she was invited to stay on. There she worked with Robert Morton, who later went on to produce Late Show with David Letterman.

What do you like least about your job?

“The negative side of things is that the job gives you a knowledge of the world that is miles wide and sometimes only an inch deep. You never become a real expert at anything unless you specialize as a reporter.”Jeanne Ringe

What do you love most about your job?

“If you are a curious person, journalism is the most wonderful career to have because it allows you to explore every aspect of life: the good, the bad, and the ugly; the extremes of wonder and grandeur to the depths of depravity and everything in between.”—Jeanne Ringe

By the time Snyder's show was cancelled two and a half years later, Ringe was being represented by agent Alfred Geller, who sent her on an interview with an upstart cable channel in Atlanta: CNN. Unimpressed by the fledgling operation, she happened to pick up a trade magazine while waiting for her interview and discovered that CBS was launching a new program. She immediately phoned from the lobby of CNN to set up an interview for when she returned to New York. Hired on as an associate producer for CBS Morning News, Ringe was responsible for booking guests and working on segments for hosts Diane Sawyer and Bill Curtis. She even got the opportunity to utilize her Spanish skills when the foreign desk sent her to Central America on assignment with Sawyer.

CAREER TIPS

* Be persistent and willing to take whatever job is available to get into the newsroom, learn procedures, and demonstrate your work ethic.

Ringe left CBS late in 1984 to start up her own company, Idea Factory, to produce television promos, videos, and radio projects. She returned to CBS six months later as producer of Face the Nation with Leslie Stahl. In that role, Ringe preinterviewed potential guests, wrote up the interview notes, helped determine what hot news topics the show would cover each week, and booked guests based on the preinterviews. “On Saturdays we would sit around and put the questions together with Leslie. Basically, we had a brainstorming session where we would sit around and compile information, and then come up with a road map of questions for the interviews. Then, sometimes I would cut the taped piece that introduced the day's stories.”

After leaving CBS, Ringe briefly produced segments for Travel & Adventure, a nationally syndicated travel program, and with TVAM, British Independent Television, traveling around the U.S. with their correspondents. She put together funding to make a documentary for PBS, then spent two years at the Library of Congress as director of the Global Library Project, where she was charged with producing television documentaries about the Library of Congress and its collections.

Ringe married a foreign service officer in 1987 and moved with him to Seoul, Korea. There, she landed a job reporting for CNN, producing two to three stories each week for the next few years, and also acted in six episodes of a Korean soap opera. Following a nine month return to Washington, D.C., for her husband to undergo language training, the pair was assigned to Kiev. Originally slated to open a field office there for CNN, things did not pan out and Ringe accepted a position as vice president of production for a television direct marketing company, requiring a monthly commute between Kiev and Los Angeles. When the company folded in the late 1990s, Ringe retired from the business to raise a family.

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