A homegrown talent program

Jul 29, 2002  •  Post A Comment

The Hearst-Argyle and Belo television groups have put their money where their mouths are when it comes to cultivating homegrown talent with skills essential to broadcasting.
The two station groups and LIN TV have collaborated for three years on the Broadcast Sales Training Academy, a skills-driven summer boot camp on the campus of Belo’s Dallas headquarters to which the three station groups send entry-level account executives.
This summer Belo and Hearst-Argyle, both of which take news very seriously, decided to apply a similar approach to the editorial side. They staged a producer academy at which 10 handpicked young promising producers from each group spent an intense week in June immersed in an atmosphere that was, said those involved, part classroom, part newsroom and all-inspiring.
Candy Altman, VP of news for Hearst-Argyle Television, and Belo senior VP Rick Keilty worked with Syracuse University journalism professor Dow Smith to develop the curriculum and assemble the faculty, including Poynter Institute ethics dean Bob Steele and tease-writing consultant Graeme Newell and people from within the station groups.
The 20 producers who gathered at Hearst-owned WESH-TV in Orlando, Fla., June 23 were coached and tested in everything from ethics and formatting to working with anchors, reporters, photographers and assignment desks to writing teases. The process started with individual news directors nominating an employee each felt showed potential for newsroom leadership. Each candidate submitted an “application” that included an essay.
At Belo’s KING-TV in Seattle, news director Pat Costello said he nominated Eunjoo Song because in addition to having shone on the assignment desk, on the production staff and as a writer in her three years at the station she has the attitude that is as important as an aptitude for leadership.
Ms. Song, 24, said she “barely knew what a producer does” when she started as a desk assistant at KING fresh out of college. When she arrived at the Academy, where she was one of two participants who were not yet producers, she knew the technical aspects of the job. Now she’s got the “passion,” which is infectious, and she’s “ready for the next step,” she said.
That’s good, said writing and story telling coach Mackie Morris, because “there [are] no two ways about it: The single-biggest need in television for the past 15 years has been good producers.”
Mr. Morris, who often is confined to teaching single-evening sessions, raved about the luxury of spending more than a day in give-and-take discussion with a diverse group he described as bright, energetic, knowledgeable and inquisitive.
Some might argue that especially in tight economic times, committing money (an estimated $2,000 per producer), resources (news directors and executives from both groups made presentations) and time away from what Mr. Costello called “the necessities of the job” is the biggest step.
“The producer academy is an investment by Belo and Hearst-Argyle to address the need to continually develop talented and experienced producers,” said Mr. Keilty.