The Producer Shortage Crisis: Why Producers (and Companies) Need Agents To Fix It
by Beth Johnson
It’s no secret that there is a chronic shortage of quality producers in the TV news business.
More people want to be on air. Many people think they will earn more money and be treated
with more respect if they are on-air. And with the growing emphasis on creating powerful content
for social media, already overworked and underpaid producers are seeing their job duties grow
exponentially. This is creating not just a shortage, but a crisis in the industry. There are too few
quality people to go around. And mistakes are happening daily, causing stations and frankly the
TV news industry as a whole to continue losing credibility among the public.
applicants. In the article FTV wrote, "Word is that Scripps is offering staffers money if they can help fill some positions inside the company.” Each example is for producer type openings. Offering topay for referrals is not new. A network does the same. Other broadcasting companies are hiring recruiters with the primary goal of finding content applicants (i.e. line producers and social media experts). Broadcasting companies are simply desperate to find quality people.
So this probably has producers thinking, “Then why would I need an agent? This will be like
shooting fish in a barrel.” Not really and there are several reasons why. The biggest: Just
because there are a lot of jobs out there does not mean you will be paid what you are worth or
treated the way you should be. We are at a crucial time where TV news has to start
transitioning from only paying their “faces” of the station well, to paying producers well, too. The
median salary for producers has not gone up in at least 15 years. THIS MUST STOP NOW. The
only way it will, is with advocates for producers; who truly understand not only the day-to-day
responsibilities of producers, but also the crucial needs of companies to have content leaders.
These advocates (agents) can broker deals that will help producers make more money, gain
more respect and get more support. A producer needing to feed themselves and/or
a family cannot fight for alone.
Just because you are being offered a lot of jobs, doesn't mean you are ready for the jobs. Many
of these companies are repeatedly proving they will promise a lot to get you in the door. They
will take risks on you because frankly, they need someone, anyone. However, their emphasis
should be finding the right person. If you are not that right person, what happens when you get
there? Is that job where you should really be? Producers are moving up in markets fast. I
started in a top 30 market on a high responsibility newscast. While it is flattering to get these
offers, it is hard to know if you are really ready. Most newsrooms still lack key infrastructure to
make sure you get the training and support necessary in order to succeed. If it’s not there, you
stand a high chance of failing if you are not the right person for that job. That is why you see
such a high burnout rate among producers in the industry. As a former producer who’s worked in
many different market sizes on all possible shifts, I get what is needed and know how to ask for
that support for you.
Companies are starting to recognize that they need to provide more. But they do not know what
that 'more' really is. That’s where an agent helps companies. We can explain what producers and
EP’s really need. I am already speaking with companies about how to truly spoil and grow their
content leaders. We are talking about more than just the crucial pay increases. Producers need
training, support and understanding of what they do day-to-day. It is painfully clear that there is
still a big gap in understanding industry wide over what producers and EP’s in particular, do
each day. Many of the recruiters I mentioned, who are being hired, do not have the right
backgrounds to truly vet producers and spot real talent. They do not know what to ask. Hiring
managers find themselves even more backlogged by paperwork dealing with these
recommendations that often make no sense at all. So there is resistance in the ranks, and
candidates can be left out in the cold over these misunderstandings.
As an agent who works solely for producers and managers, I am bridging the gap between what
the companies need and what producers/managers need. This is a crucial time when these two
groups need an intermediary to help both sides see how to change the tide. Generating
excellent content is crucial now. The industry has to put more emphasis on how to get it right
and be compelling on multiple platforms. MediaStars is helping companies see what they need,
and who can provide very particular skills to help them move forward. Our clients are proving
themselves time and again to be difference makers and leaders in their newsrooms. Many are
getting corporate level recognition for their achievements. We are working very hard to make
sure producers get the support needed to flourish, not wither. This can only be done by being
able to have nitty gritty discussions about what both parties need for each job, each station and
each company to flourish.
And companies are more than happy to work with us. I am constantly being told how grateful
they are to have someone to contact who can not only recommend producers and managers,
but who can also explain specifically what these individuals can bring to the table. It takes a lot
of guessing out of the game. We have major broadcast companies begging to be first on the list
of contacts whenever we sign a new client. We work with managers and groups to help chart
career paths for our clients, not just a job. Several of our clients have had jobs created just for
them. Unique jobs that showcase their individual talents with great pay and backing.
Broadcasting groups are thrilled to offer these things and are starting to open up their purse
strings for our clients. We are bridging the gap. We are creating an understanding of the true
value of these content leaders. If companies are at the point of paying for tips, just to have
someone to look at, imagine what they will do for a quality applicant who can help them reshape
their newscast, newsroom and/or company? As an agent, I know what they will do. I know what
to ask for that will benefit both you, the content leader, and the company. Isn’t it about time you
get what you deserve?