I have lobbied for a new feature for “On the Record”.
It -- and yes, it is “it” -- will show up in the back half of our show beginning Monday and every night after that. It will help you plan your life, or at least your day!
Anatomy of 'On the Record'
Do you wonder how our show is put together?
It starts with my senior producer's long commute to work. She boards a train about 6:30 a.m., reads all the papers she can get her hands on and is in the New York City bureau by 8 a.m.
At 8:30 a.m. she attends a network editorial meeting -- which incidentally we also had daily at my former network. At 9:15 a.m. my senior producer calls me at home. By that time I, too, have managed to read all the morning papers. I don't just read The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times and USA Today. I read many papers online, e.g. The Modesto Bee, Appleton Post Crescent, Miami Herald, etc. Yes, I also read the Drudge Report, various links from AssignmentEditor.com and the new Cablenewser.com.
If we are concentrating on a story out of some town in the U.S., I always check out the local paper in that town. The local paper often gives a more complete account of the story than a national paper and thus better informs me.
My senior producer and I talk for about 20 minutes deciding generally on what we want to cover and what guests would be good. I say “generally,” since much can happen to abort our plans since our show airs more than 12 hours after our 9:15 a.m. call. In fact, in breaking news situations, we scrap our plans mid-show to report breaking news. So our show can change DURING our show.
After our 9:15 a.m. call, my senior producer meets with our early bookers and they get to work booking and producing. The bookers must produce the segments which means not only get the right guests but get the right video, or soundbites to use during the segment. This is done in New York.
Between 9:15 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., there is much e-mail traffic among my senior producer, bookers and me. We are constantly talking and planning. With the exception of one booker and me in D.C., everyone is in New York City. People have asked how we can do the show with the staff split between two cities and I respond “at CNN it was three cities: New York, D.C. and Atlanta. So this is easy!”
I am usually in the office by 1 p.m., but that can vary. I have FNC on the TV at home and I can also listen to Fox on my satellite radio in the car during my 20 minute drive.
At 2:30 the entire staff meets for a conference call. The morning bookers are still at work and the afternoon/evening bookers have arrived so we can coordinate for the show. The drill for the meeting is quite simple: The senior producer briefs us on what we have planned, what problems we might run into, and any possible news conferences or events that may still occur, e.g. if the president is giving an evening speech to supporters and we might want to cover it. There is also the usual banter among a group that likes each other and some discussion about upcoming shows.
At the conclusion of our meeting -- less than 30 minutes -- we may, or may not have the show planned. Even if it is planned, no one believes that the show will be precisely as decided at the 2:30 p.m. conference call. We still have 7 hours before our 10 p.m. show. Much can happen -- and even though it is 3 p.m. East Coast, people haven't even gone to lunch on the West Coast. Plus news does not conform to a schedule. It is not on a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern plan. News just happens... whenever... and always. Add into the mix that as our 10 p.m. show is starting, the sun is coming up in Baghdad and the day is starting there -- not that war conforms to a schedule. War is 24/7 but more seems to happen in daylight hours.
The calls and e-mails between New York City and D.C. seem accelerated after 3 p.m. Meanwhile -- and this is true all day long -- we are all surrounded with at least three TVs tuned into different news networks (with volume up on FNC) and the Internet and/or internal news sites are in our face on our computers. But this is not all -- I have a speaker on my desk so that when reporters call in news to the news desk, I hear it in my office immediately. I don't have to wait for it to show up in our internal news site.
At about 6 p.m., I go over scripts with our writer. The interviews are ad-libbed, but there is script going in and out of every segment, including the opening and closing of the show. Incidentally, during the show it is not unusual for a script to get changed by the line producer seconds -- and I mean seconds -- before I am to read it. This is actually a bigger problem for the producer in New York than it is for me. She has a million things to do during commercial breaks and the show and is not “looking” for more work or chaos.
Our script writer does a great job -- it is not easy to write TV scripts. They must be right, short and punchy. Sometimes during our discussions my age is obvious. My script writer wrote something about “Nasty Girl” in a script teasing the Janet Jackson (search) segment. I changed it. I thought it odd thing in the script. My script writer then called me and asked if I knew that the term “Nasty Girl” is a famous line from a Janet Jackson song. Of course there was a long pause on my end before I was able to muster the strength to admit that I did not. We put the phrase back in since it was right, relevant and punchy. (As an aside, and to protect myself, I bet she has no idea who the first drummer for the Beatles was!)
After the scripts are “OK'd” by me, our senior producer goes through them to make sure they are OK and our line producer reads them as well.
So now it is about 7 p.m. and the show is ready, right? Probably not... so many things happen between 7 and 10 p.m., or even during the show.
Incidentally, even though we have -- maybe -- set the show up for the evening, we don't sit and do nothing for three hours. I spend the entire time studying -- which is what I do all day long in preparation for the show. The New York staff makes sure all our guests will be on time, have transportation, satellites are all set up, etc., etc.
And then a whole new round of jobs begin about 9 p.m. The crew has to set up our set, but Brit Hume's set has to be dismantled since we share a studio. The crew starts this dismantling project at 7 p.m. when Brit ends his show and the entire project is about an hour.
I arrive on our set about 9:25 p.m. and we have to do a bunch of audio checks; do a live tease during “Hannity & Colmes”; tape a tease and make sure the guests have arrived or are en route.
It really isn't because the job is exciting and we all enjoy working together.
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Watch On the Record with Greta Van Susteren weeknights at 10 p.m. ET