Assignment Editors Are The Most
Undervalued in The Newsroom

Assignment Editors Are The Most Undervalued
in The Newsroom

Written by News Gal
🕒 August 16, 2018

You couldn’t pay me enough to be an assignment editor.

 
I’m serious. I never, ever, EVER want to be a full-time assignment editor or assignment manager in a newsroom.
 
Sure, you get to stay inside, and you always have access to a bathroom, but it’s the most thankless job in TV news.
 
Assignment editors not only have to come up with a lot of story ideas for the day, they also have to listen to scanners, call on breaking news, and make sure all the crews know where they’re going and what they’re doing.
 
Assignment editors are usually the ones who call reporters to say you’re getting another story, or you need to hurry up because they need your photog for someone else.
 

The assignment desk, in my opinion, is the worst job in the newsroom.

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They get the grief from all directions.
 
They hear complaints from the news director, assistant news director, and producers. They hear complaints from reporters and photographers. They get blamed if there aren’t enough stories. They get blamed if there aren’t enough photogs. Basically, they get blamed for everything.
 

So, how can you help make your assignment editor a little happier? Help them out a bit!

 
Make sure you’re not only looking for package ideas everyday, but try to find some filler VO/SOTs and VOs that a crew could pick up to help fill out the shows.
 
Don’t get mad at the assignment editor when they call to tell you that you have to go to breaking news or you have to grab another story. They’re usually just the messenger. They’ve been told by the assistant news director or a producer that they need to move you to another story.
 

In a lot of cases, the assignment manager feels bad about running you around,
but they’re doing their job.

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If you need your assignment editor to help make phone calls for you or get you information, make sure you’re not throwing it at them when you need it in two minutes. Give them a heads up—they have a ton of different tasks, and it’s not always simple to drop everything and do something for you.
 
One of the easiest ways to make your assignment editor happy is to say “thank you”. Let them know you appreciate what they’re doing. You never know when you’re going to need the assignment editor to have your back, so helping them out along the way can help you out in the long run.

8 Comments

  1. I’ve never done broadcast journalism, and don’t really have much affinity for 68-second packages, but one thing I’ve always admired about TV news teams (and by extension their assignment editors) is how they’re always there first. I consider myself pretty plugged in to sources and various means of alerts, but here it’s invariably the TV crews who seem to be able to get everywhere at once.

    About three hours ago I was sitting in magistrate court when a local news crew showed up. I seldom see any other journalists in magistrate court. I usually have that beat completely to myself.

    They were there to cover what turned out to be a pretty big story. So some assignment editor was monitoring a court calendar even though they seldom get a lead there, he or she identified a newsworthy item, and sent a crew.

    As a person who hangs out in court and watches proceedings and chats with people in the hallways in a pretty leisurely way, the level of attention to detail and quick reaction it took for them to get someone there took some impressive monitoring.

  2. When I was working in TV, watching the ability of the COS to be across EVERYTHING was amazing.

  3. I’ve been in TV news 13 years. I completely agree the thesis of this article. I would never ever want to be on the assignment desk. I absolutely hate days where I have to fill in.

    1. I really want to be an assignment editor but I really don’t wanna mess up

  4. Filling in at assignment desk right now. Can confirm, it really sucks.

  5. Last graf of this piece is unrealistic, but overall, I enjoyed the read.

  6. I worked in TV news for nearly 10 years. Started on the desk. It is at its BEST a thankless job. At its worst (incompetent news director, idiot executive producer/assistant news manager, lazy photogs, egomaniac reporters), you’re fighting a semi-daily battle not to literally punch someone in the face. A job that is literally the nucleus of the business is treated with less respect than the janitor at a school. And paid much worse. Yeah, I have zero regrets leaving it behind.

  7. I’m a 22 year veteran of TV news and I can say my 12 years on the desk were horrible. Unrealistic expectations, horrible working hours, no help with phones, blamed for almost everything that goes wrong in the newsroom. I was a producer for 6 years and I can say they make an AE’s job worse by their (younger ones) entitlement, reporters who are egomaniacs, lazy and surly photographers, absentee ND’s and incompetent and often stuipd executive producers. I’d rather go to prison than go back to the desk.

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