The following responses were contributed by Sandra Butler-Jones, Vice President of Broadcast Operations for WUSA-TV, Channel 9 in Washington. The material is intended to provide students with an idea of what working as a television producer is like, and some steps the student can take to prepare now for a career in that field.

Butler-Jones, who has won numerous awards for her work as a local television producer since her start in 1969, is a graduate of Howard University and resident of Silver Spring.


"The producer is the person who conceives the idea {for a program} and guides it from that concept to the time it appears on the air. That includes the writing, research, graphics and booking of guests. The producer has to be a manager as well, coordinating production assistants, on-air talent and whatever other people are needed to tell the story.

"The first step is to define the message {you} are trying to get across. Then you have to determine the best way to present the story, and select the people who can present it most effectively. The goal is always to make the story interesting and informative.

"If you break down a producer's time, about 30 percent is spent on "conceptualizing" and research; 50 percent in actual development (interviewing, taping, scriptwriting); and 20 percent in the control room, editing and preparing the story for presentation.

"Broadcasting is a medium that allows you to inform, educate and entertain people. Producers play an important part in this, and it is not a responsibility to be taken lightly." EDUCATIONAL REQUIREMENTS

"A college degree is essential, because the business is highly competitive. It's not necessary, but it is useful, for the degree to be in communications. Some go on to get graduate degrees, but I think getting the experience right out of college is more important. You get the theory in college, but to participate fully, you need the practical experience. Internships offer that experience, and there are a lot of good ones out there.

Entry level positions in broadcasting start at $13,000 a year. Salaries for producers start in the upper 20s and can reach $60,000.


"My advice to students would be to first define what area of the broadcasting industry you want to go into, because it is a very competitive field. {Producing} is not the glamor business a lot of people think it is. It's hard work, and requires a tremendous amount of dedication.

"Strong writing skills are a must in any aspect of broadcasting. Strong research skills are also critical to have, to get the background on the story and for the sake of fairness and accuracy.

"You have to be a leader, because you will have to be able to motivate the people you work with. It also pays to be detail-oriented, because you are the person responsible for coordinating all the elements of the story. You have to be fairly aggressive, but also a little thick-skinned. Creativity is subjective, and not everyone is going to share your opinion.

"For me, the most rewarding thing about being a producer was finding out that something I put on the air made a difference in the community."