Producers not staying

Study: 40% of newcomers don't plan to remain in the field

There is more bad news for TV stations and news directors trying to overcome the shortage of producers. A survey of hundreds of local producers showed that more than 40% of producers do not plan to stay in the business-even though more than three-quarters of the 300-plus respondents to the survey say they did plan to make it a lifelong career when they entered the business.

And while compensation remains an issue-62% say they don't believe they are adequately, a headhunting firm, says the 327-producer survey and its own interviews show that quality-of-life issues loom large.

News executives say producers have been in short supply for most of the past decade due to growth in the number of hours stations devote to news, more networks and stations doing news, competition for candidates from national and cable news networks and network TV magazine shows, and an ever-smaller pool of producer candidates (B & C, March 27). More recently, TV has had to compete for media-savvy producers with Internet news services.

Educators say that when students consider broadcast journalism as a career, they seldom think beyond a job that puts them in front of the camera, and that schools need to encourage and train producers who, because of the shortage, often find a faster track to bigger markets and upper management than those on-air.

Recognizing the problem, several station groups-A.H. Belo, Hearst, Gannett and Nexstar among them-have been building their own "farm systems" or working with universities to promote and train students for producing jobs.

Considering their planned exit from the business, a surprising two-thirds of survey respondents say they are pleased with their current positions, and nearly as many say they believe their work is appreciated. Respondents list, in descending order, money, location, creative freedom, job title, future opportunities, market size, work schedule, working conditions and station resources as factors in choosing their next job.

"When I got into this business [in the early 1980s], we lived to work. This generation works to live," says Scott James, co-founder of

"I always question studies," says veteran Hearst-Argyle newsman Fred Young, who was just elevated to senior vice president for news. "But I'll accept their findings. Producers are an issue in our business today. We talk more about producer issues than any single problem."