Brian Stites, Sports Producer at KPIX, talks about his role as a producer and how he got his start in the broadcasting industry
When I was a kid, when I was young I always thought TV was cool, especially live TV. My folks were really into watching the evening news and so I became fascinated by it. I went on a field trip to a local TV station in Sacramento. It all kind of looked the same as it does in here and I was interested by it and I kind of held onto that. Then I wanted to be in front of the camera. But there’s a lot of things that go with being in front of the camera that then I didn’t think about.
Well, I went to college, I went to the University of San Francisco in San Francisco. I was a media studies major and I minored in journalism. In order to get an entry-level position at KPIX or really any place, a broadcasting place, is to be an intern. Work your way as an intern. If you don’t get it one semester try the next. If you don’t get it that semester try the next. And once your foot is in the door – and I’ve seen it time and time again where kids will be interns and they’ll have a PA job or if they’re good enough they’ll be writers right away. And I see it a lot. And it happens and you can work your way up pretty fast.
I got an internship, actually at KRON, and I interned at the sports department there. My internship ended and they gave me a job as a production assistant on the assignment desk. My boss at the time at KRON had an opening for a sports producer and he said, why don’t you try out to be a sports producer?
Today’s producer does virtually everything from writing to formatting a show – formatting means how a show looks on paper or in our case in the computer – editing video, we book guests for shows, research stories, call for interviews, call affiliates to make sure that if something is happening in another city that people in the other city can help us with our transmission needs or coverage needs or anything like that. It’s pretty much a Swiss Army knife.
And at the time as a production assistant my actual job at KRON, I was working the overnight shift. So what I would do is I would work the overnight shift from 3 AM until noon, I would go home and take a nap from 1 PM to four, get up, go back and help with the late sports cast. And at the time I was tired, it was really tiring to work double shifts essentially to make money and to sort of learn the producing job. But they liked me so much and they appreciated my dedication that they gave me the job.
My transition from KRON to KPIX wasn’t exactly happy. I was laid off at KRON. My coworker at KRON introduced me to Dennis at a bar in San Francisco and we talked for a little bit at the bar and he said, well why don’t you come in and interview? It was kind of an informal interview and I got the job working weekends. And I’ve been here since. And that was almost 10 years ago. The best thing about it is it’s ever-changing and it’s fast. So if you don’t have a good day one day, the next day could be completely different. Topics are always changing, you’re following stories so each day is different.
I always say this, that most people when they go to their jobs they look up at the clock and they say, God, when can I get out of here? I look up at the clock and say, geez, I wish I had more time. Because that’s how we operate. We are on tight deadlines all the time and we really do wish we had more time. And that just makes your day go by quick.
The best piece of advice for someone that wants to be a producer or really work in this industry is I’d say just be available all the time. Once you have your foot in the door make sure you never really say no to somebody that says, hey, can you work this shift? Going back to my story about how I became a producer, I had to work days and overnights and I just said, I’m going to do it, I didn’t say no and people notice that kind of stuff.