As a journalist I have been a reporter, editor, layout artist and assignment editor, eventually becoming a newsroom manager.

The job of an assignment editor is difficult to explain to those unfamiliar with broadcast journalism. The job requires extreme multi-tasking, insight, psychology, patience, confidence, kindness, vision, an accurate bullshit monitor and adrenaline. I respect and admire those who can make a career of it.

As an assignment editor/manager a typical day goes something like this: Arrive at work to scan wires and newspapers, read emails, catch up on the morning lead story, answer phone calls and prepare for the morning staff meeting.
At the meeting, describe stories from the top ideas, then ask for additional ideas. Make at least three stupid jokes. Within 45 minutes every reporter should be assigned. Assign photographers and live gear. Listen to the photographers complain about their night, their reporter or how they always have to be in a live truck before they make a few fantastic jokes and head out the door. Answer more phone calls. Solve a few logistical problems. Check emails.
If it’s during the ratings book race upstairs to attend a war room meeting to get up-to-the-minute stats on where everyone stands. Tweak lead stories. Listen to one really good idea, a lot of confused silence and 30 minutes of wasted chatter.
By now at least one of the following has happened: The court case/lead story has fallen through, or the necessary interview for the lead reporter isn’t available until 30 minutes before the first newscast. The web producers are literally dying for fresh news and making polite, but loud noises about this. Either an alternative story is assigned, or better, breaking news is happening.
Breaking news can and has been any of the following: fatal shark attack; high-speed pursuits with children in the car; devastating wildfires; sinkholes swallowing houses; child kidnappings; various murders; fatal hit and runs; arrests of wanted suspects; multiple victim illegal load vehicle crashes; plane crashes; gas tanker explosions; bodies found buried in backyards; SWAT operations with evacuations; terrorist attacks; FBI raids; courthouse bombings; various sex offender arrests and multiple fatality high school shootings. I’m sure I’m forgetting something. Oh, like hotel explosions, multiple-casualty walkway collapses and sniper attacks.
If it’s “regular” breaking news, as opposed to this-changes-everything breaking news, once a crew is assigned it’s back to the regular planning for elections, a superbowl, Padres opening day, huge trial coverage, learning new tech tools etc. It might be noon by now. Producers probably changed their leads a couple of times and it’s time to check in with them.
An affiliate has probably called for video from 1994 that they need immediately. A crew wants to establish a live shot. The phones are ringing and a photographer’s camera has just died. He’s 50 miles away. Yes this is an assignment editor’s problem.
And the cycle just continues throughout the day. Sometimes there are three or more because news continues to break, or problems continue to occur.
There are always solutions. They may not be pretty, but if the viewer at home doesn’t know the difference, then it doesn’t matter. This is by no means a comprehensive picture of a typical day but I hope it gives some flavor. Overall, the team approach is alive and well in local TV newsrooms.

Since September I left the newsroom behind and have been studying and working in the fields of graphic design and social media. It’s taken the “cycle” to new levels. My first client deal was completed in January – a logo for a new weight loss product. The sense of accomplishment was thrilling. (But not as thrilling as winning an Emmy for coverage of the 2007 wildfires. What beats an Emmy?)

No matter where this road takes me, I will travel with gratitude and faith.