What Do You Do All Day?…The Assignment Desk

“What do you do all day?” will be a recurring theme on this site. I have found that a lot of stress working in a newsroom is caused by a lack of communication (aren’t we all communication people?!) and a lack of understanding of what our co-workers are doing on a daily basis.

We will begin with the dreaded assignment desk. I say dreaded because who really enjoys looking at his phone to see the number pop up? It usually means more work or a long drive to “check on something” when you would like to be eating your PB&J instead. I know one photog has the ringtone for the Imperial March (think Darth Vader) set to play when the desk calls. I laughed when I heard that because, as a person who works in the field, that seemed rather appropriate.

In an effort to learn, I have polled a few brave souls who work on the assignment desk. The question: What do you wish the crews in the field understood about YOUR job?

Yes, fine reporters and photogs, we will reverse this at some point. Read this and then go hug your assignment desk editor today!

**Special thanks for “Kelly from the desk” for the assist on this post**

Grover Wyatt-Murrell, assignment manager Fox 17, Nashville TN

The assignment desk does more than just answer phones and push out emails. We are in the constant know of where all the crews are and what they are doing.

The desk really doesn’t try to jerk you around like some field crews think.


Kelly Riner, WRAL, Raleigh NC

I get along great with the crews, and it takes a lot to get me frustrated. But, please never say, “must be nice sitting back there at the station.” When there is breaking news or severe weather–whatever we may be sending a crew to–rest assured it’s busy and stressful back at the station as well. Also, when given an assignment, please don’t ask what all of the other crews are doing. The assignment editors and managers work closely with the producers to decide who needs to be on what and when. Logistics you may not even know about come into play, and we make the best choices we can with the resources we have. We do not have time talk you for 10 minutes about why it’s you, and not someone else, going to the story. Last, please read plans and emails. A big part of what I do is planning coverage of big events. A lot of meetings and hours of planning go into the emails you receive. When you are part of the plan, read it before asking, “so what am I doing?” 99.99 percent of the time, I can promise you, everything is on the plan.

Lauren Leslie, News Editor at CNN, former; content manager at NBC 17 and Assignment Editor at WSOC in Charlotte

I wish the crews in the field knew that we really aren’t trying to make your life miserable and make you miss your lunch–breaking news happens and it changes our entire day plan as well. That’s how it goes. I also wish crews in the field understood that we are continuously working to get further details for you and on your story, along with 10-15 other stories of the day. We understand that you’re busy and we hope they understand that we are as well.

AnnMarie Breen, Assignment Manager WTVD, Raleigh NC
I wish they understood the sheer amount of communication that we receive and put out in any given day. It feels as if they think we sit at the assignment desk waiting by the phone for them to call. In fact we are dealing with viewers, producers, management, pr people, emergency responders, editors, master control and on and on. Everything comes through the assignment desk and everything falls on us.   We are the the first stop on the assembly line for every story that originates at our stations. It seems the field crews especially don’t get that.

Devetta Blount, WFMY News 2, Greensboro NC

Our contribution to the news product is often overlooked but is HUGE thanks to our rapport with the community and first responders.

We are not your administrative assistants.

We have first names, and it’s not News Desk people.

PLEASE and THANKS goes a long way.

Sara Finch, Assignment Editor, CBS 13, Sacramento CA

I wish they understood that I am one person dealing with 17 scanners, 5 reporters, 5 photogs — I can not cradle them and do all 147 things they ask me to do all while talking to crazy VIEWERS!

Jamila, WRAL, Raleigh NC

It’s frustrating because we get the push back. Sometimes it’s not us sending them. It could be the news director or managing editor telling us to tell them the assignment. But, they complain to us rather than the managers. They don’t have the balls to complain to who is actually making the decision.


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