Kelly Riner is an assignment editor at WRAL-TV in Raleigh, NC. Kelly’s experience ranges from producing to working on the assignment desk. She also field produces and plans special projects. Kelly graduated University Valedictorian from North Carolina State University with a degree in Communication Media, and she has a Masters of Humanities from Duke University. She’s worked at WRAL for 14 years, and prior to that, she wrote for the Fayetteville Observer. Kelly also oversees the News Production Assistants at the station.
When people find out I work at a television station, usually their first question is, “When will I see you on the news?” I always say, “Oh I’m not on TV. I work behind the scenes.” For some, the follow up questions lead to a great conversation where I get to share what I do every day. But, often, I get a look of sympathy, followed by words of encouragement. “Just keep working hard. They’ll put you on TV one day,” the well-intentioned person says. It hasn’t happened once, twice, or even three times, but rather countless times by a variety of people. And in some cases, I’ve given the same folks the same answer for the last 14 years I’ve worked in the business: “You will never see me on TV, and that’s ok.”
I admit when I first decided news was going to my career choice, I fully intended to be on television. I was going to report and then anchor. I would work my way up through local stations with the hopes of landing a network job one day. Never, as a seventh grader sitting in middle school, did I say to myself, “I really want to be a news assignment editor or news producer when I grow up.” But, as I got older and learned more about the business, I quickly realized my talents were better suited for a job behind the scenes.
That decision changed my career path, but for me, it was absolutely right. I love when an intricate coverage plan comes together. I love writing the scripts that are delivered during the newscasts. I love being the visionary for special reports and special events my station covers. I enjoy the excitement of never having two days alike on the assignment desk. I am motivated by the desire to be first on breaking news.
The best folks who work behind the scenes aren’t the ones who wanted to be on air but “settled” for a producing job because they didn’t find a reporting job right away. The best ones are not the ones who are always scheming about scenarios that will get them in front of the camera. So, if you are aiming for an on-air job, go for that. But, if you think you’d like to stay behind the scenes, I’m here to tell you, it’s a great place to be.
As you are weighing your options about which direction to take in this business, here are some pros of being behind the scenes, based on my experience:
-You’re on the front lines of the decision-making process.
-You get to know what every crew is doing. You learn a lot about every single story that’s in each newscast.
-You’re in control of what goes on the air. The story ideas come through you. The scanner information is filtered through you.
-You get to know everyone in the newsroom, and you become a resource for them.
-You typically can start in a larger market and bigger city, and it’s more common for behind the scenes folks to work their way up from part-time to full-time positions.
-It’s an excellent track to management.
Being on-air is a great career, but it’s not the only path in this business. It takes producers, directors, assignment editors, photographers, editors, writers, crew members, and so many others to put on each and every newscast. If you love news but don’t want to be on TV, I’m here to tell you, join the club, and the next time someone asks when they’ll see you on the news, proudly say, “You’ll never see me on the news, and that’s ok!”