Your assignment editor’s biggest pet peeves

Heather Poltrock

There are two things I know for sure: Salads always taste better when someone else makes them. And probably once a week you do something to annoy your assignment editor.

It really takes a special person to handle the role of the Assignment Editor. There is a ton of responsibility, very few ‘thanks’ and let’s be real—plenty of opportunities to talk to angry viewers.

Last month, I contacted several assignment editors from TV newsrooms in Wisconsin and polled them on their biggest pet peeves. I hope that by bringing their challenges to light we can collectively create a smoother workday for them.

Without further ado, here are their responses:

  1. Story ideas that are lost in space. We may have discussed the idea, the reporter may have made calls on it and didn’t hear back, or we just decided to do another story that day. That idea is never brought up again–and gets lost. 
  2. When after a lengthy discussion in an editorial meeting about a story idea, a reporter says “So…what is this story about?”
  3. Setting up stories without consulting with the desk.
  4. Making one phone call, and then just waiting. Rather than moving on or trying different ideas/contacts, they just sit and wait to hear back. Obviously, that does not work well.
  5. When reporters NEVER have their own story ideas.
  6. Having to be told repeatedly to send back still images & updates for website.
  7. “I didn’t see the email.”
  8. Not bringing original story ideas to the meetings. This includes either having no ideas at all, or pitching stories we have already done within the past couple of days, or just relying on copying ideas from competitors who have already done the story.
  9. Tardiness.
  10. Making only one phone call and then saying no one is available and the story won’t work.
  11. Not following up! How did that meeting go? Is there a follow-up meeting? Did the person get the kidney they were asking for? Did the school get the funding they needed? You get my drift. Reporters should always be following up with contacts if more developments could be coming.
  12. Pitching a story that came as a press release 5 minutes before the meeting (it’s fine to pitch something from a press release, but let’s expand on it and make it interesting, not just regurgitating the release word for word).
  13. Not reporting broken/damaged equipment to engineering.
  14. Not fueling up news vehicles when they are on empty.
  15. Not giving the desk information for the “next” – next court date, next meeting date, etc.
  16. Inability to read a map or follow directions.

Lastly, it is not just their job you’ll make easier by correcting some of these behaviors. It will help you in your workflow too.

Heather Poltrock, WSAW-TV, Wausau
WBA Young Professionals Committee