“We’re live in three, two, one.”
If you’ve ever worked on live television, you know what happens to the rhythm of your pulse when you hear those words. Most likely, you’re frantically trying to remember if you’ve done everything necessary to maintain your aspect of the live show.
But when you’re the producer behind the live show, the stakes are much greater. You don’t have only one aspect to manage, the entire show is your arena.
When a show goes well, the producer is often credited. But when something goes wrong, the burden rests on the producer’s shoulders.
Working behind the scenes as a television news producer makes for a nerve-racking, adrenaline spiking and slightly addictive career choice. The thrill of overcoming daily challenges to produce a great show comes with a nice high, but then there are days when a technical glitch that you have little to no control of sends black screens to televisions across your city, and you have to figure out how to handle the emergency.
Such is the life of a television news producer.
So, what kind of person makes a success out of such a career?
Khayla Gaston, a producer at a news station in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is known for her tenacity, confidence, and positive attitude.
She says that when things get a little crazy, she does her best to maintain a sense of humor and keep pushing forward.
Here’s what else she has to say about how she’s managed to succeed in a demanding industry:
Bayou Trésors: So, where did you grow up and did you have a big imagination as a kid?
Khayla Gaston: I grew up on the West Bank in Marrero, Louisiana. I was a creative kid and I did have a big imagination. I was into all kinds of creative things. I was involved in musical theater, other forms of acting, dance, just a lot of facets in that arena. My mother encouraged me to be creative. For example, singing rubbed off on me. I loved to sing.
Bayou Trésors: When did you first start writing?
Khayla Gaston: I love to read. When it comes to reading, what I really love about it is that it takes you to other universes to see different perspectives of life. And I discovered the art of writing when I was about sixteen. My English teacher was like, “Okay, this is actually really good,” after reading my work. So, from there on out I became fond of writing and just kept working to try and figure out my voice. Around my senior year, I was like, maybe I can try this TV thing. I like to talk to people, to write, and I love to read. So, that’s what I pursued.
Bayou Trésors: How’d you get into television news production?
Khayla Gaston: Well, it was sort of an accident. In college, I was part of the broadcasting department as one of the lead anchors for our entertainment show. So, when I graduated there was this conference about the news industry and I was like, “I’m going to put on my nice suit and go see what kinds of jobs are around.” Here’s the thing though, I’d just been accepted into a graduate school for fashion in New York. That’s my other love, fashion. But at the conference, I met a news director from Baton Rouge who offered me a position as a Production Assistant. I took it, and after I started I was almost immediately offered the role of Producer. Since being a producer is essentially being a writer, that wasn’t hard for me. Now, when it comes to learning the technicalities of it all, that’s been interesting.
Bayou Trésors: What exactly does a television news producer do?
Khayla Gaston: I would say that a television news producer puts out fires and avoids fires. A lot can happen in the span of an eight-hour shift, so you have to figure out a way to multitask and communicate effectively to multiple people all at the same time all while ensuring that you write your show and make the people around you feel valued and let them know you appreciate their hard work on the show. I accomplish all of that by trying my best to be positive. If you’re negative, you’re only going to attract more negativity. But if you’re positive, you just learn from your mistakes and you move forward.
Bayou Trésors: What aspects of your job do you especially appreciate?
Khayla Gaston: I appreciate the discomfort of my job because it forces me to grow. Experiencing difficulties has taught me a lot. In my opinion, you can either be afraid and run away from challenges or embrace them and apply yourself and figure things out. When it comes to learning from challenges, I look back at how I was when I first started working in news as a Production Assistant and compare that to what I know now as a producer, and I’ve grown. So, that gives me motivation and confidence for my new goals, which are to make the leap into reporting and anchoring.
Bayou Trésors: If someone wants to work in news as a reporter, anchor or producer, what do you suggest they do?
Khayla Gaston: I would suggest studying the field and figure out what market they should be in, as in what state they should be in. Also, there are different genres within news- there’s fashion, cooking, hard news, and other genres. So, they should analyze what’s interesting to them, and find their niche within news. For example, some people love community news. So, that’s what they focus on. Once you figure out your niche you can figure out what specific goals to pursue and how to pursue them.
Another thing to consider, and I say this as a Black woman, is if you’re a person of color, you have to figure out how you want to be perceived and how you want to express yourself as a creative. You’ve got to be real with yourself and figure out what you’re willing to compromise and what you’re not willing to compromise. Because you can figure out your goals, pursue them and then pave the path for other females in the industry. It’s all about what you’re willing to fight for.
Bayou Trésors: What mindset helps you to get through tough times?
Khayla Gaston: Humor. I tell myself to laugh things off, even when it gets uncomfortable, just laugh it off. You’ve got to find something funny about a messed-up situation. If you don’t, you’ll cry.
Another thing that helps me is to figure out my end goal. If you don’t have any specific goal that you’re working towards, you’re going to find yourself on a constant loop of nothingness. You need to figure out what makes you happy and how to work towards that happiness. That’s how you maintain your joy.
Bayou Trésors: Any advice for creative people with talents that they aren’t sure how to use?
Khayla Gaston: Yes, several thoughts. First of all, be you no matter what is happening. You never know what you’re walking into and why God placed you in that room. Secondly, if you keep finding that you have to shift gears and compromise, then it’s time to find another solution. And third, everyone’s not going to be your best friend. Sometimes you may have to find comfort in being on your own.
Khayla’s enthusiasm, confidence, and creativity bring a welcomed source of positivity to the newsroom and as a rising star in the industry, she’s definitely a talent to watch!
Click here to learn more about careers in news.