Angela Tuell 0:05
Welcome to Media in Minutes. This is your host Angela Tuell. This podcast features in- depth interviews with those who report on the world around us. They share everything from their favorite stories to what happened behind the lens and give us a glimpse into their world. From our studio here at Communications Redefined, this is Media in Minutes.
Today, I'm excited to talk with Kelly Ayers. She's the segment producer for Fox 24 News Now, a lifestyle show in Charleston, South Carolina. Kelly has been in the TV business for almost 15 years, but didn't know that's what she wanted to do when she graduated with a degree in theater. Kelly works on News Now that airs at 1230 and 11 pm. Hello, Kelly, welcome.
Kelly Ayers 0:51
Hi. Hey, Angela, thank you so much for having me.
Angela Tuell 0:54
Yes. Thank you for joining us. So I found it interesting that TV news, or journalism even, was never on your radar before or during college. Right?
Kelly Ayers 1:04
That's right. Yeah, I was in high school was when I had a lot of activities going on. They actually had it a TV news course there. And I it just wasn't even on my radar. I just thought, Oh, that's nice. And it just wasn't something that I thought that I'd be interested in. And then I just but I knew that I wanted to do something in TV and film like growing up in Los Angeles and been around people in that industry in so it just it was something I knew I wanted to do something in it, I wasn't sure what. So I thought well, let me go major in, in theater, it's a good basis for pretty much anything, you know, a good, okay. Yeah, you know, running video, I love taking pictures. You know, I've done a little, you know, singing and so I love musical theater and all that. But it just wasn't - I didn't have a focus. And I just saw it that well. I wanted to go to college and thought that would be the best way to just say like, Hey, let me major in this kind of a general area, and then maybe something will spark my interest along the way.
Angela Tuell 2:02
Yeah. And something did because you ended up AUSI TV. What happened?
Kelly Ayers 2:08
Well, it was kind of a long process. So I graduated college, I was like, oh, gosh, what am I gonna do now with my life, and I have my degree, and I got some other jobs. You know, he's just like, do I pay my rent, so did that and then ended up at San Diego State University in the athletics department. So I ended up at the same school, but in the working as an administrative assistant. And I was like, and I love sports. I'm an athlete. So like, like, well, this is great, you know, and then I would, so I would work that job. And then I'd go and audition for community theater and, or be you know, work as a stage manager. Yeah, doing that. And so that was a lot of fun. That was a good life. And, and of course, San Diego is absolutely amazing.
Angela Tuell 2:46
Yeah - not a bad place to live.
Kelly Ayers 2:48
Yeah, it's hard to leave. Very hard to leave. But I Yeah, so I thought, Okay, well, you know, what it's, and then at some point, I was like, okay, like, I need to figure out what I really want to do with my life. Like, this isn't gonna, you know, this is I'm not going to get a, you know, big raises from this job. I needed to kind of move on, and I started taking - actually was at a football game in the press box. And there was a man there, and Willie, who was running camera, and I was talking him and I was like, Well, you know, I took this class over it, you know, at Grossmont College, and then I don't, but I'm wanting to kind of look into see, maybe do a video or something. And so he told me about this. They have a program called News Scene there. And he said, Well, you know, you know, and everyone I talked to even before this was telling you don't get a graduate degree, you don't work in television, you really don't. So I said okay, so what else can I get? How am I going to do this? And so I said, Okay, so I signed up for this class. And it was wonderful. And I was thinking, I was thinking I was going to go into video because I was helping a video production guy at work, you know, credit, football practice and all that. And it was a lot of fun. And I thought, "I could do this." And so that's where I thought I was gonna go and then Lauren Castaneda came in and said, you know, what, I took a writing class, and she said, You are such a good writer. And I was like, really? Right. I was always good at math in in high school. And I thought, so writing in English, like, I'm in broadcast is a very specific style. Yeah. Okay. And so I signed up for the News Scene class, and I did all you know, they have you do all sorts of things, you know, you could be a producer one day, it could be an anchor. And so I got to kind of play around with that and see what what area I liked. And in you know, being an anchor, and on camera was something I knew that I could probably do. But I was like this point, I was in my 30s. And I thought, well, gosh, you know, you know, I don't really want to live in the snow. I don't want to make no money and then I moved to Alaska. Yeah, so I was like, you know, I can still get my you know, I can be on, you know, on stage somewhere and do my theater stuff. And I said, I decided I'll stick with producing because I can be somewhere warm. And hey, let's get and not be one of those reporters in the weather going, "Ah!"
Angela Tuell 5:04
Yes, I was there. I was one of those. At one point.
Kelly Ayers 5:07
Yeah. Yeah. So, so it's like that then from that class, I got, you know, my first job at KUSI. And, and it just, you know, then it just snowballed from there. So I left SDSU and, and, you know, started production assistant, moved up to, you know, writer, and then got a job in Florida as before this, it was, was it airing in San Diego at the time, it was called The Daily Buzz. And that was my first official producer job. And I was learning how to live produce there. And they're a fun morning show, just, you know, full of energy, and it was just so much fun. You know, it's like, not just dreary, like, you know, run it type news stories, but just a lot, a lot of fun. And so, yeah, and then that just from there, snowballs from there.
Angela Tuell 5:52
Yeah. Like most of the TV business, you moved around switching markets. Yeah. How did you land in Charleston?
Kelly Ayers 5:59
So that was one thing that was like I say, San Diego, it is really difficult to leave. Because of the weather's so wonderful. So but I just said, You know what, you know, I was still seeing one time I said, "well, this is the time to do it. And you know, I'm just gonna have to just accept that." And so I when that's when I got The Daily Buzz job. I said, Okay, let's do this and move to Florida. And then I kind of moved around. And of course, there's, you know, a whole bunch of stuff happened in between, oh, the economy crashed, I lost my job and to go to another TV show. So finding them got to went to Virginia, and then ended up back in San Diego, at KUSI twice. My second time, then I went, you know, got another got laid off there, got another job. And then ended up I was done at the time, I was looking for something that was very specific, because throughout this whole process, I was I was lying producing, but then I was also doing other things and kind of fact, you know, trying this out, trying that out. And I just I found that segment producing was just my, that's where my talent was. Okay, and I was much better at that. So when I was looking for my next job, I was like, let me find something that's specifically that and then this came across, I found it on this job. It's under TVjobs.com. Yeah. And I just, it just spoke to me, I was like, You know what, that's exactly what I'm looking for. And, you know, and it to me, it didn't matter. Some people they try to go from like, you know, I'm going to go from, you know, a small market, I'm gonna move my way out, right? People go that way. And this is at the moment, it's market 89. But it's the people that I work with are just phenomenal. So it just you know, with Leyla, Leyla Gulin, Adam Bradley. And now we have a wonderful reporter and Anna Witte, and they're just a phenomenal team. And so it to me, it doesn't matter what the market number is, it's about the team and how we work together. And yeah, so I Yeah, it was a really good, really good fit.
Angela Tuell 7:46
For those who aren't super familiar, what exactly is a segment producer? What does that job entail?
Kelly Ayers 7:52
So I book all the guests and some of them are called Booker's, some kind of, you know, they call them. So they can be called different things, sometimes just the booker on a job listing. But you're basically you just you book all the guests. So I, you know, people send us pitches or like, we'll go out and look for, you know, I'll kind of say, oh, let's do something on this topic. And I'll go try to find the person myself. And then I just I say, Hey, you want to come on our show, and you do like, a little pre interview and, and see, you know, or maybe sometimes you're talking to a PR person, and you know, just kind of see what their topic is and see, you know, how that matches up. And say, Okay, well, can we, you know, kind of angle it this way? Okay, great. As far as like, you know, just the talking points, you know, it's like, if it's an event, it's, Hey, you know, let's add a little something, you know, to the talking point. So it's not just the event, we kind of show a little advice into it in and that's pretty much I mean, that's the basics. It's just, you know, Hey, wanna come on my show? Great!
Angela Tuell 8:47
Yeah, so it's for News Now on Fox 24. Tell us a little more about that show.
Kelly Ayers 8:52
Oh, yeah. So it's a lifestyle show in the Charleston area. So read airs Monday through Friday on the Fox 24 channel and it's at 1230 and 11 pm. So airs twice a day, in it's just basically all these topics. So it's when you think of like the news, they have, like, you know, little stories or 30 seconds, maybe a minute half packages, and this is interviews that are like four to five minutes long. And that's it. It's a - you get a, I like it because you get to our Leila, you know, she's doing the interview over she gets to talk to people more and feel more in depth on different topics. So if it's like money advice, or you're talking to a musician about like, you know, what inspires you and, you know, so you can really get into a topic and it's not just like, okay, great, that was like, great, bye we're gonna you know, 30 seconds. Sorry, you know, like, but that's not even what I said. Like, well it's part of what you said. But yeah, so this way you get to, you know, it's live to tape. So it's not really it's very edited very minimally.
Angela Tuell 9:52
Do you always focus extremely local, or could it be topics that are more national but affect the local viewers?
Kelly Ayers 10:00
Yeah, that's a good question because well, we focus mostly on on local topics as much as we can. But then if there's a topic that is of interest to our viewers or something that if that guest is, you know, out of town, but they have something that a value that they can give to the audience, and they can, advice that they can use in their daily lives, and absolutely, like, we'll have him on will, you know, do a virtual interview. So we try to have people in studio when we can, you know, if they're local, that's great. And of course, with the pandemic, sometimes the local people are on Skype as well. But, but for the most part, it's mostly local, like the restaurant, we do have Food Friday segments, and we, you know, we send the crew out, and they go to a, but we always make sure those restaurants are local locally, oh, it's, you know, kind of promoting that, you know, promote, you know, supporting your local, your local small businesses is, is important.
Angela Tuell 10:52
Yeah, and I'm sure it's hard to decide on segments when there's when kind of the sky's the limit, right?
Kelly Ayers 10:58
Oh, yeah. Cuz, I mean, it's everything from money and nonprofits and events, and it just, you know, any kind of cultural things, now you get to interview like, do some cast members from a local production, you know, those are fun. So we go from if you're serious and fun, and, you know, on different days have kind of a different theme, you know, you try to kind of match everybody up. And then our reporter, Anna, she's going out and shooting topics you do like a stress series recently, that was wonderful, you know, just kind of that January, like, you know, how to, you know, what you can you know, it's not, it's not like, you know, just your physical being and your, you know, your, your eating habits, but you know, you want to take care of your everything.
Angela Tuell 11:39
What have you found is different about Fox 24 than some of the other stations you've worked at?
Kelly Ayers 11:46
I like it's, you know, of course, it's not a local news live news newscast. So that's the big difference of Fox 24. So, we have a sister station in town and WCIV. And they do they produce our local news that airs on Fox 24. And so we're separate. So we're housed in our own studio with our sales staff, and, you know, they book sale, you know, ads for the channel, and then we book our, our guests. So it's, we have our own studio, and then like, the news is out over there with the our sister station. And so that's, that's the biggest difference is yeah, we're a live, an actual show. And in not, we're not having to deal with breaking news. So much. It's, you know, there have been times where things have kind of bled over said, Well, you know, let's, you know, book someone for this topic, because it's really, you know, so it's very rare that something will bleed over to, to our show, but sometimes it does, and you're like, Well, you know, this is something we really need to talk to someone in depth about, you know, what our XYZ topic is, and, and then we'll do that, but for the most part, it's yeah, it's just, you know, whatever we, whatever we book.
Angela Tuell 12:48
Right. More on the lifestyle side. And you were hired just months before the pandemic. So I'm sure that threw everything for a loop, like it has for all of us, you know. When everything shut down due to COVID, how did you switch gears and still get the show on the air?
Kelly Ayers 13:02
Oh, that's one thing. I have to compliment my team, because at the time of Anna had joined us yet, so it's just me and Leyla, and Adam. And we just, you know, we have we had air that we had a couple shows already. And so you know, Leyla came back. And we're like, oh, well, you know what, that week of March, we're like, we need to, we need to like go home, we can't go do anything in the studio. And all of us, we all looked at each other and said, well, we can't not do the show. Like, what are we going to do? And so you know, we could you know, other stations are doing reruns and you know, all that stuff. And right, oh, gosh, no, oh, my goodness, we can't we can't quit. So you know, it's too important audience. So we just were like, Okay, well, we're gonna have to let's figure this out. So we took a couple of days. And we had some shows that we had already recorded. So those were new the rest of the week. And then we said, okay, and then the next week, we're Skyping. So I think actually, I think it was that week, we got a few guests on via Skype, and we just were all at our home. So Adam was at his house, he had all the production equipment set up, I was at my house with my laptop. And, and then Leyla was, you know, she set up a little, you know, it kind of morphed, you know, was her couch, but then we were like, Okay, let's put him on. And then it became a monitor and this, so it just slowly kind of, you know, became a little bit better in the background as time went on. But we just said, you know, this is too important that we need to, you know, give our audience what, what they need, and you know, especially with a pandemic, you know, if whether it was having a medical expert on to talk about, you know, the COVID and like, what exactly is going on, like, what should people know, what are we doing and so as that's gone on. We've had people on about talking about the, you know, like the vaccines and, and all that and like just anything, especially like vaccines with the kids, like what do they need or what the parents need to know, schools, like all sorts of things. So it just it was - they're amazing, so I have to compliment them because especially Heath comes in and he edits all the shows together. And we just we didn't skip a beat. You know, I got on phone. I just booked people okay, it's Skype. No, no, no. We're not in the studio, we're just gonna do that. And and that worked out really well. And so I'm really proud of us because you know, a lot of places kind of like, oh, we can just No, no, no, I was like, oh, no, no, we're not quitting, we just went full bore and, and kept going and 63 weeks later we're we're back in the studio, I counted the weeks. So it's 63 weeks of being at home. And, and we haven't stopped so. But it has changed a lot of how we do things now from when we were before the pandemic and how we do the show now. It's a vast difference. And it's yeah, it's been really fascinating.
Angela Tuell 15:35
Yeah - what, what is so different?
Kelly Ayers 15:38
Well, we now - so before, we would have people come in all at the same time, and we would record that day's show between 11:30 and noon. And so everyone would have to show up in the green room and the small little green room get everybody miked and you had Okay, and then you have to kind of you had people, like, you know, kinds of production assistants like kind of shuffling people in and out of the studio. It sounds a little hectic and then but that, whatever. So that was literally live to tape. That was whatever happened was gonna air that day. And so you're like, okay, so yeah, but now. So now that we've said, so what happened was Adam took so Okay, when we bring all my stuff over, okay, we've set it all up in the studio. So we're not even using our control room anymore.
Angela Tuell 16:19
Wow, that's amazing.
Kelly Ayers 16:20
We've got a little table desk with all the equipment though, like, you know, these remotes which you can, you know, you can use them - technology's amazing. And you can, you know, switch, you can switch it all there. And then I'm in the studio. So Leyla doesn't have me in her ear anymore. I can show with my hands. So that's, that's a nice, you know, bonus, especially like for, you know, people that want your fingers that you have in your ear can be very frustrating. Yeah, a little distracting. So that's gonna, that's nice. And then like, I'm in there. And so I'll you know, time everything. And then if you need to, like communicate afterwards, we can in so you know, and then we will have guests in the studio. But now it's like, we'll have them show up, like book them and 20 minute blocks. And so they kind of come. So if I have, like, you know, say, three guests in studio at a time, but at least you know, they're, they're not like it, especially with the social distancing is important. So they don't have to cry. So they're not really interacting so much anymore. They interact with me, of course, and my staff, and Leyla and Adam. But yeah, but that's the main difference. It's really interesting. So we're all in the studio. So of course, I can't say anything during the recordings, or anything. So but it's been really interesting. And I think we pre record everything. But it is it's live to tape. So we'll stop if there's some technical issue, like someone's Skype freezes up, or something, maybe we'll stop. But otherwise, we try to do it, just like that. And then Adam just takes those, you know, interviews each and puts an edited all together, puts the B roll over it, and, you know, and then sends the show off to Nasser control and.. Tada. So, yeah, but that's it. That's the biggest differences. You know, we don't, you don't even use our control room. So I just I find how, like a pandemic can just switch thing because things will change over time. It always does in this world, and just sort of see it change, like in front of our eyes was, it's just mind blowing.
Angela Tuell 18:18
Yeah, amazing. Do you see those changes lasting? Forever? I mean, it's hard to say forever, but I mean, long term?
Kelly Ayers 18:25
Yeah, that's interesting question. Yeah, I don't know, I think I think it's always gonna adapt over time, as technology improves, like the technology that Adam has set up with the, you know, the switchers and everything. I mean, they just keep improving that. And so like, you can pretty much do a show pretty much anywhere. So you know, you can do a live remote, you could just take all that stuff with you and go and we could do the show somewhere else. And, you know, so anyone, so, you know, it's just like you could print and then you can upload your in with all the editing, being on the computer, you can, you know, upload that to whatever platform is gonna, you know, you know, pay for your work. And there you go. So you could, you know, so a lot of people have done that, you know, they have like a YouTube, you know, they have all these other platforms. It's not just television, you know, and so we've got a we've got our YouTube channel so for our guests who are out of town, we can say, okay, hey, you know, this is gonna air on TV here, but then there will be a link and you can take that and you could share it on your social media. And so more people can see your your product than just the like, local audience. Yeah, not only just local anymore. Yeah, pretty much yes. But you know, it's great. And then it's fun to see and you can see the analytics and who's watching and how much they're watching it and that's really interesting. It's not just she can like kind of gauge what, you know, topics people are more interested in. And it's not just like about the ratings anymore.
Angela Tuell 19:50
Yeah, I love that. What have been some of your most memorable moments as a producer?
Kelly Ayers 19:55
I like the the fun, happy, happy stories. I'm a very positive person myself. So I would say the other more most memorable moments for you like animals on set. And I think one would be, like we had a penguin at KUSI. I love that. And I love those moments when you can say, yeah, that doesn't happen in a normal workplace. That's always fun. Like, you know, let's say we got this topic, and we're going to this topic. So, you know, how many people get to do that every day? You know, so that's fun.
Angela Tuell 20:27
Yeah. What about some of your pet peeves as a producer?
Kelly Ayers 20:31
Oh, for me, I would say, when guests don't call. That's me that, you know, just the little things like, you know, just, you know, call if you're gonna be late and all that kind of thing. And what's funny is, it's in newsrooms, like, you're not allowed to curse on air. But in newsrooms, it's just rampant. So like, yeah, that's always like, I don't want to hear the F word so much. But you know, like me and my little. You know, yes. You know, do I personally have, of course, you know, I'm not innocent. But yeah, just, like, I don't want to hear it so much, but I don't know, like, seems to be a special place.
Angela Tuell 21:07
It does. That's true. It's interesting to hear, it hasn't changed since I since I was in TV. What advice do you have, for those considering TV news as a career?
Kelly Ayers 21:20
Oh, I'd say, depending on what you want to do, you've definitely got to be strong, you got to be very self aware. And that's a big thing, especially line producing, what I learned from, you know, myself is that you, you know, it's like, I'm a really nice, you know, happy, you know, like said positive person. But she, you know, you got to be, you got to be tough, and you got to be able, I think that the one thing that line producing part of it did for me was that it made me, it made me more flexible. I wouldn't know it because I would sit there like I put together this beautiful rundown and all these great stories, and then like breaking news would just tear it all to shreds and like, Ah, man, breaking news. But you know, if you want to be a line producer, you therapy, what you have to survive on that. And if you thrive on on chaos and craziness, then line producing might be for you. And also a very well, and you got to be able to react quickly and just say I did see it. You know, when I did theater, it was like as a stage manager. Oh, you have all this time between and but in, it's just bam, bam, bam, what, you know, it's like you're supposed to do that five seconds ago.
Angela Tuell 22:30
Yes. That is the saying isn't it?
Kelly Ayers 22:33
Yeah, and I would say just but also, like, just honestly, I'm able to think outside the box. That's a big thing. Especially like, you know, that's what helped us with a pandemic is, you know, like we meet, we're able to think outside the box and say, Okay, what can we do? Like, okay, we can't do this, but what can we do to get the show on the air, that kind of stuff, and then also, just be willing to try new things. You know, that's kind of how I figured out I was a better segment producer than I am a line producer, because I was willing to try new things, you know, I would go and I'd edit, I would do this or, you know, shoot video, and all that. And, you know, and it's just because I was willing to try new things. And it made it makes me more versatile. So if something happens if I get if, you know, if, hey, we got to lay off these producers, but you can also shoot video, and maybe they have an opening, you can apply for that job. And then you're still employed. Yeah, that's really important to really diversify your skills and be willing to do that. Be a team, you know, be a team player, be willing to, you know, hop in there. And you know, like, well, they don't you know, if you're one of those, like, oh, I only do this, okay, maybe that's your best, maybe your that's your your strong suit. And that's great. But you know, it just it you're really benefiting yourself if you can, like, you know, be willing to try those things.
Angela Tuell 23:49
And that's great advice. In journalism school, we had to learn, even on the broadcast side, how to shoot how to edit, you know, even if we're wanting to be reporters, or anchors or whatever it may be, we had to learn all the roles. Well, it right.
Kelly Ayers 24:01
And also, like, make sure you understand what other people are doing. Because like when I was drawing the one one thing that I always say people kind of gave me a hard time about being a drama major. But what it did was it taught me I had to know what every job other people you had to take all these different classes. And you had to understand you didn't have to under you have to be like an expert, but you had to understand what that person was going through. And that helps, that helps me now it helps me you know, go through Well, why is so why somebody frustrated? Or you know, did I do something that they've fresh and then you can understand, at least try to understand where they're coming from. It's like, okay, that's why they're mad at me.
Angela Tuell 24:38
Okay, that helped her life in general if we could all do that, right?
Kelly Ayers 24:42
Yeah, yeah, absolutely great life skill, too. But, you know, that's important, like just understanding like what people are having to deal with and you know, why something's maybe taking so long or what you know, and then think what can I do to help them you know, or you can just ask them say, like, is there anything I can do that would make your life easier? And, and I think people appreciate that when you say that.
Angela Tuell 25:05
Yeah, such great advice. And I have to ask you before we go, I saw you're also a competitive rower currently with the Charleston City Rowing Club, right? When did you start rowing? And what do you love about that sport?
Kelly Ayers 25:17
I actually started well, I was a rower in college for a year, I was a novice rower. And it wasn't an NCAA sponsored sport at the time. And so it was a rec sport, I just did it for I was trying to fight the freshman 15. And I thought, Oh, this is great. And so you know, so instead of, you know, gaining weight, I gained muscle. It was a lot of fun, but I was a theater major. And that was really difficult to get up at 5am and then go and do productions. So I only did it that year, but I always missed it. And it was just something that I love. And so years and years later, I got back into it. And I just you know, I went and learned how to, you know, so in college, you do the scull or, not sculling, sweep rowing, okay, and so I learned how to scull because I wanted to do both, and then join the local Rowing Club and, and ever since I've always, no matter where I moved to, I made sure they had a rowing club because that's, it's just something that keeps me physically healthy. I love competing, I was a softball player growing up, I've always been an athlete, and I'm very competitive and I love the sport, because it applies so much to life into work and all those lessons, you know, when you get frustrated, you miss a, you know, a stroke, you miss one, one stroke, well, you know, you gotta bounce back, because you got another one coming up. Just so many, just little life lessons in teamwork, and, you know, and just kind of letting letting all that stuff's you know, like all your problems, like just put them on the on the dock, because you don't have room for that right now. You need to focus on this. And so, you know, and then of course, like I say out that can apply to anything really. It's an amazing sport. And, you know, anytime I get a chance to highlight it, I love to just because, you know, it's they always focused on Olympics and all that. But I love to showcase the older rowers, because this is something you can literally do until like, I mean, I wrote with people in their 70s or 80s. And I look forward to just keeping it up with it. And when I get to that age, eventually, I'd love to be rowing at Nationals. And I'm like, 90, I think.
Angela Tuell 27:17
Oh, I love that!
Kelly Ayers 27:18
That would be awesome. Yeah, so that'd be fun.
Angela Tuell 27:24
So fascinating. Thank you so much for joining us. I really appreciate it.
Kelly Ayers 27:28
Oh, thank you, Angela. Thanks for having me.
Angela Tuell 27:31
You can find Kelly on Twitter and Instagram. And of course check out her work on News Now. We'll link to those accounts in our show notes. That's all for this episode of Media in Minutes, a podcast by Communications Redefined. Please take a moment to rate, review and subscribe to our show. We'd love to hear what you think. You can find more at CommunicationsRedefined.com/podcast. I'm your host, Angela Tuell. Talk to you next time.
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