News Directors ration resources — including the time available for certain assignments. While it would be preferable to let every story organically reveal its own unique time requirements, we are more likely to estimate what we can spare based on past patterns and similar circumstances.
In that spirit, here are some generalized estimates of what is a “reasonable amount of time” for common story assignments.
- Spots: 2-4 hours
- Super Spots: 4-8 hours
- Fast Features: 6-10 hours
- Standard Features: 10-18 hours
These approximations assume a minimum of two interviews and include writing, editing and production time. Naturally, you’ll need to take into account the availability of sources, travel time to events or sources, complexity of research and verification, and your planned production standards. Where multiple products are included (web build outs, social media campaigns, etc), allot the time needed.
Also, add more time if more people are involved in the process. Series, documentaries and special projects can increase time exponentially — if they are heavy on planning, research, travel, production, etc.
Should News Directors allow different deadlines for different employees to allow for varying speeds of work? Ideally, not. However, inexperienced employees will probably require more time than experienced ones. Still, the expectation can be stated based on averages.
Using general time estimates like these, a News Director can evaluate individual workloads and set approximate productivity goals.
There will always be tension between the desire for depth and the need for quick completion. Strive for accuracy and quality but not perfectionism.