Assignment Manager Has The Right Ingredients

Former NFL coach Bill Parcells once famously said, “They want you to cook the dinner; at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries.”

For the producers who are the chefs at Pac-12 Networks, the ingredients are in very good hands.

Whether it is a live event or original programming, one person has to oversee the traffic of production elements that make up a broadcast. At Pac-12 Networks, that person is assignment manager Laura Podolak, a key player in the networks’ daily programming.

“A producer here explained it best. He said if the newsroom is a restaurant, I’m in charge of the ingredients,” said Podolak, a former Iowa basketball player. “I get to go out and get the best ingredients.”

As assignment editor, Podolak’s duties are plentiful. She is responsible for gathering the raw footage for the network’s studio shows. She works with network partners ESPN and FOX to make sure she incorporates all of their relevant footage into their system. She partners with the video departments at the 12 schools across the conference to get pertinent footage, whether it is from a game or other applicable shots around campus. She hires camera operators when necessary to shoot games.

But the favorite part of her job description is seeing what the different ingredients produce, while fulfilling her love of sports at the same time.

“Saturday is a good day,” Podolak said. “I’m here in case of a problem. I hang out in the transmission room and make sure there aren’t any issues. You’re watching the end of a football game but you’re doing your job. What a great excuse to watch football.”

Podolak actually spent most of her previous professional career in radio. After graduating from Iowa with a degree in journalism, she became a radio producer/reporter at an AM station in her hometown of Denver. She then moved on to a similar role in Sacramento before winding up in the San Francisco Bay Area at KGO-AM, a major news-talk station. Podolak became the assignment manager at KGO and oversaw its newsroom.

Podolak said there are a lot of similarities between being an assignment manager at a radio station and a television network, and the fast-paced atmosphere of radio prepared her well for her job at Pac-12 Networks.

“Both jobs are very detail-oriented and deal with a lot of logistics,” Podolak said. “Most of my job is communicating and making sure I’m on top of everything. I think doing local radio makes me uniquely qualified because you have to be organized every single day. In radio, things happen very quickly. Now I get to come to work and have a week to get an assignment done. In radio, sometimes I had an hour.”

Podolak did get some television experience through internships she had while in Iowa, where she walked on to the Iowa women’s basketball team in 1998. Podolak’s father, Ed, was a star football player for the Hawkeyes who went on to a nine-year NFL career with the Kansas City Chiefs and now is Iowa’s color analyst for its radio broadcasts. Laura Podolak ended up playing two years for Iowa before giving up basketball to become the sports editor of the student newspaper, the Daily Iowan.

“It’s amazing how far we’ve come since I graduated from college, that there’s a network to promote college sports,” Laura Podolak said. “It’s definitely brought back a lot of memories. I was very ready to get back into sports. It’s always what I wanted to do coming out of college.




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