TVNewser LostRemote AgencySpy PRNewser FishbowlNY FishbowlDC SocialTimes AllTwitter AllFacebook InsideFacebook InsideSocialGames InsideMobileApps

From The Field

5 Tips on Covering a Hurricane

With Hurricane Irene barreling toward the east coast and expected to make landfall this weekend, we thought it was time to call on some experts — meteorologists from Miami, Charleston and Tampa — for their advice on what to do, and what not to do, when covering a hurricane. Here’s what they recommend. Read more

4 Tips on How to Cover the Current Financial Crisis

Well, it doesn’t look like America’s (and the world’s) financial woes will stop being front page news anytime soon. So we emailed a handful of local TV newsers, asking them for advice on how to cover the current financial crisis. Here’s a quick list of tips based on their responses… Read more

News Expansion: A Question About Viability

Editor’s Note : ‘From The Field’ is a regular ShopTalk column that offers first-hand reports from the front lines of broadcast journalism. Today’s editorial comes from Jerry Martin, VP/GM of WXIN in Indianapolis. We asked Jerry to offer some insight into why WXIN has recently expanded its news programming.

The rationale for our news expansion is our confidence to deliver a viable product to our viewers that will be supported by our advertisers. I think that anyone running a newsroom or station has to be certain that their product will deliver ratings and revenue in the long run, and, in these tough economic times, the expanded product may need to be profitable right from the start.

That was not always the case at WXIN. Five years ago, the station had a successful 30-minute, 10PM newscast, which, some may argue, was simply a newscast of convenience. The station also produced a light-hearted, expensive morning newscast that wasn’t viable. There was little doubt that news plan really didn’t work. So, we had two choices–rent out our time periods to a competitor, or expand the 10PM to an hour and revamp the morning news product. Obviously we chose the latter, which has paid off with rapidly increasing ratings and revenue. That success has given us the confidence to further expand last month with an extra half hour in the morning at 4:30am and and an hour of early news at 4PM. Furthermore, with the growing popularity of our 7-9am news hours, we announced this week that we are adding another hour to our morning news, continuing our coverage to the 9-10am hour.

Why are we expanding now in the middle of the Great Recession? Again, it came down to our confidence that we could be viable from the get-go. We truly believed that our viewers and advertisers would support us, and that we would be profitable from the start. In addition, with us providing more convenient times for news, we are building a reputation with our viewers that we are there for them more often than any other station in town.

Most importantly, we have confidence in our news team to deliver on a consistent basis, strong corporate support, and the technical infrastructure to successfully pull off the additional newscasts. In other words, the timing was right. I don’t think for a moment that we would have tried this expansion even last year. However, with our past expansion successes and continued product improvement, we felt that we could be successful in new time periods.

The other overriding benefit of news expansion, especially with the addition of our 4pm newscast, is that it allows us to be less reliant on syndication and feeds our growing need for relevant content on our web and mobile sites. We don’t pretend to know exactly how the future will play out but we know we will have a better chance at success if we take control of our local content. Our best guess is that people will still desire local news–they just may be agnostic on which device they receive their news.

Jerry Martin is the VP/General Manager of Tribune-owned WXIN and WTTV in Indianapolis.

If you would like to comment on From the Field, or have a suggestion for a future edition, email fromthefield@tvspy.com.

Covering the G-20

Editor’s Note : ‘From The Field’ is a regular ShopTalk column that offers first-hand reports from the front lines of broadcast journalism. Today’s editorial comes from Coleen Marren, the News Director at Pittsburgh’s KDKA-TV. In light of the recent G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh, we asked Coleen to share her experience covering the large-scale event.

Coleen Marren
The selection of Pittsburgh as the host city for the 2009 G-20 Summit presented the region with the opportunity to highlight to a national and international audience the significant transformation it has made since the decline of the US steel industry. It also created some significant operational challenges for Pittsburgh media. Following the announcement, our coverage initially focused on the reasons that Pittsburgh was chosen to host this event and on how the summit would likely impact the local community. Our initial planning included providing the staff with the safety equipment and the training that would allow them to safely cover the event and its related protests. As a result of KDKA’s downtown location we were presented with some challenges that were somewhat unique to our station. Since access to downtown was severely limited we had to develop plans to help our staff members with access to the building. Additionally, since downtown protests were a real possibility building security was an issue. We also developed plans should we have had to abandon the newsroom or even the building. These considerations were most likely unique to us.

As the event arrived, our news focus shifted to live coverage of the direct impact the summit was having on our city including traffic, parking, access to businesses and ultimately the skirmishes between more than 4000 protestors and the unprecedented police presence that was visible throughout the city. We also had reporters committed to providing coverage of the official G-20 events including the Summit itself and the related social events throughout the city.

Our coverage challenges included the ability to navigate the city with the many Secret Service and local police security restrictions that were in place. Additionally, covering the protester-police skirmishes had the normal challenges related to covering a very fluid, live event with the added security risks associate with this type of event. While the protests were by comparison to Seattle or London very controlled, we were very happy that we had invested the time and money in the appropriate safety equipment and riot training for our staff.

Ultimately, the majority of our coverage was local in focus. We provided local viewers with the information they needed to navigate the two day challenges the Summit presented. Additionally, we focused on all of the benefits the region might accrue from hosting the Summit as well as some of the problems it created. We also profiled a number of the regional assets that the delegations visited while in the city. Although certainly secondary to the local angle, we did have our political editor stationed at the convention center throughout the Summit to report on any news that might come out of the meetings. The most significant news was the multi-national reaction to the Iranian nuclear program. Our reporter, Jon Delano, participated in the Presidential press conference and likely due to some familiarity with Jon as a result of his extensive campaign coverage, he was called on for a question by the President.

Our staff members have experience covering many large events in Pittsburgh. What made this event somewhat unique was the challenging security perimeter that was established along with the ever present possibility of violent protests. Overwhelmingly, our staff members were excited to have the opportunity to cover an event of this magnitude despite the inherent challenges. We believe that we were appropriately prepared for the worst case scenario but thankfully the city escaped with relatively minor problems.

Coleen Marren is the News Director at CBS O&O KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh.

If you would like to comment on From the Field, or have a suggestion for a future edition, email fromthefield@tvspy.com.

Covering the G-20

Editor’s Note : ‘From The Field’ is a regular ShopTalk column that offers first-hand reports from the front lines of broadcast journalism. Today’s editorial comes from Coleen Marren, the News Director at Pittsburgh’s KDKA-TV. In light of the recent G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh, we asked Coleen to share her experience covering the large-scale event.

Coleen Marren
The selection of Pittsburgh as the host city for the 2009 G-20 Summit presented the region with the opportunity to highlight to a national and international audience the significant transformation it has made since the decline of the US steel industry. It also created some significant operational challenges for Pittsburgh media. Following the announcement, our coverage initially focused on the reasons that Pittsburgh was chosen to host this event and on how the summit would likely impact the local community. Our initial planning included providing the staff with the safety equipment and the training that would allow them to safely cover the event and its related protests. As a result of KDKA’s downtown location we were presented with some challenges that were somewhat unique to our station. Since access to downtown was severely limited we had to develop plans to help our staff members with access to the building. Additionally, since downtown protests were a real possibility building security was an issue. We also developed plans should we have had to abandon the newsroom or even the building. These considerations were most likely unique to us.

As the event arrived, our news focus shifted to live coverage of the direct impact the summit was having on our city including traffic, parking, access to businesses and ultimately the skirmishes between more than 4000 protestors and the unprecedented police presence that was visible throughout the city. We also had reporters committed to providing coverage of the official G-20 events including the Summit itself and the related social events throughout the city.

Our coverage challenges included the ability to navigate the city with the many Secret Service and local police security restrictions that were in place. Additionally, covering the protester-police skirmishes had the normal challenges related to covering a very fluid, live event with the added security risks associate with this type of event. While the protests were by comparison to Seattle or London very controlled, we were very happy that we had invested the time and money in the appropriate safety equipment and riot training for our staff.

Ultimately, the majority of our coverage was local in focus. We provided local viewers with the information they needed to navigate the two day challenges the Summit presented. Additionally, we focused on all of the benefits the region might accrue from hosting the Summit as well as some of the problems it created. We also profiled a number of the regional assets that the delegations visited while in the city. Although certainly secondary to the local angle, we did have our political editor stationed at the convention center throughout the Summit to report on any news that might come out of the meetings. The most significant news was the multi-national reaction to the Iranian nuclear program. Our reporter, Jon Delano, participated in the Presidential press conference and likely due to some familiarity with Jon as a result of his extensive campaign coverage, he was called on for a question by the President.

Our staff members have experience covering many large events in Pittsburgh. What made this event somewhat unique was the challenging security perimeter that was established along with the ever present possibility of violent protests. Overwhelmingly, our staff members were excited to have the opportunity to cover an event of this magnitude despite the inherent challenges. We believe that we were appropriately prepared for the worst case scenario but thankfully the city escaped with relatively minor problems.

Coleen Marren is the News Director at CBS O&O KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh.

If you would like to comment on From the Field, or have a suggestion for a future edition, email fromthefield@tvspy.com.

Investigative Reporting: The View From Here

Most of us would consider winning a Columbia DuPont Silver Baton to be a sign we’d reached the top and would be enjoying more good years ahead.

Instead, my good friend Roberta Baskin told me that at the same time she won a DuPont this past year, her station management informed her they were shutting down the investigative unit, saying , “‘Investigative reporting is a luxury’ the newsroom can no longer afford.”

Stephen Stock Across the country the news is the same. Newsrooms are cutting news staffs, especially investigative teams.

When I first wrote about this issue for Electronic News early this year I knew of a half dozen investigative journalists who’d lost their jobs.

Now, I know of more than two dozen who’ve been laid off or had their units dissolved.

What does that mean to those of us who are left?

Last December, Megan Garber argued in The Columbia Journalism Review that in these tight economic times, with different media outlets competing for the public’s eyes and ears, investigative and in-depth, value-added journalism is the ONLY way to stand out.

I think she’s right.

I believe that serious journalists who exist to break significant enterprise news, who dig up truth to hold the powerful accountable, who write stories that those in power don’t want the public to know, those investigative and value added journalists must fight the perception that we are expendable.

We need more investigative journalists, not fewer.

Because without the things that make investigative journalists who we are, there’s no reason for the public to pay for what we’re selling.

Without independent, aggressive journalists to set independent outlets apart, the media merely become the acquiescent mouthpiece for those with the power to feed us press releases and spin.

As my news director here at WFOR-TV, Adrienne Roark, puts it, “Investigative journalism is the only way to stand out from everyone else. It costs money. It can cause headaches. But it’s worth it.”

WFOR-TV is making a name for itself with its I-Team and its unique 4 Your Money Team, a team of people devoted to covering the economic crisis.

So how do other journalists convince their bosses the value of investigative reporting?

  • Think like a bean counter as well as an investigator.
  • Learn to promote how much investigative journalism contributes to rather than takes away from the bottom line.
  • Learn to work across media platforms, even if that means giving up old prejudices about what “the guys in the newspaper” or “on the web team” do which, in the past, we couldn’t be bothered with doing.

In times where our government is spending billions to “fix the economy,” where Wall Street continues to hemorrhage money, where the nation’s troubles are a direct result of a lack of oversight by nearly everyone, serious investigative journalism is more in demand than ever.

As Roark says, “To me, this is the kind of journalism more stations should be doing. Right now it’s more important than ever.”

Yes, it is more important now, than ever before.

We must keep fighting to convince those who think that what we do is “too expensive” to realize that not doing it will cost even more.

Stephen Stock is an investigative reporter for Miami’s CBS4 I-Team. Stock’s investigations uncovered tax fraud by Florida prison inmates, the exact cause of Ford truck fires and system-wide problems in day cares. He’s won a Peabody, duPont, 2 Edward R Murrows, 3 Green Eyeshades, including Best of TV, and was named a 2004 Poynter Ethics Fellow.

If you would like to comment on From the Field, or have a suggestion for a future edition, email fromthefield@tvspy.com.

The Revolution Has Been Televised

I carry a live truck in my pocket. It weighs five ounces and can broadcast live streaming video and audio to thousands of television viewers within five seconds. No hassles with hunting for a parking spot, no microwave mast, no cables, no tripod.

Thanks to my cell phone with Qik software, I am the photographer, engineer and reporter. Hello Star Trek technology! It’s cheap, it’s easy to use and it’s available to anyone–and it’s going to revolutionize television journalism even more with live video cell phone shots produced not only by journalists, but by bystanders and witnesses at breaking news scenes.

Jeremy Jojola This past week I used this phenomenal technology to file a live report via my iPhone at KOB-TV in Albuquerque, New Mexico. If it’s not the first live shot using streaming cell phone video, it’s certainly among the first. My inbox has been flooded with emails from news directors and reporters from across the country wondering how I did it. (Video here).

This is how: Cell phone video streams to website. Computer with website is taken live. There. It’s that easy.

I’m giddy we took this risk despite the huge chance of me looking like a pixilated mess. We pulled it off quite well, I think, despite some hiccups in the video. It was a risk that’s proving to be effective as television news managers look for cheaper and more efficient ways to produce news.

Yes, this technology is still too crude to replace our conventional equipment of big live trucks and big cameras. But it works and the quality is easy to forgive, especially in situations where live trucks can’t go or in places where live trucks would draw too much attention. There’s no doubt this technology will improve and eventually replace the heavy, bulky equipment we still use.

But forget about my iPhone live shot as a reporter… I’m just waiting for the time when television stations start taking live cell phone video feeds from bystanders at fires, traffic accidents, crime scenes and even from victims themselves. Just wait until we hear about a hostage somewhere streaming live cell phone video in a bank or wherever. Talk about eyewitness news. And why not? We already take live cell phone audio hits from people. Video is the next big step.

This type of citizen journalism is already happening and if television stations don’t embrace the technology, all of us TV people will be left behind in the digital dust. Oh wait… we’re already getting scooped thanks to Twitter, Qik, and Ustream.

I believe in order for television stations to survive as news outlets, citizen journalism and social media must be absorbed into our format. After all, the internet has already devoured our exclusive roles reporters. Everyone has become a journalist with their own blogs. Now everyone can become a live television station.

Jeremy Jojola is an Emmy award winning investigative reporter for KOB-TV in Albuquerque, New Mexico who uses social media and the web to generate stories and find leads.

If you would like to comment on From the Field, or have a suggestion for a future edition, email fromthefield@tvspy.com.

The Revolution Has Been Televised

I carry a live truck in my pocket. It weighs five ounces and can broadcast live streaming video and audio to thousands of television viewers within five seconds. No hassles with hunting for a parking spot, no microwave mast, no cables, no tripod.

Thanks to my cell phone with Qik software, I am the photographer, engineer and reporter. Hello Star Trek technology! It’s cheap, it’s easy to use and it’s available to anyone–and it’s going to revolutionize television journalism even more with live video cell phone shots produced not only by journalists, but by bystanders and witnesses at breaking news scenes.

Jeremy Jojola This past week I used this phenomenal technology to file a live report via my iPhone at KOB-TV in Albuquerque, New Mexico. If it’s not the first live shot using streaming cell phone video, it’s certainly among the first. My inbox has been flooded with emails from news directors and reporters from across the country wondering how I did it. (Video here).

This is how: Cell phone video streams to website. Computer with website is taken live. There. It’s that easy.

I’m giddy we took this risk despite the huge chance of me looking like a pixilated mess. We pulled it off quite well, I think, despite some hiccups in the video. It was a risk that’s proving to be effective as television news managers look for cheaper and more efficient ways to produce news.

Yes, this technology is still too crude to replace our conventional equipment of big live trucks and big cameras. But it works and the quality is easy to forgive, especially in situations where live trucks can’t go or in places where live trucks would draw too much attention. There’s no doubt this technology will improve and eventually replace the heavy, bulky equipment we still use.

But forget about my iPhone live shot as a reporter… I’m just waiting for the time when television stations start taking live cell phone video feeds from bystanders at fires, traffic accidents, crime scenes and even from victims themselves. Just wait until we hear about a hostage somewhere streaming live cell phone video in a bank or wherever. Talk about eyewitness news. And why not? We already take live cell phone audio hits from people. Video is the next big step.

This type of citizen journalism is already happening and if television stations don’t embrace the technology, all of us TV people will be left behind in the digital dust. Oh wait… we’re already getting scooped thanks to Twitter, Qik, and Ustream.

I believe in order for television stations to survive as news outlets, citizen journalism and social media must be absorbed into our format. After all, the internet has already devoured our exclusive roles reporters. Everyone has become a journalist with their own blogs. Now everyone can become a live television station.

Jeremy Jojola is an Emmy award winning investigative reporter for KOB-TV in Albuquerque, New Mexico who uses social media and the web to generate stories and find leads.

If you would like to comment on From the Field, or have a suggestion for a future edition, email fromthefield@tvspy.com.

The Changing Face of Broadcast News

Editor’s Note : ‘From The Field’ is a regular ShopTalk column that offers first-hand reports from the front lines of broadcast journalism. Today’s editorial comes from Rita Andolsen, the News & Information Center Director at WKYC-TV. In light of the recent RTNDA study on women and minorites in the TV news workforce, we asked Rita to share her perspective on being a woman in the TV news industry (according to the study, 71% of news directors are men).

My first news director set the tone for me more than 20 years ago. If you worked hard and proved yourself, the rest would come.

Rita Andolsen I still remember that first day in the newsroom when they outfitted me with all the gear. It was a small market, and one-man (or woman) band was the rule. The camera, record pack and tripod were so heavy, I almost fell over. But I learned how to balance it all and within weeks, I could carry the gear plus a light case up and down a flight of steps. That was the expectation for all reporters, male or female. I learned valuable lessons in that small Texas market that I still live by today. Work hard, prove yourself, and look for opportunities to grow.

The face of broadcast newsrooms has undoubtedly changed, with more females in leadership positions than ever before. In the Cleveland market, 3 out of 4 news directors are female. Progress? Absolutely, but you wont find the same in all markets.

Its never been more challenging to work in television news, especially from a technology and staffing standpoint. Economics have forced us to change the way we operate, with a leaner staff and fewer resources. We must staff our newsrooms with smart people who can multi-task and who are willing to diversify their skill set to work on multiple platforms. That in part, is why women are moving forward. They get it. Women have always multi-tasked, juggling homes, families and careers. They are a natural fit for what our business needs right now. Over the years, Ive seen a growing number of women make the choice to work from behind the camera. To produce newscasts, manage breaking news, run editorial meetings, and oversee newsrooms. And they do it well. They work really hard and have proven they are good at multi-tasking, adapting to change and handling the pressure. Theyve grown into todays newsroom leaders.

Has there been inequality? Without a doubt. Are there still people who have a hard time accepting females in leadership roles? Yes. Are we being paid the same as our male counterparts? Not always. But I know were making progress. And weve made it with the help of women and men alike, who were smart enough to take a chance on us and grow us and promote us. Women who set the example for us; not afraid to lead and to make tough choices. Men who were not afraid to create opportunities and let us become leaders. Ive benefitted from both and believe its important to carry that forward.

I spend a lot of time with college Journalism students and have mentored a fair number of young producers and reporters over the years. I tell all of them that I can teach and mentor and guide them, but the one thing I cant give them is the hands-on knowledge they gain working in the newsroom, in the control room, and out in the field. It takes time to learn the ropes. It also takes time to change the mindset that result in inequality. Its not perfect, but rather than dwell on it, I choose to celebrate how far weve come and to work to create opportunities to move forward.

Rita Andolsen is the News & Information Center Director at Gannett owned WKYC-TV in Cleveland, Ohio where she has worked for nine years. She oversees the markets #1 News & Information Center, committed to multi-platform content delivery.

If you would like to comment on From the Field, or have a suggestion for a future edition, email fromthefield@tvspy.com.

A News Director’s Take On Hyper-Local News Reporting

Editor’s Note : This is the debut edition of a new ShopTalk editorial series titled ‘From The Field.’ This will be a regular column that offers first-hand reports from the front lines of broadcast journalism. Today’s editorial comes from former WLWT ND Brennan Donnellan.

First, there is no need to panic! Journalism will survive and eventually thrive. Local television news still provides a vital service to our communities. No blog or tweet can replace the full experience of live coverage of severe weather or important breaking news.

Dont panic, but do believe that the world as we knew it is not coming back. In some ways, we contributed to our own decline, insisting on the instant gratification of a ratings pop at the expense of relevance and responsibility. It worked for a while, but clearly its not working now.

Donnellan and Anderson Township I started Around Anderson (aroundanderson.com) as an experiment in hyper-local news, something were all trying to understand. For me, it has become an antidote to the hype, a tonic to refresh and remind me of why we are journalists in the first place.

Most of my friends and neighbors love Anderson Township, Ohio. We participate in community events, we celebrate together and we pitch in to solve common problems. For better or worse, many people here feel more connected to events in Anderson Township than they do to downtown Cincinnati or even Washington DC. Hyper-local news is extremely relevant to them and they want more.

As a television news director, I thought of our audience in terms of numbers, demos, ratings, and often lowest common denominators. Thanks to Around Anderson, Ive attended zoning meetings and protests. Ive met local business people fighting valiantly to support families and to build something out of nothing. Ive heard from readers who are smart, passionate and who seem thrilled to have a forum to let their ideas be heard.

This is all very noble, but we do have to get paid. Im still working on that part, but I see a path toward profitability and already a trickle of revenue. Eventually I will sell banner ads, but the few dollars that will bring arent worth the clutter for now. For advertisers, I can provide relevance, too. Around Anderson features business profiles, often using video to showcase unique services and personalities. Its paid content, something I would never advocate in local TV news. At Around Anderson, readers know me and trust me. We have an understanding that I wont deceive them with ads disguised as news. Truly, local businesses are part of the fabric of Anderson Township and those stories deserve to be part of the discussion.

Finally, Ive learned that making a hyper-local site go as a full-time venture requires at least two people, or two teams if youre lucky; one for the content, one to build the business relationships. Both are full-time jobs.

Honestly, I dont expect to make a living from Around Anderson. There are models around the country proving that. I expect I will return to the more traditional news business with new knowledge, tools and a much better understanding of whats really relevant to audiences large and small.

Brennan Donnellan is the editor of Around Anderson, a community news site in Anderson Township, Ohio near Cincinnati. He was formerly news director for WLWT-TV. He’s also worked as a manager and executive producer in Atlanta, Boston and Syracuse.
Around Anderson:
http://aroundanderson.com/
Brennan’s Personal Site:
http://brennandonnellan.com/

If you would like to comment on From the Field, or have a suggestion for a future edition, email fromthefield@tvspy.

<< PREVIOUS PAGE