The Adrenaline Rush Of Reporting

In the past few weeks, from just two reporting shifts, I've learned there will never be a greater adrenaline rush than that from which I get from reporting. Deadlines, pressure, interviewing people, finding creative ways to tape things, and carefully crafting pieces of information into a well-told story are just some components that make this job exciting. Even if you’ve had a horrible day where your sources didn’t call you back, you couldn’t get that piece of video you needed, and everything that could go wrong did go wrong… you always know tomorrow is a new story, a fresh start. It’s something I kept in mind while doing my first two shifts. Although they didn’t get as smooth as I would have liked, I know things can only improve from here.

My first shift I started off with a story about 12 types of fungus found in the gym of a Sedalia elementary school. The school had ordered air quality test after they thought mold and bacteria had been making some staff and teachers sick. The results came back Thursday night and they are working on ripping up the floor in the gym and cleaning out the heating ducts. I started by calling the superintendent of the school district who informed me the assistant superintendent was handling the situation. Since I wasn’t able to get a hold of him I moved on to finding parents from the school’s PTA to see what they thought about the situation. All phone calls kept falling through, I knew if I drove to Sedalia they might not let me shoot the school, and since time was dragging on I decided I needed to move onto my next story idea.

Earlier that morning KOMU did a liveshot about an autism intervention conference going on that day. I figured since we previewed it, we should probably cover it. The first trouble I ran into during my shift was audio problems. I listened to the audio through my headphones while testing the camera. I heard some feedback in what I thought was channel one. I asked around and everything seemed to be all right. While at the convention everything seemed okay through the headphones. But at the end, as I was replaying back some video, the audio was extremely scratchy. When I got back to the station I found channel two audio was completely bad. Next time I decided I wouldn’t be so careless as to leave when I know there might be a problem with my equipment.

Shooting video and getting interviews at the convention went well. When I first got to the convention I sought out one of the coordinators from the MU Thompson Center who helped get me the interviews. The only problem with the interviews was it took awhile to gather up the people I needed to talk to. They were almost always in a session. I took advantage of that free time to shoot my b-roll. Budgeting my time really helped. I decided I had to be back to the station by 1:30. Fortunately, while at the convention, I decided to write the outline of my package. This definitely speeded up the process once I returned to KOMU. Although I won’t be able to do this a lot, it helped to write the package while in the setting. I also learned how helpful it is to outline the story in your head as you’re gathering information.

My last problem came when writing the VO/SOT/VO for the five. I had talked to my sources about a Missouri bill trying to go through the capitol that would mandate all private insurance companies to cover therapy for children with autism. I felt it was an important topic, but my b-roll didn't match what was being said. I think I probably should have found a better way to solve the problem either with graphics or different video.

Overall I wished my package could have been better. I felt the standup was a little awkward and not quite what I wanted, and the information was very shallow. The topic of my story did change drastically while I was out. I began with the focus of how the MU Thompson Center is helping those with autism and I wanted to find out what new laws may go into effect to help those with autism. My story had to change after I had a hard time gathering facts at the convention because the main lady I wanted to talk to was always busy and the others I talked to glazed over the information. But I guess as one of the producers told me, “the first B2 reporting shift is all about surviving.” So although my first package didn’t come out exactly how I wanted, I’m glad I survived!

To view my first story, click here or view the video below: MU Thompson Center Holds Annual Autism Conference

My next reporting shift happened to fall on a very slow news day, but this didn’t mean I wouldn’t get a taste of what a real reporting shift is like. A little bit of explanation is probably required before I state what I learned.

I started off with a story about the application deadline ending that night for those applying for the State Park Youth Corps Program though Missouri’s Department of Natural Resources.

I called around to Rock Bridge Memorial State Park and Finger Lakes State Park to see if anyone there would talk with me. At Rock Bridge they said I should talk with the DNR information officer first and Finger Lakes State Park said they would get back to me. Knowing they probably wouldn’t call me back I headed out to Rock Bridge where I shot my b-roll before it started to rain. I then went into the front office to ask if it was at all possible to get an interview. The lady told me I had to get in touch with the information officer before I could be granted an interview. Since the PIO hadn’t been answering her phone all morning, I headed out 30 minutes north of Columbia to Finger Lakes State Park. There the lady also told me she couldn’t talk unless she had permission from the PIO. I asked if there was any other way to get a hold of the PIO, but she didn’t have an answer. I called a few numbers to see if I could get to her, but number after number turned into dead ends. The superintendent at Finger Lakes State Park was the one I could talk to and she wasn’t going to get in until 2 p.m. anyway.

Finally I knew I had to move on to my next story. I headed back to the station where I imported my clips to do a VO on the State Park Youth Corps story. Next I started calling Columbia’s representatives to see if they could speak with me about the re-appropriation of funds for a new Ellis Fischel Cancer Center facility. It was almost 2 p.m. by that time and the producer still wanted me to turn a package for the five. Since all phone calls to the PR department of Ellis Fischel went to voicemail I decided to head out there anyway. Once there, the staff was able to assist me in finding the right people to speak with. After a bit of waiting a spokeswoman set up an interview for me, but told me I had to head over to the University Hospital lobby.

So off to the University Hospital I went. After the seven minute interview with the medical director, the PR guy took me around to show me where the new facility would be built. Afterwards I headed back to Ellis to get some b-roll. By this time it was 3 p.m. and I knew I had to make it quick if I was going to turn a package in time. While shooting my b-roll, the spring on the tripod lock snapped making it impossible to secure the camera into place. So I did the best I could shooting b-roll in fifteen minutes with a broken tripod.

When I got back to the station, the producers informed me I would be doing a VO/SOT/VO for the five and six, along with a VO for the five on the DNR story. They then said I could turn a package for the 10. With a little bit of time left before the five, I was able to get a hold of the spokesperson again from the hospital who answered questions about the financial aspect of the story --- questions the medical director told me he couldn’t answer.

Since writing and editing went fairly quick for the VO/SOT/VO’s I decided to head back to the University to shoot a standup before the sun went down. Editing and writing for the package went quickly, but the entire time I wished I could have done a better job. I hated having wallpaper video and just one interview. I also don’t feel my story had much substance to it. I had hoped to find someone who was opposed to it, especially because I feel my story turned out one sided. I had also wanted to attend the free cancer screening Ellis Fischel was holding from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. for b-roll, but time didn’t allow for it. (Someone ended up doing a package on that anyway.) The producer had also wanted me to head out to the capitol, but since I couldn’t get a hold of anyone there I knew I should probably head to Ellis Fischel instead.

My second reporting shift taught me a lot about the approach I should take when my sources aren’t calling me back. I definitely feel heading out to the locations to get interviews helped. I would have never gotten the interview with medical director if I hadn’t stopped by Ellis Fischel. Although this approach didn’t work quite so well on the DNR story, I don’t thinking sitting around waiting for the phone to ring would have done me any good.

This also ties in with time management. I typically set a deadline for myself to be back at the station by 1:30 p.m. so I can start writing and editing. I had to rework that deadline this time and set numerous deadlines throughout the day. I learned with each new story comes new deadlines.

Finally I learned being familiar with the locations you are covering stories on helps a lot. I’ve walked around Rock Bridge Memorial State Park many times and knew where some good places to shot would be. I also covered a story a few years back at the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center, so this helped me to know my way around the center. With a tight deadline on getting to my interview with the medical director, knowing where to park and where the University Hospital lobby was turned out to be beneficial.

My package didn’t turn out the way I would want any story to turn out, but considering the sequence of events I faced Friday, I felt I did pretty much all I could do. I’m hoping with a little more experience things will go smoother next time!

To view the Ellis Fischel story, click here: Ellis Fischel Cancer Center Could See New Facility In Future

To view the State Park Youth Corps Program story or view the VO below, click here: Application Deadline Friday For State Parks Youth Corps Program


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