Severe Weather Rips Through Michiana... and Much Much More

The thing about being a reporter is… when the news is telling you to take cover indoors during a severe storm, we are out chasing the damage the storm is doing.

Severe weather ripped through the Midwest yesterday, producing winds up to 90 mph in the South Bend area. Even before the storm we were ready… well almost. I’m pretty sure it’s situations like these they always tell reporters and photogs to bring an extra set of clothes. You never know where you’re going to end up! Too bad for me I didn’t think being an intern qualified for these rules. I learned later that night while being drenched in a torrential downpour, this certainly wasn’t the case.

During the 5 p.m. newscast the radar showed some pretty heavy storms moving through Chicago, so we knew we were going to be hit about 7 p.m. The meteorologist was predicting hurricane-like winds and widespread damage across the area. So what better story to do a package on? (yes, yes I know we reporters sound cold-hearted, but I swear we’re not!)

Our first stop: a golf club. We arrived there before the storm hit to interview the manager about fathers day. Business this father’s day is supposed to be up compared to last father’s day, and this would be our backup story incase the storm passed over us. But sure enough about 20 minutes after we arrived the storm rolled in. As the reporter and I took cover in the car, the photog braved the winds and rain and got some great video. From inside the car, thankful to not be the photog at the moment, I watched as things started flying everywhere, this included the tent a wedding rehearsal had been practicing under. We watched as the wedding party fled past the car towards the club house, getting completely drenched. The photog called us from inside as well and told us it would probably be wise to come indoors. The car had been shaking pretty wildly.

When we got inside the clubhouse we spoke with the wedding party and found out the groom had been picked up by the wind and thrown into his grandfather. He and his grandfather were injured. He, of course, was the perfect person to interview to show the extent of power to which the winds had.

Once we left the golf club we ran over to a house where a large tree had been completely uprooted. When I first saw it the grass reminded me of fake turf, the way it had just been ripped out the ground by mother nature with no remorse. The woman inside the home at the time wasn’t hurt, but her carport and nearby power and gas lines weren’t so lucky… Four houses around her had been evacuated as the crews came out and capped the gas line.

On our way back to the station we stopped to get video of a large tree that had almost fallen on a house. All across the area we had photogs spread out covering stories such as the ones we were doing… trees across the road and on cars, sports fields ripped up, possible tornados etc.

I’ve never seen the newsroom so hectic on a weeknight. The phones were ringing off the hook and all the photogs, reporters, and producers who had stayed late were running around helping to put together the newscast. The news director brought in pizza for the hungry and people were helping out in jobs they rarely do or have never done… For me this included running the telepromoter for the late lead in and writing a vosot. It was truly an amazing night to be a part of Stormteam 16!

Although the rest of the week wasn’t nearly as exciting, I still learned a lot.

On Monday, I was sent out on a vosot with one of the reporters. One of the hospitals in the area was celebrating their sixth month anniversary by honoring the first baby born there. Boy was this baby cute! They placed a plaque outside the room where the mother had delivered her. After an interview with the mom and dad, we headed back to the station so I could write a vosot for the five and six.

Click here to read “New hospital celebrating 6 months of caring for patients.”

The rest of the day pretty much consisted of sitting in with the producers in the control room to watch the newscast.

On Tuesday, I had the chance to work with the floor director/camera operator running scripts, directing the anchor towards which they camera they needed to face, learning the different camera shots on the rundown, and watching the newscast from the studio. It’s always interesting to see how different studios run. Last summer at WREX there was no camera operator and at KOMU, even though the cameras are robotic, we still have a floor director. At WNDU the cameras are manual and during the noon show there is one floor director. During the 5 p.m. there are normally two to three people.

After the noon, the anchor, who is also a reporter/photog, and I ran out to pick up a vosot. The drive out to where we needed to go, Southwestern Michigan College, is about an hour from SB. I always find long car rides like these to be valuable. I use it to ask the reporters and photogs all the questions I’ve always wondered about what it’s actually like to be a reporter/photog.

At Southwestern Michigan College, a program called Education Talent Search was holding a week long camp to teach kids how police conduct crime scene investigations and how they collect and analyze evidence. I interviewed one of the students about his experiences with it and one of the directors of the program. By talking to the director, the reporter and I discovered another story we could do later on. An important thing to know… one story can always lead to another.

Click here to read “Camp lets kids explore a wide range of career options.”

Since we got back pretty late and by the time I finished writing the vosot for the five and six, I missed going out with the nightside reporter. So I stayed in with the other nightside reporter who was covering Obama’s first oval office speech. He brought in a Saint Mary’s professor who studies political communication to talk about what he expected to see in Obama’s speech about the BP crisis. We then we sat with him during Obama’s speech so he could analyze Obama’s body language and the things he spoke out during the speech. Like most times I sat in with the reporter as he wrote the story to see how it would come together.

Click here to read “Obama will make BP pay for ‘reckless’ actions.”

Wednesday Beachteam 16 formed! You may have heard the job of a reporter is glamorous and although this is completely untrue (we have our share of really stressful days and if you think the pay is good… ha… ha!) we do have our fun days. It’s been awhile since I’ve been to the beach, so I was totally ready.

Earlier in the day an 11-year-old boy had almost drowned while swimming in the lake. One of the lifeguards jumped out and saved him. This had been one of the several near drownings that day so we decided to do a package on water safety and focus it around the near drowning at the beach.

We spent about 45 minutes there, having the lifeguard re-enact what happened and interviewing him, and then interviewing a parent who had taken her little kids to the beach that day about what she does to keep them safe. After getting all the video and interviews we needed, we couldn’t help but to end our day at the beach with some ice cream from downtown!

This past week I also asked to start helping out with the web. At WNDU comments on the website must be approved before being posted. This was my first task… to read through and approve or reject viewer’s comments. I’m sure after awhile it gets old, but being a first timer on the job, the comments are pretty amusing to read. Next week, after getting back in from doing my vosots, I’m hoping to write these stories for the web.

Today I plan to work on editing the package I wrote last week. I sat in with the editors a bit more this week and one of them really showed me how to use the system. I hope with some time I will be able to learn newscutter pretty efficiently. On Wednesday, while down at the beach, the photog took us to the WNDU bureau located in St. Joe. It was the first time in years since I’ve seen a tape-to-tape editing system and each time I do, it always reminds me how spoiled we are in how far technology has come…talk about stressful editing.

In the next few weeks I also plan to complete the storm and water safety packages. When they’re done I’ll be sure to share them with you!

Even though only two weeks have come and gone at WNDU, I feel like it’s been longer. The things I’ve learned and covered… car chases, standoffs, storms… is something I thought might never happen, but looking back on all these adventures I’d say it’s been a pretty successful two weeks so far.


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