Monthly Archives: October 2013
The past two weeks, especially the second week, were a great learning experience, for I did two packages, one VO-SOT and anchored in only five days. It was all about coming in early and just getting it done. Needless to say, I learned some valuable lessons in the process; I feel as though writing, editing and wrapping around on three consecutive days really allowed me to develop a certain routine.
During the shoots for both of my packages that week, I once and for all learned that pre-production is absolutely vital. Every reporter has to double-check and triple-check the equipment. You need to have the mindset that something won’t work and really expect the unexpected. I learned the hard way when I realized that although I had the Lavalier microphone with me, I was missing the clip. Naturally, this had a negative effect on my audio, especially because people around the interviewee were talking. When I shot the boxing match, I didn’t have a lavaliere microphone with me at all. During the shoot at the memorial for Rift Fournier, I also struggled with the tripod, as I was given the wrong one, which was a lot different from the one we usually get.
Reporting from a memorial is not an ordinary task, but one that was a valuable experience nevertheless. It was certainly not easy to keep my emotions in check and focus on my job, because after all Rift and I knew each other. When asked to do a package on a funeral or a memorial, reporters should ask themselves if they can cope with those kinds of situations, especially if they knew the deceased person. There are some things every journalist should keep in mind: Don’t claim to understand the pain, be patient, forgo the facts, avoid exploitation, and be sensitive.
I’ve come to the conclusion that the best way to avoid errors, be it audio level being too high or too low or forgetting to white balance the camera, is to have a checklist and go through all the different steps to ensure you get the desired result. Especially when time is scarce and things become hectic, you have to maintain your composure and not lose sight of important things. Even if it takes a while, always white balance and balance the camera and get a critical focus.
My VO-SOT was about comedy magician and hypnotist Josh McVigar. For some reason, my camera wouldn’t white balance during the shoot, although it had worked outside Butler Hall just ten minutes earlier. I tried everything but couldn’t get it to work. Luckily, the shots turned out to be alright. It was definitely the most entertaining and fun shoot yet.
One thing I need to improve is my interviewing skills. Especially when you are still an inexperienced reporter, it’s important to write down some questions and do some research prior to the interview, as it will make you feel more comfortable and confident. Interviewing is an art in itself and needs countless hours to be mastered. One certainly needs to be empathetic and a good listener.
I produced for the fourth time this week. By and large it was a decent newscast. I thought our new system worked well, because I knew exactly who I had at my disposal. It also made it easier for me to keep track of who is doing what. I think graphics-Ben is a great addition to the team, as he makes sound graphics and is able to work independently. I should have kept more of an eye on things like sports and weather and started proofreading stories sooner so that we could have printed the rundown and scripts sooner as well. People who are working on their packages should get in at least an hour before everybody else to have a head start. Running late with a package means extra stress and uncertainty for the producer and everybody involved. Plus, nobody knows if it’ll be ready in time.
Next time I produce a newscast I will try to have a list of things I need to do which is not on the producer’s checklist to make sure I don’t forget about those kinds of things. Once again, I will look to sticking closer to the checklist and making sure that everybody is on the same page.
Tension in the newsroom is almost inevitable in a fast-paced working environment that revolves around meeting deadlines. It’s important to understand that occasional frustration and snappy answers are part of working for television. While you should try to remain calm and courteous at all times, sometimes raising your voice is the only way you can express that something is urgent or to get something done. One should never take it personally and in case it bothers you until after the newscast, you should talk to the person once the stress has subsided.
My fourth time anchoring went well. I thought I had good presence and spoke with authority. The interaction with David Schlaeger felt natural and reading each story out loud at least once proved to be of great help once again. The teleprompter seems to be getting better as the semester progresses, which makes the anchors’ life a lot easier.
Over the past two weeks I was able to refine my reporter, anchor, writer, and producer skills and learn a great deal more about how newsrooms work in general. Now that we have entered the grading period, I have a higher sense of urgency and also take things more seriously. Getting a grade for a package or a VO-SOT feels like getting feedback from your producer or director after a newscast.
My second VO-SOT, which aired on September 27th, was fun shooting and editing because it was easier to do now that I have done it once already. I nevertheless still have to learn a lot, which I saw when I started editing. Not only was my interviewee slightly out of focus, but the white balance appeared to not have worked correctly as some of my shots had a blue tint. I learned that it is important to leave one to two seconds at the beginning of the sound bite so that the audio person has enough time to raise the volume and the viewer doesn’t miss the beginning of the interview. Apart from that I realized how important sequences are and that shooting b-roll takes its time.
My third VO-SOT was about the C-SPAN bus visiting Lindenwood. Although I arrived at the bus ten minutes before it opened its doors, I should have made it there even earlier to get shots of the bus before anyone got there, which would have allowed me to focus on interviews and b-roll of students inside and outside the bus afterwards. An hour and a half looked like sufficient time to me, but in the end I was hectically trying to conduct my second interview and get some additional shots of the bus. When my VO-SOT aired on the next day, I got in early to make sure that I’d be able to finish it before I had to leave at 11 O’clock. In spite of having over two hours, it was a close deal. I wish I had had more time to look at my text and the b-roll. I wrapped around my VO-SOT like I did for my first package and enjoyed that a lot, because speaking while standing enables you to use more gestures and it also feels more natural. Whenever you use at least two different interviews, I need to make sure to place the two interviewees in the opposite side of the shot so it doesn’t look repetitive. The challenge with that, however, is that you cannot look at the monitor of your camera when the person is standing on the left. (Since you need her to look to the right, you must stand on the right side of the camera.)
My third time anchoring was definitely the best one yet. Not only did I take the time to read every story out loud at least once, but I was also better prepared in terms of taking care of the small things, such as having a water bottle at your feet and making sure that my jacket looks undulated. I felt like I was talking with more vigor and that my interaction with Taylor was relatively genuine. We were both happy that the teleprompter did a good job keeping the lines we were reading close to the top of the monitor.
I produced for the second time the very next newscast after I produced for the first time. Similarly to the first time, by and large I was happy with the outcome of the newscast. Downloading and sending the FBI footage to airspeed worked well. Everybody communicated well and kept me updated about the status of their stories. Looking at producer’s checklist more regularly would have helped me knowing what I still need to do amid all the other things that were going on. Luckily I realized in time that we were missing Alex for sports so that I was able to call him and tell him that we needed him. I once again learned that the earlier you get to the station the better. My second VO-SOT aired on that day, so I got there at 8 O’clock sharp to make sure I could finish it before everybody else needed me. Besides that, with all the little things that required my attention, I tried to make sure to sit back regularly and think of the big picture and what I need to do to make the newscast a success as a whole.
When Miley Cyrus feeble attempt at twerking went viral after the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards in late August, the news media was all over it and contributed massively to it spreading so quickly. Cyrus’ presumably planned provocation permeated the airwaves to an extent that is shocking, because even qualitative, mainstream media picked up on this piece of entertainment like it was news. At the same time, other news that certainly had a larger impact on people’s everyday lives didn’t get the attention it deserved. With the news market rapidly changing, it seems that news media nowadays jump on the bandwagon much quicker in order not to lose viewers and, in turn, money.
Two recent articles illustrate how this problem leads to news assume the shape of entertainment more and more. Picking up directly on the show business sector, the first article, found on poynter.org, illustrates how first something “crazy” happens such Miley’s performance at the Video Music Awards. Next, the Internet, or more accurately, people on the Internet react and propels the event into everybody conscience through Twitter, Facebook and other platforms. The third (and worrisome) step is when the media, or better journalists who work for the media, believe this is newsworthy and tell us what people on the Internet are doing. The more newsrooms report on the story, the more people react to it, which leads to even more television stations including it in their newscasts.
When an Indian-American woman won the Miss America pageant, for example, BuzzFeed posted a list of a couple dozen tweets under the headline that “A Lot Of People Are Very Upset That An Indian-American Woman Won The Miss America Pageant.” People started re-tweeting it, services such as Upworthy sent out Buzzfeed’s article in an e-mail, and very soon the media picked up on it. The first part is not the bad one. While the majority of the comments were definitely racist and reprehensible, everybody should be media literate enough to know that there are always people who think this way and, more importantly, that they tend to be in the minority and that of course there are also people out there who posted positive things. It becomes bad when media decided that this is news, when in reality it is entertainment. They are doing their audience a disservice.
This sheds light on another issue of the media: Why didn’t Buzzfeed write about all the positive reactions about the outcome of the pageant? Although the answer is most definitely more complex, bad news and sensationalism seem to attract more viewers.
Both examples exemplify how media corporations are trying to combine traditional news with delivery to new media and are attempting to increase revenue in the age of media convergence.
The second article, found on medialit.org, provides good background information on the transformation of how news are conveyed on television from the 1960s till today, and shows how the barrier between news and entertainment has gradually eroded. It cautions against sensational tabloid programs, which can intensify the economic pressure on news producers when mainstream newscasts are compelled to compete with them.
Broadcasters have learned that by heightening the drama of real life events, news stories such as the twerking incident, which were previously looked over, can become multimedia spectacles. The media coverage wasn’t quite the same when Britney Spears had a similar performance at the MVAs in 2000. Unfortunately, the enormous pressure to excite the audience due to limited budgets and highly competitive markets seem to leave newsrooms with little choice.
What’s more, since people – especially members of generation Y – are increasingly looking for information online, television companies are desperately trying to pursue young people, which typically leads to less informative and more entertaining newscasts because traditional news organizations are placing their messages on many different media channels.
Another trend that’s reason for concern is that in spite of a dramatic increase in available political information through cable television and the Internet, political knowledge and turnout have not changed noticeably. It has been argued that this seeming paradox is brought about because greater media choice makes it easier for people to find their preferred content. As a result, viewers who are interested in news take advantage of the plethora of information that’s available, while the part of the audience that prefers entertainment is likely to consume less news, thus increasing the discrepancy in knowledge between those who prefer news and those who prefer entertainment.
News as entertainment is definitely a troubling trend. Reporters need to remember that there is a distinction between television and journalism. Amid economic hardship and a greater dependency on advertisers, however, maintaining a perspective on the importance of real news and information and presenting it in a way that appeals to viewers becomes a challenge at best and flat-out impossible at the worst. Nevertheless, journalists must use resources wisely so that they can inform the public to the best of their ability; It is their duty to give citizens the information they need.
- Rant: The American Mainstream Media is a Failure (starchaser187.wordpress.com)
- News as entertainment is sadly becoming the norm