Saturday, July 31, 2010

breaking news

After the long day of driving and rushing around on Wednesday, I go to cover my first piece of breaking news. It was about 5:45 and the police and fire scanner we have in the newsroom started buzzing.

There was a grassfire that Medford Fire Department was responding to. I had been set to front my story live in the Newsroom, but was about to be sent out to the fire. Two minutes later the scanner reported that the fire had been contained. Producers said, nevermind, don't worry about it.

I ended up fronting my story and was working at my computer when a phone call came in from the station's General Manager who was at the fire. He passed along a couple of notes and told me to get it down to the anchors right away so they could report it. Then he told me to come down to get some video. When the GM tells you to do something, you should probably do it...

I went out to the scene of the fire, shot some video as the sun was setting and crews were cleaning up the scene, and interviewed the on-duty chief.

Felt good to go out and get the story for the breaking news and have it run on the 11:00 show.

a long week...

The lack of updates from the workweek has been because they have been long, hard days. Boy, am I glad it's the weekend.

Wednesday I got to return to California! I drove to Yreka (about an hour from Medford) to talk to Public Health officials about Pertussis, aka Whooping Cough, declared an epidemic. Over 1500 people have been diagnosed with Whooping Cough so far this year. They also expect that another 700 possible cases could be confirmed. And because many people who have the symptoms don't see a doctor, there could be many more people infected across the state. After hearing the symptoms: a week of a fever and sore throat followed by weeks or months of coughing fits, I realized that I had the disease! I was sick for a few days in early May then had a cough I couldn't shake til mid June. And a handful of friends had the same problems. Who knew?

Thursday was difficult too. A dam on the Rogue River has been slated for demolition for a long time, but was the deconstruction was held up by legal appeals. Thursday the dam started coming down. I was assigned a follow up with some residents who live just upstream of the dam who rely on wells as the only source of water. I looked at what would happen to them and what the county's response was.
It was a tough story because it was similar to a story we ran the day before and the producers didn't want a rehashing of the same old news. Also, the opposing sides were pointing fingers at each other and it resulted in a "he said, she said" conundrum. It was tough.
At the end of the day, I was writing and editing my package and up against the deadline. I ended up needing help and asking one of the photographers I worked with to help me cut the package while I ran downstairs to front it in front of the wall (the green screen).
My story was the lead that day and time was running out.
As the minutes and seconds to the show count down, I could see the director in the booth getting anxious, upset. My IFB wasn't working so I couldn't tell what he was saying, but I later found out that my package was just exporting to the digital VCR while the show was in the open. While it sounds exciting, exhilarating, and perfectly typical for the TV's hell for everyone involved.

I'm working on being quicker from here on out.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Al Gore's Crazed Sex Poodles

Monday night = Trivia night at the Four Daughters Irish Pub

Al Gore's Crazed Sex Poodles = Our team for the aforementioned trivia night.

131 = our total points.

1 = our finishing position

We won at trivia night! Reporter Steven Sandberg, his fiancee Amanda, reporter Erin Maxson, head director, Matt Valladeo, and I made up the team. We got there around 7, ordered drinks and dinner, and by 7:30 the questions were coming.

Some interesting facts we learned:
Bashful is the first dwarf when named alphabetically.
Wyoming is the least populated of the 48 continental US states.
Keaton was the last name of the family in Family Ties.
Andrew Jackson was the president who got in many duels.
It takes 41 coffee beans to make a shot of espresso.
The Neverending Story was the most expensive film made outside of the US and USSR at its release.
A Georgia man found out his wife committed suicide, watched the Super Bowl, then called police.
Greenland is the biggest island, New Guinea is second.
The US-Mexico border is the most crossed border in the world.
Land O Lakes is the brand of butter with the Native American priestess on the logo.
The L. in Samuel L. Jackson stands for......wait for it......Leroy.

Behind the Desk

Got the chance to go "behind the desk" tonight for the 6:00 news.

I covered the closing of a bank based in Cave Junction (about an hour from Medford) that had several branches in Grants Pass (halfway between Cave Junction and Medford). While Home Valley Bank closed, South Valley Bank and Trust took over. South Valley is located in Klamath Falls (about an hour and a half east).

It was my only story for the day and wound up being the lead for the 6. The original plan was to have me front the package in a live remote shot in front of a South Valley bank just down the street, but crazy weather and lightning nixed all live remote shots. The producer decided she wanted me to be behind the desk to front the story.

I printed out my script, put on my jacket, and headed down to the studio. Getting in the seat and behind the desk ahead of time helped put my mind at ease.

Being in the studio was great. I'm happy with how I did. Check it out:

Sunday, July 25, 2010

3 more lives

On Thursday and Friday I was surprised to learn that producers of the 5 and 6 o'clock shows wanted me to be live three times. I had just finished my first live performance the day before and while I didn't pass out or stumble completely, I certainly wasn't outstanding. So it was an unexpected honor to be live three times in four shows.

Moreover, I was going to be on a "live remote," which means I would be at some location away from the station. The added pressures that come along with being on a remote include traveling to the location, ignoring any of the distractions that could come up from being outdoors, and not having a teleprompter. I was very nervous to say the least.

Thursday at 6, I was live from the Ashland Police Department where there had been a huge drug bust the day before:
Friday at 5, I was live from Medford where one of the city's departments tripled its budget to allow stores in the struggling Downtown area to repair and improve their storefronts.
Friday at 6, I was live in Downtown Medford again to introduce my package on the story:

For both of the 6 shows, my story was the lead, the first story of the newscast. Also, both of those times there was a similar story that also featured a reporter in a live shot. In that situation, the producers want to tie it all together, so they create a graphic called a Triple Box.

As I was standing in front of the camera and put the IFB in my ear, I would hear the director give cues and the countdown. "90 to show"..."Minute from show"..."30 to show"..."In the ope"..."Standby Bryan"..."Camera's hot"..."Cue!".
All the while, my pulse was getting quicker and quicker. I could feel it in my neck and my head was feeling heavy. I'm sure that I would have had a red face from the nervousness if I wasn't wearing a fair amount of make-up.

Afterward I was excited and happy to have finished without any major speedbumps. Though I have a hard time watching them back now, I'm excited to keep trying them and getting better. The producers gave me the same workload as any other reporter by the end of the week, and while I've needed help to get all of my scripts and videos in on time, they're trusting me. Asking me to run while I'm still learning to walk is pushing me to get better quicker, and hopefully I am.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Going Live...

I fronted my first story today. Fronting means to introduce a story. Translation: I was live on camera today.

They spared me some major embarrassment and let me go in front of the Wall (the green screen in studio). So I was able to use a teleprompter to read the script that I had written earlier in the day.

If I could go back there's a lot of things I'd do different:
-Wear a jacket
-Wear makeup
-Slowwww Down
-Have an IFB earpiece (like the Secret Service have)
-Get down to the studio sooner
-Slowwww Down
-Practice a few more times
-And slow down

I liked being on camera and being able to tell the story I worked on all day. Reading the prompter was nice, too. And I'm happy that I didn't goof up too bad or drop any curse words when I screwed up.

Big credit to my producers and the management at the station taking a chance at having me on camera. It was my first time being 'live' ever. And their station reaches over half a million people in 100,000 homes.

At the station, they say that the news team is only as good as it's weakest member. Hopefully, I'm getting better quicker, so the team can stay good.

Here it is...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Corporate Talk

My story for the day was Fair-related. People from all over come to Medford and Central Point. Central Point neighbors Medford just to the North and is the fairgrounds are technically within Central Point city limits. The businesses that surround the fairgrounds usually see a pretty sizable boost in visitors and sales. My story for the day looked at these business and what kind of increase they are expecting.

I aimed at the handful of restaurants and hotels near the fairgrounds. However, six of the first seven that I approached would not talk to me. They said that I needed to submit questions to corporate before they could answer anything. Stupid rules. It's not as though the general managers are going to say something that would hurt their business. And if they're not sure that what they're saying is 100% true, they don't need to say it. It's as though these general managers are regarded almost like children for a mother who is afraid they'll say something off-color. And it's frustrating for me, because I know they want to talk and have good things to say. Some have made great comments off-camera and regret being unable to say anything because of their corporate parents. But I called the station for help and Asst. News Director/Anchor/Great Mentor, Brian Morton, listed a few places that would talk, and they delivered.

I was asked to create a package for this story. And after the last time I created a package, I knew that I would have to step up my game. Last time, I didn't start thinking about the outline of my script and the package's layout until late in the game. Today, whenever I was driving I thought about the main points of the story and how to explain them. It helped. I got back to the station and had a good idea of which SOTs I wanted to use and how to transition between them. Because I was able to work quicker, I wasn't as rushed when I had to track (or record narration) so I felt much more comfortable in the soundbooth and I think my voice sounded more confident in the finished piece.

Overall, I'm happy with how today went. I probably could have shot a little bit more to flesh out the story. But I'm glad that I persevered through the six silent businesses and was able to get my piece done on time. I still need to write quicker, but knowing that I can get it done quicker than Friday is the first step. Speeding it up is next...

Jackson County Fair

Today was the start of the Jackson County Fair (Medford is in Jackson County). The fair is one of, if not the, biggest annual events in Southern Oregon.

To commemorate, and probably enjoy the weather, the entire 6:30 show was live from the fair. Both live trucks and all anchors and reporters were at the Fairgrounds to perform the show.

I don't know how they were able to be as coolheaded and professional as they were with a country band playing a hundred feet away, curious fair-goers being intrigued by the camera crew and lights, and the sounds of the countless carnival rides and riders surrounding them. But they did it and did it well.

The Fair is hosting some fairly big musical names this week: The Beach Boys, Wynonna, Boys Like Girls, and Loverboy. Maybe I'll make it out there...


For you Mac makeup users, you know what I'm talking about.

Yup, I bought make-up. For myself.

Part of the reporter job is to be on camera. And the camera doesn't like to shoot dark subjects, so there are usually bright lights on the talent when they are on camera. The lights and the camera don't do a lot hiding imperfections, so it's necessary to wear makeup.

It's not like I want to, it's simply part of the job. Plus, KDRV gives me a monthly stipend to buy it so ugly faces don't show up on their channel.

I don't put it on at home and wear it all day. I don't put it on at the station and wear it all day. The only time I'll put it on is just before a live shot where the production crew brings in a light or two so the camera can see my face. That's it.

Knowing live shots are coming soon, I went to the Mac makeup station at the local Macy's. And, with much help, am now the owner of NW30 Foundation and Cover-Up.

It's just part of the job...

Sunday, July 18, 2010


TV language is like a foreign language sometimes. I want to be able to write about some of the aspects of working here but want you to understand them too. Here's a glossary for some of the terms I use here and on the job:

SOT - Sound on tape, soundbite, sound, bite; Adds color, flavor, accent, emotion to a story.

VO - Voice over; When the anchor or reporter reads a script live while video plays over the voice.

VOSOT - A voice over followed by a soundbite; Typically 45-60 seconds.

Package - A pre-produced segment of video; usually dives into emotional or humanistic side of story more than the VO.

Front - Reporter is live to introduce their package; usually happens at the 5 and the 6.

Rundown - The schedule for a specific show; broken down into segments and number (ie: A1 Anchor leads, A2 Toss to reporter live, A3 Reporter fronts story, A4 Package)

Producer - The person who writes the show; will create the rundown, write scripts, edit scripts, work with the anchors.

Assignment Editor - Looks for story ideas and contacts; will prepare for the 10am meeting and generate up to two dozen story ideas for each day.

News Director - Oversees the News Department; sets tone and philosophy for reporting news and presentation.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Toddler TV

I got my first solo story today.

At the morning production meeting, the team was dividing up stories and the Executive Producer/Assistant News Director/Anchor, Brian Morton, suggested to the rest of the staff that I was ready to take on a story on my own. I said that I was.

It felt great to work and figure out everything on my own. The newsroom trusted me, too.

While it's only my first week and my first real story I'm already looking at what I need to do better next time. I was pretty late in getting my scripts and videos in and left my producer in the dark until the last minute. After the show, I talked with some of the reporters (who have been more than incredibly helpful) and they offered a lot of advice to be quicker. Since editing is my strong point, work on making writing quicker and more efficiently. Work the story out in the car while I'm driving back to the station. Know which sounds I want to use before I start working. Get a rough draft of the scrip to the producer earlier so they can offer feedback sooner.

There were a lot of pieces that could have gone better, and that's one of the reasons why I like this industry. If you want to improve, you get the chance to do that the very next day.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Daily Schedule

The rest of the first week was great.

I spent a lot of time shadowing other reporters so that I could see how they typically spent their day and learn personal tips about the work. As you can guess, there are strict deadlines in the Broadcast TV world and time management is key to being successful, efficient, and creative.

Every reporter is assigned two stories for the day, one bigger and one smaller. The bigger story will be turned into a VOSOT for the 5, a package for the 6, and another VOSOT for the 11. The smaller story will be two VOSOTs, one for 5 and for the 6. Confused? Don't worry, there is a Glossary for this kind of stuff.

Here's a look at how I spent Tuesday:

9:30a - Arrive at the station to look at emails and prepare for the day.
10:00a - Morning Production meeting; The four or five reporters working the Dayside shift, the Assignment Editor, the Producer, and the Executive Producer attend this meeting to figure out ways to flesh out the day's stories.
10:30a - Make phone calls to set up interviews throughout the day.
10:40a - Leave station with camera, mic kit, portable light, and tripod.
11:00a - Interview and video shoot #1
12:00p - Unsuccessful in getting next interview. Calling all possible contacts.
12:30p - Still calling while having the rare sit-down lunch.
12:40p - Interview and shoot #2
1:15p - Interview and shoot #3
2:00p - Arrive back at station, begin uploading footage to computer.
2:10p - Log footage for possible soundbites
2:45p - Begin writing. The rule of thumb is to write for next show. Even if you haven't started the longer package for the 6:00 show, the 5 is always more important.
3:15p - After approval from the producer, start editing the video.
3:50p - Export video to VTR Database
4:00p - Begin work on videos and scripts for later shows.
4:30p - Head to location for live shot
5:05p - Go live on air
5:20p - Back at station finishing up work for the 6 and the 11.
5:40p - Head back to location for live shot
6:05p - Go live on air
6:15p - Head back to station
6:25p - Finish up work and prepare for future stories.
6:45p - Head home for the day!

It's a long, busy, and tiring day.
But trying to describe the feelings of excitement and accomplishment wouldn't do justice to the reasons why I love working here.

Monday, July 12, 2010

First Day

I reported at KDRV at 8:30 this morning for my first day of work! I spent most of the morning getting a tour of the station, meeting my co-workers, and filling out paperwork and processing forms. The highlight of the morning was being able to sit in on the 10am Production Meeting for that evening's 5:00, 6:00, and 6:30 shows. Overall, I got to know the station pretty well in the small amount of time before lunch.

The television magic happened after lunch. I worked with the Senior Producer to learn iNews, the software Newswatch 12 uses to create scripts, share story ideas, and create the rundowns for the shows. I was a little familiar with the software after interning at KRON-4 in San Francisco, but to get hands on experience and personal stories from the producers and reporters helped too. After getting the chance to use it hands-on that afternoon, I had a much better understanding of the program and how it helps get the show organized.

Then I sat with reporter Steven Sandberg, who I worked with in March '09 and who helped me get the job at KDRV, as he wrote and edited his two stories for the day. We use an editing program called Edius. It is similar to the editing software I've used before and shouldn't be too big of a jump.

At the end of the work day I sat in the control room as the Director and five others put together the show. I sat in front of a wall that must have had three dozen monitors with different camera and VCR feeds. The director was making commands that seemed almost foreign to me: "Roll Deko," "Standby C," "Up Audio," "Cue." However everything looked smooth in the Program monitor (the feed that is sent out to TV watchers at home). The people who work in the control room or booth do a great job of being in sync with each other and having the right timing to make the hundreds of individual portions of the show come together without any apparent seams.

One example of the creative ingenuity and uncoachable timing the Newswatch 12 team showed came during a live shot in the first three minutes of the 5:00 telecast. There was a big fire in a city near Medford and the two lead stories looked at the fire from different angles. The two reporters were both on scene and were slated for a live shot to lead into their story, which they would narrate while video of the fire played over their voice. The first reporter appeared on camera and then the video started rolling while she gave her voice over off camera. While she spoke, she handed the mic off to Steven, the second reporter on scene. All with out skipping a beat. But the difficulty would come in the short gap between the end of her story and Steven's first appearance on camera. As soon as she finished her voice over, with another camera being live, she ducked out of frame and the director took Steven in the next live shot. Had he taken his camera a half second earlier, or if the first reporter was a half second too slow, it would have botched the trick and would have looked very unprofessional. But the team pulled it off. They seem to always make it work, no matter how close it might be.

I learned today that KDRV is received very well by viewers in this Medford market. Neilsen ratings for the May sweeps were released recently and the shares that the station received during news broadcast times were higher than the combined shares of the competing stations. The management of the station have a background in news and know that the station's emphasis on news is what will set it apart in this market. I'm lucky to be entering such a work environment that believes this and know that the pressure is on to perform my best and contribute as much as I can.