Monday, December 7, 2009

The State of Slate(.com)

In my exploration of alternative news outlets over the past few months, I have come to see a lot of similar qualities in many of them. This week, I looked at Slate, an online magazine. Like many alternative online sources, Slate is targeted towards a younger, more tech-savvy audience, and this is made apparent in many ways.
One way is the casual language. The use of informal language makes the site less intimidating and perhaps more interesting to younger readers. For instance, one of the headlines says “Don’t Panic: the world is totally overreacting to the crisis in Dubai.” I would never expect to see language like that on the New York Times website. Even something as simple as the phrase “totally overreacting” shows that whoever wrote that article isn’t afraid to use casual language. In the article, the author uses other casual phrases like “a point I made earlier this week,” “choked it off,” and “the global economy may have pulled itself out of the ditch.”
Another trend that appeals to younger readers are less formal topics and more fun topics. Slate has a collection of photographs in the main story bar. Today’s theme is photographs of people drinking. This doesn’t have high news value but it still interesting and entertaining. Or “Eight Signs That You’re Boring Someone to Death,” and “The Latest Updates From Barack Obama’s Facebook Newsfeed.”
Use of multimedia seems to be a cornerstone of new news websites. Slate has a section of Today’s Picture/Cartoon/Doonesbury (a comic strip)/ and Video. Slate, like many other alternative news websites is just bursting at the seams with multimedia content. I like this ascpect because I really think it enriches the stories. Watching videos, hearing clips, seeing photos, and getting to look at extended interviews really helps reader dive into stories that truly interest them or stories they need more information about.
Much like the Huffington Post, Slate has headline news as well as blogs. Slate and THP have many contributing authors who write blogs for the website. These less formal pieces let readers follow their favorite bloggers (or bloggers with particular views) and people who tend to blog about things that interest them.
The way I see it, new-age news websites generally have three things in common: a little humor, a lot of choices, and are chock full of multimedia content.
Visit Slate at:

My first time in the A block

On December 3, I went into KOMU not knowing that I would do my most serious story to date later that evening. When we got into the story ideas meeting, I was, surprisingly, the only person who pitched the Kahler vigil. And so, unsurprisingly, I was the one who got to cover the vigil. I must admit that I was a little surprised. I couldn’t believe that they were letting me cover this story when there were other older, better, and more qualified reporters on the same shift. I set my mind to doing the best job I could on the story- both for my own peace of mind and for the memory of Emily, Lauren, and Karen Kahler.
Brooke Hasch was doing a live shot about the vigil at five and six so I spoke with her to get some background on whatever she had already found out. I also read Elizabeth Billingsley’s story on about the vigil that she posted earlier that day. Once I felt adequately prepared (and was so anxious and nervous that I couldn’t just hang out in the newsroom anymore) I headed out to the ARC, where Karen Kahler worked for a year before she was killed.
The vigil was scheduled to start at 5:30pm…outside the ARC. It was so cold outside that my fingers started to tingle as soon as I got out of the car. As I began to set up, I realized there were a number of challenged associated with this story that I had never faced before:
· The topic- Until then I had never done a sad story. This requires extra care, compassion and understanding…and sources that may not want to talk to you at all. Some of them were downright angry
· The temperature- These were the worst weather conditions that I had ever reported in…and it was my first story where most of it took place outdoors.
· The time of day- Nightshooting presents its own unique set of challenges. Turning on the gain, white balancing, and focusing are particularly important (interestingly enough, I focused all my shots manually because someone changed the setting on my camera and I neglected to check them before leaving the station…a mistake I will NEVER make again!)
I learned two very important and very different lessons. The first one is to check everything one the camera before heading out. Luckily, I knew how to get the camera to zoom manually so I could focus my shots and zoom in for tight shots (which was especially important with this story so that I could get the close, detailed shots I wanted without being intrusive). If I hadn’t known how to zoom manually, I would have been totally sunk.
The second lesson I learned was the importance of sensitivity towards sources. I have always known how important it is to be sensitive to my sources, but this story really put it to the test. Even in an ordinary story, sensitivity is important. Sources are sensitive about how they look and sound, in part because they don’t understand that they won’t be on TV long. But this story brought in the added element of tragedy. Karen Kahler’s workout group at the ARC organized the memorial but they were unwilling to go on camera. I think their interviews would have been the most compelling but they were the least willing to talk with me. I had to use my best judgement to try to guess who would be the most willing to go on camera. I had to approach people with extra care and sensitivity toward the subject. When asking questions, I had to be extremely careful with my word choice and the with which questions I asked. I felt like I was walking on eggshells. I also had to be careful not to invade their space and interrupt them in a moment of grief during the vigil.
I am really lucky to have gotten the opportunity to cover this event. I hope that the people who loved the Kahler’s and their great-grandmother feel that my story did them justice. The way I see it, that is the most important thing.
Watch on YouTube!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Like a Bridge Over Troubled Water

Last Thursday, I did my first package for KOMU. Needless to say, I was pretty nervous. When I got to the station, Jenilee turned down all of my ideas. She gave me one about a grant given to the school of agriculture. When I called them, they said they couldn’t comment at the time. The second idea was about elementary schools but none of the principals involved in the story nor anyone in the superintendent’s office who knew what was going were available. They were all doing things for parent teacher conferences.
The third idea finally took flight. I was going to cover a meeting about the bridge repairs on the I-70 overpass at Midway. Kathryn Lopez did a story early that day about the bridge and how business owners in Rocheport are affected. Jenilee told me to make my story different from Kathryn’s and focus more on the meeting than anything else. This made the story a lot more difficult because I had to make sure my story was different but still conveyed the important ideas.
One really difficult thing about this meeting was that it was people circled around boards. This was difficult because it made not crossing the axis very challenging. I think one of the most important lessons that I learned while making this package was that I really need to work on my interview framing. I have found when I start an interview people are generally sitting up really straight. As the interview goes on, people start to slouch and then the framing gets even worse.
The way I see it, it is critical to remember that if at first your initial story idea falls through, keep trying and keep calling people.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Tweeting: Not Just for the Birds Anymore!

I’ve given in. I got a Twitter. At the suggestion of Jen Reeves, I got a Twitter to make myself more Google-able in a professional way. One of the news outlets I follow posted a link to this blog : “What’s the Value of a Journalist that Twitters?” To Jen Reeves, a journalist that knows how to tweet to essential to a news outlet. But is Twitter really a good news outlet?
On my Twitter, I only follow 33 people (I’m new at this), and most of these are news-related. When MU played CU a couple weeks ago, I didn’t even watch the game, I followed the scores on KOMU’s Twitter. It was very convenient because I could check for updates wherever and whenever. By picking which news outlets I follow, I can select which kinds of news I want to be informed about.
Twitter is the newest use of social networking sites: it makes breaking news even faster. Twitter allows a headline to be shared with followers so they are enticed to check up on the story later as it developes and more information is gathered. I am still learning how to use Twitter and I think as I get better at it, it will become even more useful.
I foresee Twitter becoming an important part of the future of journalism. Journalism today is all about getting the information out and getting it to your audience as quickly as you can. Twitter allows journalists to put the information out there without blowing the story…I mean, you only get 160 words.
The way I see it, I am now addicted to tweeting stories that I find important and using Twitter to be constantly informed on important stories from my favorite news outlets.

Just Kickin' It

On Thursday November 5, 2009 I did my second VO Patrol. My producer called me about half an hour before my shift started and asked if I could come early to cover a cool story. I hustled out to the station but I ended up missing the event anyway because the producer didn’t allow enough time for me to get there. When I realized I wouldn’t be able to cover the story, I called the producer and she helped me find a new story.
My new story was about the 15th annual art show and silent auction benefiting RAIN. My story was the kicker so it didn’t take me long to get my filming done and my interview was really short. It was a really visual story so I had a fun time wandering around to find interesting shots.
I finished my story pretty early. Having the kicker really takes the pressure off. One thing I learned during this shift is being polite and friendly can get you a long way as a reporter. The way I see it, people are much more responsive to a reporter who is kind, polite and compassionate than one who is not.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

First Time For Everything

On Tuesday October 27, 2009, I did my very first official shift at KOMU. I was so nervous going into the shift, but I felt confident in my abilities because of all the work I have already done in Broadcast II. I came into the shift with ideas to pitch I felt confident in because of all the pitches I made in Broadcast II.
When I got to the station, my producer gave me an idea of something they needed covered. I drove out to Fulton to cover the Up ‘til Dawn, a fundraiser for St. Jude Children’s Hospital. At the event, students come and write 35 to 50 letters to friends and family asking them to help raise money for St. Jude. Interviewed Neil Stanglein, the Director of Student Involvement.
On my way back to the station, I wasn’t too worried about getting my editing done. Since I took the editing test, I knew I could edit quickly if need be. When I was in the newsroom watching my piece on air, it was one of the most exciting and proud moments of my life.
I totally understand the standards of Broadcast II. The way I see it, a newsroom serving as a training ground for students is the best place to get your start. There is only one Mizzou.

Here's my VOSOT (they had to cut the second vo and the tag for timesake)

Huff and Puff

When you Google The Huffington Post, it comes up as Breaking News and Opinion on The Huffington Post. Frankly, I think it’s the best thing they could say. THP is, in fact, the perfect mixture (in my mind) of news and opinion. We all know our news sources are very opinionated and biased, so why not just own up to it and admit it? It makes me respect THP even more.
THP is another great example of multimedia. They have article, pictures and videos. I get my fill of whatever kind of media I want. For instance, the other day I watched the neatest video they posted from National Geographic:
They also have an area for reader feedback. The blog on THP lets their readers respond to the things they read on the website, or just what they are thinking and feel the need to share.
I liked how the site was organized. It was clean and neat but visually appealing at the same time. The top tool bar organized stories into different topics as well as different major US cities. At the very top of the page, there is a bar telling you what the biggest news is at the time.
THP has sad, funny, interesting, poignant, and important articles. It’s almost like organized chaos- if you are looking for something interesting (and maybe a bit random), this would be the place to go. For instance, getting in the mood for Halloween, I stumbled upon this page on THP:
It is funny, interacting, random, and entertaining.
The way I see it, THP has all of the intelligence of The New York Times, the opinion of a good blog, and the multimedia of, all while maintaining its digestibility and interactivity. The Huffington Post is my new news love affair. Although I will always turn to KOMU, The Missourian, and CNN when I want straightforward news and need the scoop, THP is a refreshing twist on news.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Going Live in...Three...Two...

On October 1, I shadowed live truck operator Kyle Stokes for the five and six live shot. The reporter going live was Lauren Styler. It was interesting to see the process from both the perspective of the live truck operator and the reporter. We went to Mizzou Arena to cover the National Anthem auditions. First, we went to the side of the building and went down onto the court. After asking one of the staff members stationed down their and three different women’s basketball coaches, we found out there had been a miscommunication between the people at KOMU and the people at Mizzou Arena. This just caused Kyle and I to waste time running around and looking like we didn’t know what we were doing. Eventually we worked it out so we could shoot by the entrance, where people auditioning would go.
When we finally agreed on somewhere we could shoot, we had to pick a good spot that would be interesting to viewers. When we finally picked a spot, we had to get everything set up, which Kyle said can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour or maybe more. When setting up, you have to make put up the mast and make sure it points toward the station so its signals will hit the station. The mast can’t go through mountains, hills, buildings, etc… The setting up process seemed complicated because there is so much equipment: camera, cords, lights, the snake, the microphone, the power strip, and finding a power source for everything.
Once everything was set up, Kyle put up the IFB. IFB stands for interruptible feedback (Lauren remarked, “I need to get my own IFB” because they are crucial for live shots) the IFB is a device that allows the reporter and producer to communicate through the reporter’s earpiece. Lauren did, however, bring her own earpiece. In addition to that, Kyle said, “seasonally appropriate” clothes are one of the most important things reporters can bring. He advised me to invest in a good raincoat with a hood, and always have boots, coats, and hand warmers in my car. Also, he said to be sure to bring a pen and paper, your scripts, and the knowledge of where in the show the live shot will be (i.e.: “it’s in A16 but there is also a tease”). Kyle’s favorite reporters to work with are the ones that put on a show and make him look good. Lives shots are the flashy part of news and so if the reporter plays along and does everything full out, then it also makes Kyle look better.
Other than being prepared, there were a few things that Kyle said a reporter could do to help him out. Helping take down all of the equipment is a big help. He said some reporters do their live shot and then head back to the station, so he is very grateful when they stay to help him put everything away. Being on time is helpful as well. The biggest point he made was to communicate! Reporters and producers alike can help him out by communicating. If you don’t tell him exactly what you want, he will do whatever he thinks works, which might not be what you had in mind.
The most common mistake that reporters make is memorizing their scripts. Never, ever, ever, no matter what, memorize your scripts because it just causes more problems. If what you say is one word off or you forget where you are, then you sound worse than if you just have a loose idea or the script and ad lib it. Don’t marry your script, just look down once in a while and read your key bullet points.
This was my last shadow shift and the way I see it, shadow shifts are the perfect introduction before going out the station on your own work. The common thread through all of my shadow shifts was communication. Not communicating was an oft-made mistake and one that causes everyone in the newsroom headaches. Plus, all it takes is a call or a text to make sure everyone is on the same page so the newscast can run as smoothly as possible!

Climb Every Mountain

Now that I am on to package four, I have realized that no matter where I shoot, every single last location has its own set of unique challenges. My fourth package is about increased gym membership despite the economy. First, I went to a traditional gym (weights, treadmills, etc…) and found myself surrounded by mirrors and windows. Hello backlighting and my own relflection. I’ve made both of those mistakes one too many times.
After getting stood up by my source at that gym (yet another inherent challenge of broadcast), I went to a second location at an indoor rock climbing gym. No mirrors and no window. Score. Not quite… Because the gym does not harness the climbers, they have padding all over the floor that is about four inches thick. This means when I put my tripod on a padded area, I have to move to a different pad or the camera will shake horribly if I move at all.
The way I see it, every different story I cover and each different location I go to is a learning experience. There is never a story that goes 100 percent perfectly. Each story has its own unpredictable hurdles for me to figure out when I get there. This is one of the reasons that I love broadcast so much: every day is different from the one before and I am constantly learning new things.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I Wanna Be a Producer! Or do I...?

For my night side producer shadow, I shadowed Becca Habegger and Alex Carbello. I worked mostly with Becca but I also spent time with Alex while Becca was busy doing other things. When I asked Alex what the responsibilities of a producer are he simply said “everything.” And then when he stopped to think about it, he decided that a producer is really responsible for almost everything. And as I paid attention to what Becca did, she really had a lot of responsibilities. Becca had to keep track of reporters, which ended up being more of a challenge than I expected. They called her all night, and if they didn’t she had to call them and make sure everything was going okay. She had to make sure their story ideas were good enough. Two reporters had their stories fall through so she had to help them find better story idea.
Another major responsibility of the producer is creating the rundown. This is very important because it determines what the newscast will be. The producer decides what news will go in the newscast. Especially when it is a late cast, the producer has to decide which older pieces from earlier newscasts should be run again. The producer decides where the different news stories go. She/he has to put them in the order that they will appear in the newscast, and it has to be a logical order. The only thing that Becca really didn’t have to touch was the sports block. She didn’t worry about it. Sports decides how they want to use the time they are allotted. Becca also did a lot of writing. I had no idea that she was going to have to do that.
During the newscast, back in the control room, the producer’s job becomes really stressful. The pressure is really on. The producer has to make sure that the newscast is running at the right time. If the newscast is over time, the producer has to decide which stories to drop. Then, she/he has to communicate these changes to the anchors. Becca changed the newscast so that Eric Blumberg cut to break instead of the anchors, and they got a little confused. If you are a reporter and you are in doubt of what you are doing, you can go to iNews. The producer puts the reporters jobs in iNews. Or if you are still confused, just ask!
Alex said that the most important thing he learned since coming to the station is to not be afraid to speak up, in terms of asking questions and expressing your feelings. If you have a certain stance on a story, you need to be able to let the producer know, in a polite way. And you need to be able to ask questions. Lauren Styler also emphasized this. They both said that being able to ask questions is important. Becca said that it’s better to ask a question that you think is stupid than have something stupid go on air. The most common mistake the reporters make is not asking questions and not communicating. Alex said the hardest part of his job is dealing with a different set of reporters everyday. Because of this, they require more attention and you don’t know them as well.
The producer has a big job and a lot of people to keep track of. The best way for reporters to help producers do their job is to stay on time. This doesn’t just mean arriving at the station when you say you will, it pertain to the length of your package. If you are allotted 1.10, then you should stick with it. But, if you should go over or under your time, let the producer know as soon as possible.
So how does one know whether or not they should be a producer? The way I see it, you have to gauge this for yourself. If you are very uncomfortable in front of the camera, then you would be better suited for producing. Producers have to be “control freaks” said Alex. The other thing to consider is which you like more- reporting or producing. I found my producer shadow very interesting, but I think I would rather be a reporter.

Monday, September 21, 2009


In an effort to explore alternative sources of media, I decided to take a look at Little Green Footballs. The first thing that struck me was the conversational writing. I would even go so far as to say it went beyond being conversation to being colloquial at times. This is the kind of blog I could see my peers really enjoying. The stories are shorter and much easier for someone who doesn’t consume a lot of news to digest.
I think this blog effectively uses the advantage of being online. The links are very helpful and I think the enhance the stories. They have random quotes that break up the stories. Looking at older posts, I found a video form the Onion website. It’s fun to see that the author has a sense of humor. I also found bite from the Rush Limbaugh show. All of the different types of media keep readers coming back to see what’s next and prevents them from being bored. The structure of the pages makes it less intimidating than a large article. It looks like the author is having a conversation with you and only you.
The way I see it, blogs give their authors a chance to expand their horizons from just writing. They can put their opinion in and use multimedia and links that increase their readers' thirst for news

Just me and my shadow

On Thursday, September 3, I went to shadow a reporter at KOMU. Christine Slusser and I went to Centralia, Missouri to report on one man’s struggle with wheelchair accessibility in his town. It was an amazing story and I had a great time covering it. The people that we needed to interview were all very willing to speak with us, which made it a lot easier. They were really friendly and open in sharing their stories. It was an extremely visual story, which made shooting very interesting. One thing that Christine taught me was to start and stop the camera between every interview question. It makes uploading the video into Avid a lot easier. This also helped when we did the subclipping. Subclipping is when you take one of your clips and put in and out points on it before you export it into Avid.
The one thing she said she wishes she knew before she started working at KOMU was that she wanted to know how to work the cameras. The most important thing that Slusser has learned since she got to the station is to check your camera; make sure your sounds was on, etc… I had a scare about this the other day while filming my package and I’m so glad I had this tip from her. Another thing Slusser did a really good job of was keeping in contact with her producer. We called the producer when we were on our way, when we got to Centralia, in between two of our interviews, and on our way home. Slusser said that when she had a confusing story that needed clearing up, she asked her producer for help and they walked her through it.
When we got back and went into iNews, in Slusser script, it said that they had made her a graphic. They were going to put up a map to show the location of Centralia. If you need to have a graphic made, she told me that you should go ask a producer and have in mind (or a drawing) or what you want it to look like. Two other new things I found out about are bins and NRCS. To check your bin, go to Avid then hit today’s date, create a new bin and look under your name. If you want to use NRCS, go into the toolset, find the NRCS tool, click story, and export! All in all, I thought this was a really good experience and I had a lot of fun. I learned a lot of things that I will definitely apply in Broadcast II and beyond. The way I see it, it is important to do shadow shift and take baby steps before jumping right in!
Here is the link to the online version of the story Slusser and I worked on:


For my first post ever, I think I should define what journalism is. We spend so much time in class talking about journalism, titling ourselves as journalists. So what is it?
“The profession of reporting or photographing or editing news stories for one of the media.”
“Journalism is the production of news reports and editorials through media such as newspapers, magazines, radio, television and the internet.”
“A collection and editing of news for presentation through the media.”
Webster’s Dictionary:
“The work of gathering, writing, editing, and publishing or disseminating news, as through newspapers and magazines or by radio and television.

But the way I see it, journalism is so much more than news gathering. Journalists are storytellers. Journalists are truth tellers. Journalists are responsible for creating the first draft of history. And broadcast journalists? Well, they tell these stories with their words, the voices of others, sounds, and pictures.
This blog will tell my story as a journalist.