Monday, December 7, 2009

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!

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