Friday, November 13, 2009

REPORTER BLOG: An "Explosive" Day in the Life of a Reporter

By Pat Henderson

How it all began
The day started out just like any other. We had the morning news meeting, made some coffee and started reporting the news. I was assigned to cover a bomb threat that had been made to Baker University Center at Ohio University, and, as terrible as it sounds, I was really excited. It was something really timely and could potentially have a big impact on the community. I got my gear in order and headed out to dig up the facts.

Chasing down the story
I was having some difficulties from the very start. The news release about the situation and the email alerts student and faculty had been receiving were pretty vague. They stated that there was a potential threat to the student center for Tuesday the 10th but that operations of the building would not change.

My goal was to find out what kind of threat it was, how the threat was delivered, and what they were doing to keep students, faculty and staff safe. Unfortunately- finding out what was actually going on proved a lot harder than I thought.

Why won’t anyone talk to me?
The Chief of Police at the Ohio University Police Department, who was the media contact for the situation, was in meetings all morning and was not available for comment. This made getting to the root of the story a little more difficult- but I was determined to find out what was going on with this threat.

So I took my equipment and went to Baker Center to try and talk to administrators for the building or even university administration. I tried to talk to the director of Baker Center, the assistant director of Baker Center, and the Dean of Students for Ohio University … none of them would talk to me. They all told me I needed to talk to Ohio University Communications and Marketing.

And my expedition continued

Next I called communications and marketing. They told me that I would have to talk to the Chief of Police at OUPD. I was slightly aggravated that I was getting the run-around from everyone I was talking to, so I made it clear that the chief was not available and that no one would speak to me. Communications and marketing was my last resort. The woman on the phone was incredibly nice and told me she would try to find someone and call me back.

About 10 minutes passed and by this time I was starting to get a little worried because the newscast was coming closer and closer. So, I trekked to Scott Quad to talk to someone from OU Communications and Marketing. When I got there- they were very nice, but they told me that, unfortunately, they couldn’t help me. Awesome.

Crunch time
I was getting shut down at every turn, but I was determined to get SOMEONE to talk to me. It was 11:15 and I still had nothing – the show was going on air in 45 minutes and I had yet to get any new information or talk to anyone on camera. I was going to make this happen.

After begging about 15 students to talk to me on camera about what was going on and their reaction to the situation, a really nice girl talked to me and expressed her concern. It was great. Then, after I thanked her and she went on her way, I discovered that my video camera was not working properly. The audio didn’t record.

Now it’s really crunch time
I ran back to the station – literally ran – and got a new camera. I hustled down to the street, stopped another 10 students asking them to talk to me and, finally, got someone to talk. The interview was great! I was so happy to finally have something to work with. Although I didn’t have much new information, at least I had something.

I ran back up to the station, wrote my story, and started editing. It was 11:55 and one of the producers turns to me and says – what are you still doing here? I had assumed I was reporting live from the newsroom, but I was wrong. I was reporting from the studio, two floors up.

Show time
I ran as fast as I could up the stairs, got hooked up to the microphone and went on the air. The story was a success. I may not have reached all my goals from the beginning of the day, but when you’re working in the news business things almost never turn out how you expected. The threat ended up being a bomb threat and nothing ever came of it. The university took the proper precautions and is now investigating to find out who may have done it. Looking back on it - it’s just another day in the life of being a TV news reporter.