Thursday, January 29, 2009


By Drew Schaar

As a reporter for Athens MidDay, I don’t have the luxuries of a commercial station. There’s not a photographer who goes out with us to help shoot video and interview people. We don’t have a news car or van to take us from place to place. There aren’t capabilities for us to go live from a scene. We deal with what we have and we make it work. We are fortunate that our equipment is good…especially for a learning establishment, and that is our main purpose. We do the best with what we have and we try every day to deliver the best content to the viewer. I think we succeed in that.

However, when covering stories that require you to travel and be out and about all day, I really wish we had a lot of resources on our hands. This week I covered the snow and ice storm that hit Southeastern Ohio as a “one man band.” This means that I was responsible for setting up interviews, operating the camera, asking the questions, writing the scripts, editing the video, and turning the story into something that could be aired on television – all by myself. It was an experience and a fun story to cover. Nevertheless, trudging up and down Court Street when the sidewalks haven’t been shoveled while lugging twenty pounds of equipment around is more than treacherous.

As a reporter, I am always in a race against the clock. We live the life of deadlines and pressure. Trying to get the story as soon as we can and get it to the viewer is a time consuming process. As I covered the Athens Snow Storm of 2009, I did so without a real plan. The team of reporters all grabbed gear and went out to document as much as we could in as little time possible. A group of three people scoured the town shooting video and trying to interview anyone we could. Some of the content had to be turned around almost immediately for use on air. Another reporter and I were assigned to cover the story for the next day, so we had a little bit of time. Luckily, our studio and newsroom are located very close to official offices in Athens. We were able to grab a quick, impromptu interview with Sheriff Pat Kelly at his Washington Street Office. He gave us some great information on the roads, crews, snow emergency levels and what they were doing to prepare. From there I made a few phone calls to set some interviews up for later in the day. The other reporter and I dispersed to cover more sides of the story.

I felt it was important to talk to as many people as I could, both official and everyday people. Some residents had horrible experiences getting to work. Others seemed to make it in ok, but weren’t happy about the weather. Still others seemed excited and happy about the snow. I was originally excited for the storm. Then when I had to get out and walk around in the mess, I was convinced otherwise. It was amazing all of the different thoughts and feelings about the storm. After a few interviews, my story was starting to come together. My partner reporter talked to some students at Ohio University to get their thoughts and experiences walking to class. Some seemed un-phased; others had horror stories of walking in from far off campus.

I finished the day by making numerous phone calls to state and city agencies to get the latest on how they were coping and preparing for the storm. I concluded my interviews I had set up that day and then went home to write. Scripting this story was very difficult compared to other stories I have covered. This was an ever-changing storm system and I had to be careful to include that in my script to make it flexible. My story was scheduled to air on Wednesday, but that was interrupted with a Level Three Snow Emergency and the closing of the university. We didn’t go on air Wednesday, the day the story was to air. That meant more tweaking of my script to make sure that it was still relevant and included the information from the ice portion of the storm, as well as the Level Three.

I worked very hard covering this story. I was out in the snow, the cold, and the slippery surfaces. I constantly updated and tweaked my script to keep it up to date. For me this wasn’t just a “cover it and be done” story. It kept evolving and changing while I was covering it. It makes it difficult from a reporter standpoint to do the best you can in the time you have in an ever-changing situation. In the end, the story aired and updated viewers about the experience of the storm. Some of the information may have been a little dated, but I did the best I could. For me, this story was always supposed to air on Wednesday, but I just had to role with the changes and make it work. If you are interested in seeing how the story turned out on air, you can find it below.

Snow Storm Television Package

To read another blog about reporting in the winter weather, click here.

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