Wednesday, February 4, 2009

REPORTER BLOG: Assignment--Get Reaction to Governor Strickland's Education Plan

Nicole DeChant

Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes of story you see on TV? Well, here's a look at the journey to report on how Governor Strickland's radical education plans might impact Athens schools.

When reporter Josh Mei and I first started working on this story, we were surprised how quickly the Athens City Schools Superintendent Carl Martin responded. We set up an interview with him in the afternoon, and got great responses from him. The only critique I would give myself for his interview is that we could have fixed his wireless microphone to be better hidden behind his tie. All in all though, we found what we were looking for in our story.

Student Perspective
After researching more into Governor Ted Strickland's plans for education in the state, we wanted to get some student reaction. We tried contacting Athens Middle School and Athens High School for permission to interview students. However, it was very difficult for us to contact the schools and we never heard back from their offices. Instead, after Josh and I interviewed Superintendent Martin, we drove over to Athens High School to shoot some video for our story. Just our luck, there was a student waiting for his ride outside and we managed to grab a quick interview with him.

Camera Rolling
Yes, it was good luck to stumble on this student, but the actual interview proved to be difficult. While we were interviewing the student, busses were arriving behind us, creating very loud background noise that was ruining what he was saying. Also, while Josh was interviewing him I was controlling the camera, but the student would not stand still and kept moving back and forth. I adjusted the shot to be wider to incorporate his movement, but it was still in the middle of one of his quotes and I was a little upset about that.

Then, on top of it all I realized at the last second that there was snow directly behind the shot of the student and I didn't adjust the lens to reduce the brightness. Shooting in front of a really bright background like snow on a sunny day can make the person you're interviewing look darker. I had problems with this the last time I went out on a story, so I was crossing my fingers that the video would turn out right.

A Surprising Turn
Just when you think you have your story nailed down, you come across a surprise. While doing the research on Governor Strickland's education plan, I came across an article that mentioned how the plan could affect jobs and the tourism industry. It pointed out that if schools extended the school year by 20 days, that's 20 days that families will not be planning vacations. That's also 20 days that high school students can't work part-time jobs in the summer.

I asked Athens High School student Nick Betem about how it would effect his summer plans. He said he works for his father's company during the summers, so this wouldn't effect his employment because he usually has a guaranteed job and he doesn't feel his father s business will be hurt by this. So I asked him where most of the high school students work over the summer and he replied,"Definitely (Ohio University) Baker Center. If not a fast food restaurant, then they all work at Baker Center. In fact, I was actually thinking about looking into getting a job there this summer because everybody else does."

Couldn't Get my Angle
After discovering that most Athens area high school students work at Baker Center over the summer, I wanted to get a comment from some of them. Unfortunately, the high school was just letting out and Josh and I wanted to get some video of the students on the high school campus. By the time I tried contacting Baker Center, people had already left for the day and no one was available for comment. Plus, Josh was focusing his TV story on the ACT testing and I was originally focusing my web story on the extra school days. This way we could try to cover two different angles.

I really, really wanted to turn my story around and cover it from an economic angle of the summer jobs and summer travel. However, it was already too late in the day to get the interviews and footage I would need in order to do that. I think that I will save this story idea for a later date or perhaps turn it into a longer feature story.

So, that's the journey that brought us to television and web stories on Athens schools reaction to the governor's education plan. Here's my web story.

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