Thursday, October 15, 2009

REPORTER BLOG: Join a Reporter on a Typical Day

Brian Boesch

There is no such thing as a typical day in the newsroom at Athens MidDay. In fact, I’m pretty sure there is no such thing as a typical day in the world of journalism.

After my experience with Athens MidDay and WXTQ-FM/WATH-AM Radio here in Athens, I now believe that being a reporter is the most hectic job in the profession.

This past Monday, I was the "same day" reporter for MidDay. As the "same day" reporter, my responsibility was to report, write and edit a one-minute story for the beginning of the newscast. I had about three hours to work with. Let me take you through the Monday morning journey that eventually (and barely) led to a story about a case of bacterial meningitis at Ohio University.

A freshman named Charlie Wulf had been diagnosed with bacterial meningitis, a rare and possibly fatal disease, over the weekend. My job was to get the university’s reaction to the situation.

Every morning, all MidDay team members arrive at 8:30 to begin their day. By 9 a.m., we have a morning meeting to figure out the direction that our newscast will go. During that meeting, I received my story and began the three-hour process.

The Early Research
9:14 a.m.—I began researching the situation and trying to figure out which Ohio University official I wanted to interview. There were two original possibilities: Ryan Lombardi, the Dean of Students, and Kent Smith, the Vice President of Student Affairs. I decided to focus on Lombardi first.

9:21 a.m.—I called Lombardi’s office and was told that he would be out for the day. However, the secretary informed me that Jennifer Hall-Jones, the assistant dean, would possibly be willing to speak with me. I decided to wait for that possibility and focus my immediate attention on the video for the story.

Out in the Field
9:32 a.m.—After a little bit more research, I went to James Hall, which is about a 10-minute walk from the newsroom. Once there, I shot video of the building and students walking on West Green. During the time away from the newsroom, I constantly worry about the interview. There is never a guarantee that someone will call you back, and some sort of interview sound is almost essential.

10:06 a.m.—For more video and a possible interview, I went to the Hudson Health Center. As I was about to pack up my camera and go inside, I heard my phone. A woman named Megan was on the line. Apparently, Lombardi’s secretary called over to Megan, Kent Smith’s secretary, and basically arranged an interview for me. Smith would be a great person to talk about the story, so I thankfully accepted the interview.

10:18 a.m.—I arrived at Cutler Hall for the interview, and Megan informed me that I would have to wait a few minutes. I didn’t care. I had some time to relax and brainstorm what I would write for my story--the script.

10:38 a.m.—I was still waiting, but Megan kept me updated on Smith’s status (he was in a meeting before I arrived). Megan was a soothing and helpful piece to this story’s journey, which is not always what you get out in the field. She is a big reason this story turned out so well.

10:42 a.m.—The sound of Smith’s door opening immediately caught my attention. After a sigh of relief, I headed into his office. The interview went well, and I was gone within ten minutes. Smith was easy to work with and gave me a few great answers. I even talked a little football with him as I was packing up.

10:54 a.m.—As I was walking back to the newsroom, MidDay producer Ed Zelaski calls me to make sure that everything is going well. We are a team here at Athens MidDay.

Writing and Editing
11:00 a.m.—One hour until we hit the air, and I was back in the newsroom writing my story. A television story is written differently than a newspaper article or even a radio story, so I’m still new at the whole process. While it did take me a little bit of time, I finished it within 20 minutes.

11:21 a.m.—I was trying to get my story cleared so that I can edit it, but the executive producer Sally Ann Cruikshank was working on some other aspects of the newscast, which is common with so many people needing assistance. After about ten minutes, I received the OK and started editing. But time was running out because my story was at the top of the cast.

The Finished Product
11:48 a.m.—With 12 minutes to spare, I turned in my tape. It was done! However, my job is not quite done, yet. I will have to do a live shot in the newsroom introducing and concluding my 45-second story. I quickly prepared myself for being on-air (tighten the tie, clean off the shirt, comb the hair, etc.). I was ready to go just seconds before the opening music hit and the show began.

12:01 p.m.—Three hours of hard, stressful work culminates in about one minute of on-air glory. Everything ran smoothly, and I lead off the newscast well. You can take a look at the finished product below.

Athens MidDay reporter Brian Boesch discusses a case of bacterial meningitis on the campus of Ohio University.

12:04 p.m.—I am finally able to soak in a successful morning of reporting by watching the rest of the newscast and by hearing compliments in the critique following the show.

A reporter has a tough and sometimes thankless job. However, there are very few moments that are as satisfying as the one I had at 12:04 p.m. Monday. The story ran, people liked it and it was of interest to the audience. In the journalism world, that’s not how it always works, so I have to soak it in. Who knows how tomorrow’s day will go.

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