Friday, October 16, 2009

REPORTER BLOG: Surviving the “Sick Season”

By Pat Henderson

For me, the fall and winter months have become known as the “sick season,” and for good reason. We all get sick at one time or another. Heck, even I get sick – but I think it always boils down to a certain time of the year when it seems like EVERYONE is getting sick.

This week just happened to be one of those times. It’s as if we’re in the height of the season and there’s no turning back.

Who Opened Pandora's 'Sick' Box?
The week started off strong, with only a few members of our staff feeling a little cold coming on, but by the time Tuesday rolled around it seemed like someone opened Pandora’s Box.

I know being sick is out of anyone’s control – but when you have a small newsroom staff, it’s hard to keep your blood pressure at a healthy level when you are missing four staff members. The stress can eat away at you, but I think everyone in our newsroom kept their cool. We handled the situation very well. We managed to get the newscasts on the air without any major errors as if we were at full staff.

Jobs #1 & 2
Everyone in the newsroom had to step up to the challenge and lend a helping hand. I came in Tuesday and ended up transitioning jobs three times and executing two. I entered the newsroom as the online reporter for the day, but the television reporter (who I would go out on a story with and help shoot video) was sick and had no voice, so I said I would switch places with her. I was then television reporter. No biggie.

Job #3
Then – after the morning meeting, the sick call-offs started rolling in and my online reporter became associate producer. But now she was really sick herself and was in need of some rest, so she ended up going home for the day. I was really glad she did because she was able to get better and come back after a few days off ready to go. In the meantime – I was the new associate producer.

We executed the show with minimal snags, and I was then responsible for continuing my job as television reporter. This is where the difficulty began.

Back to Job #2
My assignment was a local response to Ohio Ballot Issue #3: the Casino Initiative. Since we had been so short staffed earlier in the day, I didn’t have time to go out into the community and interview people until later in the evening and let me tell you… it was like pulling teeth.

I stood in the Kroger parking lot for quite some time trying to get people to talk to me and give me their opinion about issue #3 and I couldn’t get anyone to talk to me about the issue. After 45 minutes of failed attempts it started to get dark so I moved my inquisition to the Athens Community Center where the only activity going on was open gym. I managed to get a few people to talk to me about the issue, most of which would not go on camera, but it was a step in the right direction!! After another 45 minutes of seeking people out, I eventually managed to get two people to talk to me and they had really great opinions on the topic.

Kristin Eberts on Issue #3

Melissa Holland on Issue #3

Getting It on the Air
The creation process the next day was a little difficult because a lack of extra video to put with my voice, but I ended up using a few full screen graphic charts to help depict the story.

It may have been stressful at the time, but looking back I think it was a great learning experience. I think being able to create the product we did with so many people sick really showed our true commitment to delivering news to the community. I am proud to say that I have survived a week of the “sick season.” Now let’s just hope we don’t get a swine flu outbreak!

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