Friday, November 6, 2009

REPORTER BLOG: The Halloween Assignment

Max Resnik

Excitement, anxiety, wonder and enthusiasm could all qualify as feelings when I woke Saturday morning. It was October 31, the day of Halloween. It is safe to say that I was not the only student at Ohio University who felt all of these emotions that morning.

It is the ultimate block party—a time when students come together and put studies on the backburner to have a truly memorable time. I knew that I would not be participating in the Halloween celebrations in the capacity that I have in the past. I would not be dressing up in my typical Halloween garb. (By typical I mean that I choose to dress as a famous female character each year. i.e. Dorothy from Wizard of Oz)

Costumed Students, Guests from out of town, and Locals line Court Street

The Beginning
Craig Reck, my fellow reporter in arms, met me at the Court Street BP at 5:30 in the evening. Donned in a suit to cover the serious, police and arrest side of the story, I saw Bert from Sesame Street—camera case draped over the left shoulder and a tripod under his right arm—approaching me with a big smile. I could tell Craig was excited. In his finest portrayal of Bert, Craig could not wait to get started on the feature story angle. Neither could I.

Court Street was just beginning to see some costumed students, out of town guests, and locals. The stages were filled with band equipment and rock n’ rollers ready to create the intensely fun atmosphere Athens, Ohio provides for Halloween each year.

One of the first bands takes stage

Opportunities for B-Roll
For television viewers who do not know what B-Roll is, broadcast journalists use this term to describe the elements of video a viewer watches while a voice tells the story of what is going on. B-Roll is used throughout newscasts to allow the viewer (you) to see exactly what we are describing.

Needless to say, the opportunities for B-Roll during Halloween are amazing. What qualifies as B-Roll though? Can you be more specific? Journalists like Craig and I need to look for the best video and sounds to present the viewer with. It is our hope that our writing and videotaping of a story can allow for the viewer to think he or she was there and part of the story.

In order to do so, we must begin our stories with the best video and best sound that we can offer. In the case of reporting on Halloween, people in costume, police presence including those on horseback, on foot and on bicycles, and quite frankly, drunken behavior all qualify as B-Roll.

My Angle
My angle for the Halloween story was to cover the police side of things. This side of the story entailed getting B-Roll of officers walking their beats and riding their beats whether on horseback or by bicycle.

My story for Athens MidDay

Pulling from a handful of county-wide and local agencies, police were, outnumbered by the thousands, and worked hard to create a safe and fun environment for all participants in the Halloween bash. Accompanying police, were dozens of paramedics loaded with first aid materials and emergency vehicles ready to help injured participants.

The police showed respect for the students’ fun and most students showed respect for police efforts. I found this to be very encouraging because of the shadow cast by Ohio University’s last huge block party—Spring’s annual Palmer Fest in which police, their horses and firefighters battled a two-story blaze and raucous, uncivilized students.

In the End
Upon finishing my assignment and gathering enough B-Roll and interviews about safety and Halloween crime, I had enough material to run an entire newscast on Halloween. Any time a journalist can say that, it is great. It means he or she has done everything in their power to give the viewer the best possible understanding of the story. It means that a journalist can at least hope that the viewer will feel as though he or she had been there and seen the action first hand.

Additionally, I realized that being a journalist means sacrificing for the public’s knowledge. I turned initial apprehension about my assignment into what I now view as my most successful story for Athens MidDay. I am proud of both my efforts and my ability to put the craziness of Halloween aside to report on a story that supplied its own unique fun.

External Link:
To see what Halloween was like for Craig. Check out his blog.

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