Wednesday, April 27, 2011
This is the typical time-line of how an average daily TV news story works:
Return to the KCRA assignment desk around 11:30 after spending the morning on one story at the courthouse.
“Load that stuff [we are tapeless and everything gets loaded into the computer system], take your lunch,” Melissa, on the assignment desk, said as she handed me some printouts. “Then head out to Fair Oaks and check this out. Maybe it’s a VO-SOT or maybe you can turn it into one of your Mike Carroll packages?”
I haven’t done one of my photographer-reporter packages in months and I’ve been getting antsy to do one. I was grateful to have this gift of a prospect to do a new one.
Usually when I’m facing the prospect of doing one of my own packages I want to take every minute that is available to me to get as much shot as I can and then put the emphasis on the writing.
This time out I played things differently — I took my lunch and relaxed for an hour.
This wasn’t being lazy or the attitude of taking for granted that I can turn a package on my own. This was Another test for myself.
When I work with a reporter on a story it’s take for granted that we can turn something. I know I can shoot it and edit it fast and I know that any of our reporters can turn a script on a dime. I need to push myself further in that direction. This time I’m going to turn a story within the same time restraints that a photographer and reporter team would turn a TV news story in the same time frame.
So come one o’clock, lunch finished, I drove out to Fair Oaks. Took about thirty minutes to get there. Knocked on the door of a woman who’d sent us an e-mail about the story — that she and her family had moved in last December and then she discovered that the house directly across the street had been abandoned and that even was it was inhabited the owners had allowed it to become infested with bees. Pretty incredible, but true. Now that it was warming up the bees were becoming more active and she was concerned for the safety of her children.
I shot an interview, tried talking to other neighbors with no success. Shot lots — lots — of footage of the house and close-ups of the bees. On a story like this you can’t have too many super-tight close-ups. Eighteen minutes of footage in all. Normally I’ll shoot 30 or more on the average story.
I only had one principle interview and a brief comment from the neighborhood mailman on the situation. It’s always better to have two or three or more interviews from different people. But there’s do disputing the situation. And the story only has to run 1:15 – one minute and fifteen seconds — 75 seconds in all. I had more than enough for that.
Then around 2:30 packed up, called Melissa to let her know that I had enough to make a package, and headed back to the station. On the way I mulled over the facts of the story and an intro. I always write everything associated with my stories — the anchor intro, the body of the package (what TV people call a story) and the anchor comments that follow the story. I scribbled out a few paragraphs while waiting at stop lights.
Got into the station just after three. While loading the footage into the AVID editing system I put the intro into the station computer for the producers to review. Started entering my notes. Once the footage was loaded I logged the interviews, made preliminary sound cuts, and started writing around four.
Writing always takes the most time. Trying to make a cohesive story with a beginning, middle and end out of what you’ve shot completely on the fly only an hour or so before. This is what takes all reporters the most time — trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together — the facts that have to be told interwoven with the interview sound to corroborate and propel the story forward.
By five I had the script written. I write in Microsoft Word so as not to tie up the producer script computer system that all the newscasts work from in the modern digital newsroom. I then copied the script into the system and submitted it to the producer. I knew it was too long but assured the producer that I would cut it down along the way.
Karen, the six o’clock producer made a few clarifications to the script, moved a sentence or two to the anchor tag and approved.
By 5:10 I was in the audio booth tracking. I’ve gotten better at this, I think. I’ve gotten used to my voice and, most importantly, what tongue-ties me — this makes a difference because you learn this in advance and write your scripts so that you can speak them.
5:15, I sit down in the edit bay and start to cut.
5:25, all my track and the interviews are laid down on the AVID timeline. I do all the track and interview sound first so that I have a running time on the story. This is called the A-Roll. My first edit came in at 1:35. Need ed to chop out :20.
5:28, have the timeline down to 1:15. Had to cut some interview and a few sentences of my track. Every reporter has to do this so I can be no different.
Start laying in the B-Roll. No pun intended here. These are the shots that go over and accompany the reporter track and the interviews.
SPEED EDITING TIP: When your editing against the clock and throwing together shots that don’t cut very smoothly — throw in a quick dissolve between them. This adds a production quality that make it look as if you spent three or four times as much time in the editing.
5:45, the six o’clock editing coordinator asks if I have the time to cut a headline for my story for the top of the show? No problem. Cut a quick :30 of my best bee shots and send them off to the editing system. (Everything is tapeless and digitized so uploading our stories to run on the news is the same as sending off an e-mail.)
5:50, finish editing the story. Double-check it to make sure there are no holes or other technical errors. Upload it to the system.
5:51, while the story is uploading I revise the script, deleting the portions that I edited out and putting in times of where to superimpose the location, “Fair Oaks,” and the name of the woman who is interviewed.
6:00, I’m off and cleared out of the editing bay.
I’m always nervous when one of my own stories is running. I’m afraid that I’ve missed something and there’s going to be a glaring technical error. As a precaution, before leaving the edit bay I copied the story out of the news rundown to check it one more time — everything checked out so I had to let it go.
But I’m still not ready to relax yet. I wander into the newsroom and sit down at an unoccupied desk to watch the story on the news. It hits right after the first commercial break, which comes at about 6:10.
6:12, the Six O’Clock KCRA Reports returns from it’s commercial break to KCRA anchor Galston Dart introing my story, saying the words that I came up with while driving back from Fair Oaks a few hours before. The story runs without a hitch.
Around the newsroom producers and writers are at their desks working on their shows that will run later in the evening. They all have TV monitors on their desks with the news cast running. Around the newsroom I hear people saying, “This sounds like the house down the street from my house.” And then during my shots of honeycomb seeping out from the walls of “the bee house” I hear, “Oh, Jesus, look at that” and “Can you believe this?”
I’ll admit it, I love hearing reactions like that!
6:15, story’s aired — and aired flawlessly. Relieved, I take up my pack and head out.
A typical day in TV news.