Wayne Freedman: Fellow Journalist Getting The Word Out On Working In Television — In Print
I was in Vallejo this past Wednesday, November 30, covering the memorial for fallen Vallejo police officer James Capoot. It was a very moving memorial where all of the media from Sacramento and the Bay Area were on hand.
(One of Wayne Freedman’s reports for KGO-TV on the officer James Capoot memorial.)
As I was filming the event I started looking over at one of the other journalists there who was wearing a baseball cap and was wondering if I he was someone I’d recently spoken with over the phone. Once the event had ended I went over to him and asked, “Excuse me, are you Wayne Freedman?”
“Yes, I am.”
“I’m Mike Carroll. I interviewed you for my book some months back.”
As I announced recently, I’m wrapping up a new book, One-Man Newsman, on being a one-person TV news journalist, meaning both the reporter and the photographer. The book contains eleven interviews with professionals who’ve been honing their craft for over thirty years, as well as a newcomer who’ve been hitting the streets for less than six months.
Wayne Freedman was one of the first people I interviewed. He’s also a professional who I was incredibly grateful to be able to include in this book. Wayne is a legend in broadcast news, who first started being published when he was still in high school. He’s been a reporter in television business since the late-1970′s, working in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, and for CBS News. He’s also set a record as being the recipient of 51 Emmys for broadcasting excellence. He’s currently at KGO-TV in San Francisco. Once or twice a week, though, he hits the streets with a camcorder and shoots in-depth pieces, which are the personal stories that fuel his passion as a TV journalist.
Wayne was extraordinarily forthcoming with me in discussing his career in television, his working methods and dedication to writing and storytelling. Ironically, as Wayne was talking with me for my book, which will be out in just a few months on Amazon, he was was wrapping up a front-to-back revision of his own book about TV news storytelling, how to get into the business and how to do the work — It Takes More Than Good Looks to Succeed at Television News Reporting, 2nd Edition. Wayne was also generous enough to put me in touch with a number of new, young one-person journalists across the country who I also interviewed for my book.
I believe that Wayne would agree with me when I say that there are an abundance of books, both academic and in general, that deal with the topics of TV news — yet there are almost none that have been written from the inside by professionals, each with thirty years of experience in television, and who are still doing the job and hitting the pavement on stories every day.
For journalism students, both in high school and college, as well as for professionals interested in different approaches on how to improve their craft, both of these books should be invaluable information. So our books will not be competing with each other, but . Combined, our two books should compliment each other, reinforcing the essence of journalism, which is to get multiple sources of information in order to make more educated decisions.
What follows is a brief extract from my interview with Wayne that should illustrate the dedicated journalist that he is and why you should not hesitate to order a copy of his book It Takes More Than Good Looks to Succeed at Television News Reporting, 2nd Edition.
How much time do you have to work on an HFR [Hold-For-Release, a story that is not broadcast on the same day that it is shot] story?
It’s usually drive to, shoot it, and get back—a one day shoot. The most elaborate shoot was a story I did at a drive-in movie, which was a day and a half, and the other half day was combined with another story with a scientific researcher in Mono Lake. But that was just distance. I finished shooting them in an hour, hour and a half.
How do you shoot technically?
I shoot a lot of sequences. A lot of the classic wide, medium, tight. I remember, always shoot the wide shot. Sometimes you’re going to forget it.
If it’s a fast-action thing, I’ll put it on autofocus and just run with it. The camera it-self is so ungainly. I’d rather have it on my shoulder. I like holding it up to my eye and looking through the viewfinder. I don’t like using that screen that flips out, because you can’t count on it. Your arms get pretty damn tired that way. I use a tripod a lot more than my hands. But generally whatever the situation needs.
Because all the viewfinders are on the left side of the camera, it’s a struggle to do interviews with people and not have them facing camera left—because I want some to look left, some look right, change up the focal length. But all the MOS’s [Man-On-the-Street interviews] are pretty much always looking camera left. This is why nine times out of ten my stand-up will have me walking in from the left side——so I can see it in the flip out screen.
Do you edit?
Yes, I edit all my HFR stories. I didn’t start out with the little stuff. I started out with all the stories I really wanted to do badly and they were all three or four minutes long. My very first story took thirteen hours to edit. I’m a stickler on blending sound and the aesthetics that make a story good.
The interesting thing I find as a one-man band is that as the reporter I still find myself cursing the photographer quite a lot. The photographer in me gets really pissed at the reporter. And then the editor gets frustrated with both of them. I’m now bi-polar or tri-polar.
Do you think that maybe ten years from now MMJs [Multi-Media Journalists] will be the standard out on the street?
How many two-man radio crews do you see around anymore? I can’t see the future, but probably with some technology that we haven’t even imagined yet. I think the business is going to be faster and lighter, but I don’t necessarily think it’s going to be terrific.
What is the reporter in you thinking about in the field?
He’s thinking about what he’s always thinking about—I’m always looking for the story. And I’m still doing exactly that—I just don’t have to tell anybody anymore. “There’s a moment happening over here—shoot this.” I have tons and tons of respect and affection for photographers. But sometimes they didn’t understand why I would want them to shoot something and there’s no time to explain that this is a small moment, but it could be something that I could build the entire story around. Now, there’s been a lot of times when they would have shot something that I would have missed. But I’m still a reporter. I’m a writer. This is just a tool.
My big things are beginnings, middles, endings, main characters, and what I call Simple Truths and Universal Appeal. If you can put those items in a story and structure them properly, you’re going to get viewers every time.
(Extract from “One-Man Newsman: Being A Television Journalist In The Dig-ital Age & Getting A Job In TV News” — available from Amazon in softcover and Kindle in early 2012.)