Taking the Lead — KCRA Lead Story on Kings Season Tickets
As I detailed in my book Breaking Into TV News, I wanted to turn myself into a reliable reporter-photographer to make myself more valuable on the news staff. One of my goals in this plan was to make myself known as a back-up reporter. If the news was short on reporters on a day, that I could be a person who could be called upon to turn a package as a one-person reporter and photographer and help to fill out the rundown of a newscast.
This past Saturday, August 3, 2013, just such a situation arose. The early morning anchor had a family situation where she had to leave right after the morning news and was not available for a few more hours to turn a quick package for the later 5 and 6 o’clock newscasts, as is normally the case. On top of that, the early morning reporter also had to leave right after the morning news and could not turn another story for later.
I’m always on the lookout for a story that I can turn around myself. The assignment editor gave me two assignments and I volunteered to try and turn one of them around as a package.
“If you could do that it would be great because I’m really short on stories for the later shows.”
I left the station on the two assignments — the first being about a 5K run that attracts thousands of people to downtown Sacramento every year.
But it was the second story that I thought had more punch:
At Sleep Train Arena, Kings fans were getting a last chance to purchase season tickets to the upcoming 2013-2014 Sacramento Kings NBA basketball season and to actually go around the arena and try out the seats to see what suited them best.
I am not a sports fan, but the Sacramento Kings have become much more than a basketball team here in Sacramento — they’ve become a major subject of city politics and big business. With all the recent changes with the team (see the backstory below if you are not from around here) I decided to make this into a business story. Giving a story a financial, economic peg makes a story much stronger, more serious, and can move it higher up on the story rundown.
Of the half-dozen folks I talked to (interviewed) only one couple had ever had season tickets before — and that was back in the 1980s. Everyone else had been to games, but none had ever committed to wanting to attend every game. And everyone said they were doing this to get on the list for season tickets to the new arena. They also all said that they felt that they weren’t only committing to a team, but felt that they were investing in the city’s future. This made the story much more than an ordinary sports fans story.
Once I got back to the station I logged the interviews and wrote my script, then turned it in to the 6 o’clock producer, who then informed me that because of the shortage of dayside reporters, unless there was any breaking news to happen between then and 6 PM — my story would be the lead story at 6 o’clock.
This gave me a little extra pressure and made me feel that the decision I made on how to approach this story was the right one.
Most people associate photographer-driven stories to be feature-oriented with pretty pictures. And if that’s what the story is, then it gets relegated to the back half of the news. This is why I try to focus on stories that involve money-issues.
This marks the first time, to my knowledge, that a photographer has shot and reported the lead story on KCRA-3 news.
(If you’re not from Sacramento then you might need a little backstory to appreciate the significance of the TV news story and why it warranted being a lead story:)
The Kings have been lead story and front page news here in Sacramento for several years. There have been ongoing plans for building a new arena in an effort to revitalize downtown, which has been a major drama further compounded by the owners, the Maloof family, making various deals over the years to try and relocate the Kings to Las Vegas, Anaheim, and who knows where else. Every year has been a major stand off as to whether the Kings were going to be here another year or not.
All of this finally came to a head in the past year with the NBA voting unanimously to keep the Kings in Sacramento, which almost immediately drove the Maloofs to sell to team to a new team of owners, headed by tech billionaire Vivek Ranadivé. Once that happened, almost immediately a deal came about to transform an ailing downtown plaza into the new state-of-the-art events arena.
I am not a sports fan and, quite frankly, I had grave doubts of anything working out in the city’s favor. But, thanks to the dedication of Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson, he pulled all the pieces together and now, well over a decade into the process with this on-going drama, there is a new chapter in Sacramento’s city history that is about to unfold.