Students Connecting To Columbus Through Communication
christinajkleehammerI am a senior at Columbus State University, majoring in Communication. I've worked in TV and Film Production for four years and am now incorporating my skills and knowledge into my higher education experience.
Chris and Jenny Jackson from Jenny Jack Sun Farm in Pine Mountain,Ga., that is featured in the documentary “GROW!” – Photo by Anthony-Masterson.
My last blog post was about the difficult stories, but this one is about the ones that peeked our curiosity and make us laugh.
The article I shared above is about a restaurant in Americus that’s hosting a screening of “GROW!”, a documentary about Georgia’s local, organic farming culture. I didn’t realize we have such a thriving young farming community in our state, and I thoroughly enjoyed learning about it while simultaneously informing the WTVM web viewers as well. I hope a lot of people are able to attend the event. It’s a little far away, but I may even try to go as well. Sounds cool!
When it comes to good news, as with bad, you never know what’s going to happen next. Today, everyone was sitting at their desks, working quietly in the newsroom, when Kelsey (Assignment Editor) announced that we have to see this video of Richard Simmons promoting Auburn University Aviation Program, which was just posted to YouTube that moment. Next thing we know, the whole newsroom is cracking-up! I suggested Austin (6 o’clock News Producer) use it as the kicker for his show, which he was thrilled to do. (Good kickers can be difficult to come by sometimes.)
We were definitely laughing, but Auburn fans can be the ones to decide whether or not the viral video counts as good news or bad. What do you think?
As you can imagine, this has been a pretty action-packed week at WTVM News Leader 9. We were sitting in the producers’ meeting on Monday afternoon going over the stories for each show when one of the producers looks at his phone and suddenly says, “Two explosions just went off at the Boston Marathon.”
Silence. Scratch the plans. National breaking news changes everything. Here we go…
There’s an interesting relationship between local news and their national corporate affiliations. The local 5 o’clock WTVM news show did not even air due to ABC’s coverage of the live events in Boston. Still, relevant local events do not pause for the rest of the world. So, I worked on updating a local breaking web story about a teenage boy who shot his parentswhile every major network reported on the Boston tragedy, and the WTVM newsroom bustled to be prepared just incase they had to go on air to report about the events.
The thing about working in news is that you always know what’s happening in the media world the moment that it happens. On days when people inexplicably injure the innocent, it’s challenging not to be able to shut it off.
But then there are days when the world watches on as the good guy wins and the authorities bring justice. That was Friday night, when Courtney the web producer had a Birthday dinner at Loco’s. Some of the anchors were there on their dinner break between live broadcasts, and while we were there, the Boston bomber suspect was captured in a boat in someone’s backyard. The WTVM anchors immediately tweeted it to their followers, then left to go tell them on TV. In moments like that, working in news can be pretty rewarding.
With some of the WTVM News Team, celebrating Courtney’s Birthday at Loco’s Grill.
I arrived in the WTVM Newsleader 9 newsroom on Monday to find that the person I’ve been shadowing in the web department was out sick for the day. With two positions currently in the process of being filled in the web department, Courtney has been the only person working in web. And she wasn’t there.
What would you have done in that situation? Would you have decided to shadow someone else in a different department? Would you have considered the situation a good reason to take the day off?
I considered both of those options, but instead, I came up with another idea. There was no one in the newsroom who could focus on updating the website for the day (kind of a big deal). So, since I knew all of the log-in information, I decided to step-up.
I went into the information grid where all of the news stories are located, and got an idea of what was going on in the world that day. Then, I asked Darryl, the News Director, if it was alright for me to go through the stories from the noon show, and add any to the website that were not already on there. He thought it was a great idea!
I spent the day writing stories, producing images and web videos, and posting the links to social media. WTVM did not fall behind. At one point, we had a breaking news story about an officer-involved shooting on I-185. It was so exciting try to get the story online as soon as possible, before any other sources.
Footage from the Officer-involved shooting on I-185
You can find one of my stories about a reckless driver being granted bond court right here.
Today, I was greeted in the newsroom by a grateful Courtney who had heard that I did really well on Monday. That’s always a good thing to hear.
Weeks 9 and 10 were “Freestyle” weeks, which means that I had the opportunity to choose which department I wanted to work with. Which department would you have chosen?
Personally, I decided to work with the web department. New media is having such an enormous affect on the craft of journalism, and communication in general. So, I wanted to get an inside understanding of how a news station uses new media to connect with their audiences. Courtney, one of the Digital Content Producers, has been my mentor in this process.
The first platform I learned to use is called the Datasphere. WTVM News Leader 9 has several community webpages for each local area within their range of audience in Georgia and Alabama. These sites focus on local news within these towns. The Datasphere is the program WTVM uses to update and maintain these sites. Here’s one of the stories I posted in the first week.
A story I wrote and posted to the Eufaula community website.
The next platform I learned was WorldNow Producer, which is a lot more complicated and involved than the Datasphere. It’s the program used for updating and maintaining the main WTVM website. I learned how to create new stories, place them in the correct place within the website, post links, simultaneously update the twitter feed, create clips from our live news shows, and attach the clips to the corresponding online story. If you happen to be a regular visitor to the WTVM website, and perhaps have noticed a few quirky technical mistakes that were later corrected in some of the stories, that was most-likely my little intern self learning the ropes. I’m very grateful to Courtney for letting me jump right in, and learn by doing.
Eventually, I started to get the hang of it! I was so proud the moment I posted a top story, with the video clip from the live show, to the main website without any help that I announced my accomplishment to the entire newsroom. You can find that post here!
This week, I had the task of coming-up with the Kicker for the 5 o’clock news on WTVM News Leader 9. The Kicker is an upbeat story at the end that closes the news show on a positive note. At first, I was going to write a story about a seagull that landed on the chimney atop the Sistine Chapel and stayed there grooming itself for quite some time as the world watched for smoke. I had chosen the footage and was working on the quirky script when suddenly, white smoke appeared from the chimney, signaling that the new Roman Catholic Pope had been chosen. For the rest of the day, this was the top news story with live footage on every major network all over the world. So, all of the WTVM producers rearranged their shows to make room for it, and as for me, it seemed that the right time for the seagull story had passed.
White Smoke on the WTVM Newsroom Monitors
Back to the drawing board!
In the end, I wrote a short segment about this viral video of baby seals playing on a wind-surfboard. It was really cute, and the 5 o’clock producer was pleased with it. Not exactly headline news, but it was a slim-pickin’s kind of day for kicker stories, and the segment accomplished it purpose as the anchors signed-off with a chuckle. This was also a great experience for me to learn all aspects of producing a news story from start to finish.
My baby seals story going on live air in the WTVM Production Control room.
Do you have any idea what a Television News Producer does? If so, I will be very impressed, because when I first began my internship, I had no idea. As requested, I will be spending at least two weeks learning from the Producers at WTVM, and this week was the first.
News producers are responsible for organizing and coordinating the live news broadcast. Before a program begins, they organize the order of the stories, assign footage, write the scripts, etc. In one word, producers communicate. Their job is to coordinate with the assignment desk, the editors, the director, the anchors, the reporters, and everyone involved, keeping everyone organized and on the same page. During the live broadcast, Producers make sure the show is sticking to the time schedule. They coordinate with the reporters and photogs waiting on standby, they give cues, and if there are time issues or if breaking news happens during the show, the Producer decides how to reorganize the program by dropping and adding stories on the spot.
Wednesday was a great day to be working with the Producers, because one of them had taken the day off. Since Anna, the noon and 5 o’clock producer, had also taken on the 7 o’clock show for the day, she was happy to put me to work helping her write some of the scripts. All of the facts and information were already present, so writing news scripts in this sense means phrasing the story in a way that is clear, effective, and fits in the appropriate time frame. I wrote several stories including scripts for the Benedict XVI’s last moments as Pope, Georgia vacationers, and young adults having less debt but no credit. I also wrote most of teasers, which are the little mini-scripts that inform the audience about what’s coming-up after the commercial break. For example, here are some of the teasers I wrote:
“MORE THAN THREE WEEKS AFTER BEING SET ON FIRE BY HER BOYFRIEND, A COLUMBUS WOMAN IS FIGHTING TO RECOVER. WE HAVE AN UPDATE ON HOW SHE’S DOING.”
“BOBBY BROWN HAS BEEN ON TOUR WITH HIS GROUP, NEW EDITION. COMING UP, WE’LL TELL YOU WHY HE IS NOW LEAVING THE STAGE FOR A JAIL CELL.”
Note: Writing scripts, and hearing news anchors read them word-for-word on live television is pretty fun!
After the news broadcast, the producer sends a discrepancy report to the news director, letting him know if anything went wrong. At the end of the 5 o’clock, Anna got to send the words that indicate everything went smoothly. Her email simply said, “Clean show.”
Looking forward to what the second week with Producers will bring, after Spring Break!
Anna live-producing the 5 o’clock news program on WTVM News Leader 9.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the week we have all be waiting for! (And by “we”, I mean “me”.) Reporter Week!
When it comes to working in news, reporting is a topic that constantly comes up in every department, so I was eager to go out and see what it’s like. My mentor for the week: WTVM Reporter Curtis McCloud.
The first assignment we went on was a live shot during a Board of Education meeting. Paul (the same Photog I worked with last week), Curtis, and I took the live van out to the Board of Education Building. The big item on the agenda: Whether or not to return all Muscogee Country Schools back to a traditional calendar–meaning no year-round schools. The vote passed. A reporter from Channel 3 was also there to get a live shot on the same story. For the first time, I was able to observe the competitive/cooperative dynamic that exists between reporters from different stations working on the same assignment. Their networks may be in competition, but when they are on location, there seems to be an understanding that they have to work together to an extent in order to get the job done.
The second day, I learned that as a reporter, you have to be prepared for anything when you arrive at the station. At first, I was wearing business attire, but Curtis had on jeans and sneakers. He told me we’re going to tour a construction site, and I had 10 minutes to run home, change, and meet him in the parking lot, ready to go. Good thing I live pretty close! I got back in exactly 10 minutes, and we headed out to the construction site of the new Martin Army Hospital on Fort Benning.
The media can never go onto the military post without supervision, so a Military Public Affairs escort met us at the gate and stayed with us the whole time. After getting suited-up in our hardhats, construction vests, and protective glasses, we went on an exclusive, inside tour of the construction site with Lt. Col. Ross Davidson, and the Project Executive from Turner Construction, Martin Miller. They’re working hard to create a low-stress environment for recovering patients. There are healing gardens, therapy pools, a giant water wall for ambience, and tons of giant windows for natural lighting.
Not only was I a part of the interviewing process, but the best part was being able to practice recording my own stand-up shots. I looked right into the camera, held the microphone up, and with my best news reporter voice, said, “The New Martin Army Hospital is expected to welcome its first patients in November of 2014. Reporting from Fort Benning, I’m Christina Kleehammer, WTVM News Leader 9.”
You can watch the final report on the new Martin Army Hospital here.
Now that you know the difference between a News Anchor and a News Reporter from my last blog, here’s another one for you…
Q: What’s the difference between News Reporters and News Photographers (Or as they’re most commonly called, “Photogs”)?
Before my week with the Photogs at WTVM, I would have answered this question differently. I knew they were both sent out on location for stories, but I probably would have figured that the reporters do the interviewing, while the photogs do all the filming. Not so. Both reporters and photogs do filming, and they both conduct interviews. The main difference I’ve noticed so far?
A: Reporters speak in front of the camera, while Photogs do all of their work from behind the camera (True, there is a little more to it than that, but we’ll get to the rest in Reporter week.)
My first day working with the Photogs was particularly exciting, because it was the day that Pope Benedict XVI announced that he would be retiring at the end of the month; A huge story, since no Pope has retired in 600 years. Naturally, WTVM was looking for a local reaction from the Catholic community. So, for my very first assignment out on location, I found myself interviewing my own priest about the Pope’s announcement. Jonathan, the Photog, was happy to let me ask all of the questions because he admittedly does not know much about Catholicism. After the interview, I also edited the segment and chose the 15 second sound-byte from the interview.
Q: What are the first two questions you ALWAYS ask in a recorded interview?
A: What is your first & last name and can you spell it? What is your title?
I spent the second day with Paul, a Photog for over 30 years now. We spent the afternoon working on a story about the Columbus Black History Tour. We interviewed Johnnie Warner from the Columbus Black History Museum, then drove around town gathering footage from several locations on the tour. During my internship with WTVM, I’m not only learning a lot about professions in news media, I am also learning so much about Columbus, Georgia.
Q: What is the difference between a news anchor and a news reporter?
A: News anchors have a leadership role and are the face of the news broadcast. They are in the studio, conducting the news show, while the reporters are out on location reporting on specific stories for the day.
Jason Dennis taught me a lot about what it takes to anchor the news. At the beginning of their careers, most anchors start out as reporters. Then, they work their way to filling-in on the set until they eventually get their own news show(s). Jason is an anchor on WTVM at 5pm and 6pm, with Barbara Gauthier; and on WXTX at 10pm and 11pm with Semone Doughton. He says that the key to being a good anchor is to be professional yet natural, conversational, and able to remain calm despite any circumstance, no matter how tragic the story is, or what craziness might be happening in the studio.
With the dawn of new media, most anchors also have the responsibility of keeping up with their professional Facebook and Twitter accounts, posting periodic news stories and responding to messages.
Cheryl Renee is the solo anchor for WTVM News at noon and 5:30. She put me to work rewriting a story about mammograms. The original information was 43-seconds long, and needed to be edited down to a 35-second, well-worded spot. Here’s what I came-up with:
GOOD NEWS FOR ELDERLY WOMEN– GETTING A MAMMOGRAM EVERY OTHER YEAR MAY BE JUST AS GOOD AS GETTING ONE EVERY YEAR.
A NEW STUDY SHOWS WOMEN AGES 66 TO 74 WHO GET ANNUAL SCREENINGS WERE MORE LIKELY TO HAVE FALSE-POSITIVE RESULTS THAN WOMEN WHO ONLY GET SCREENED EVERY TWO YEARS.
IN 2009, SOME EXPERTS RECOMMENDED THAT WOMEN AGES 50 TO 74 GET MAMMOGRAMS EVERY TWO YEARS, WHILE WOMEN UNDER 50 SHOULD DISCUSS THE PROS AND CONS OF REGULAR SCREENINGS WITH THEIR DOCTOR.
OTHER ORGANIZATIONS CONTINUE TO RECOMMEND THAT WOMEN START GETTING MAMMOGRAMS ONCE A YEAR BEGINNING AT AGE 40.
(By the way, the news scripts are always written in all caps. Jason says that our Closed Captioning comes directly from the teleprompter, so it is important to use correct grammar in the script.)
Cheryl and Jessica, the 5:30 producer, were both pleased with my work on the mammogram story, and set me to work writing another 35 second spot on the recent developments in the conflict over allowing gay people into the Boy Scouts of America. I also wrote two 10-second teaser spots that inform the audience of what’s coming-up after the commercials. I enjoyed writing news scripts and hearing a professional news anchor read them on live television.
Have you ever wondered why some TV shows air on one network at a certain time in one city, then when you travel to another city, the same show comes on at a different time on a different network? I never knew why that was. Then, Robert, one of the Marketing Producers at WTVM News Leader 9 explained to me how that works. Network shows, such as “Good Morning America” and “The View”, show at the same time on every ABC network station. Local shows, like the news, are produced locally and air at particular times. Then, there are the syndicated shows, like “Kelly & Michael”, and “The Ellen Degeneres Show”. These are shows that are produced nationally and are purchased by local networks to fill syndicated time slots. That’s why they don’t play on the same network and at the same time in every town. It just depends on which station purchases the show.
You might be asking: What does this have to do with the marketing department? Great question! The Marketing Department is in charge of all promotional and commercial materials for WTVM and WXTX. This includes commercial production, as well as informing the TV audience about what is coming up on the station.
Robert works for the part of the Marketing Department that promotes the actual shows that are coming up. Because TV shows come from national and local sources, he has to coordinate the information and set them to air at the correct time. For example, network shows can come with their own promotional spots that need little more than to be aired at the right time slot. Syndicated shows also come with their own promotional spots, but the specific information about when the show will air needs to be added. Then, there are the local news shows. These shows have promotional spots, called topicals, that the anchors record, and the marketing department produces everyday in the studio.
I was able to help Robert write the script for one of the topicals for the day. The story was about a rise in gun permit requests in Muscogee County, and the spot needed to be 13 seconds long. Here’s what we came-up with:
“Are new legislation proposals causing a spike gun permit requests in Muscogee County? We’ll have new information from the probate office and bring you the latest on this story.”
Robert creates daily topicals for WTVM News.
Robert plans the daily news topicals with one of the news producers.
On Wednesday, a major storm system came through the area, which made it an exciting day to work in a local news station. Regularly scheduled programing gave way to the meteorologists who kept the locals up to date on Tornado watches and warnings. That was the day that I got to work with Jerry and Mike. They are also Marketing producers, but they work in a different part of the department. Rather than working mostly with news and programming, they work with the sales department to produce commercials and promotional spots for local businesses.
Mike creates a promotional piece for WTVM business partners.
One of our tasks for the day was to film Business Break with Adelaide Kirk. Because the meteorologists were live in the studio most of the day, we filmed segments in a makeshift studio on the second floor. Stylists from Sunday’s Ultimate Salon and Day Spa came on to promote their services, and a representative from TIC Federal Credit Union came to promote their annual Tip-A-Snake even that raises money for the Children’s Miracle Hospital.
Jerry films a segment for Business Break with Adelaide Kirk.
Stylists from Sunday’s Ultimate Salon and Day Spa visit Adelaide Kirk on Business Break.