Danielle Washington – “The Final Decision”

The greater Columbus area is rich with a historic foundation that allows citizens to feel connected to the community. The city is filled with many elements of hard work from the past which basically makes Columbus a cohesive unit. This hard work can be found in the educational system that impacts students on a daily basis. This hard work can also be found in our educators, business owners, determined citizens, and most importantly in the sweat and tears it took to develop this town. Therefore, when local issues arise it becomes a big stir because we as citizens of Columbus care about what happens in our neighborhoods and streets. So the possibility of the School Board voting to close Marshall Middle School and Edgewood Elementary School definitely struck a chord with the community, the teachers, parents, and students of these two Schools.

My first day as an WTVM Intern I got the opportunity to dive into the big School Board Meeting with Curtis McCloud as he covered the happenings of the meeting. We arrived on the scene early to set up everything and to begin doing a live shot to stream back to the station. In that particular instance I realized that we were about to take part in something that would forever change Columbus. Before the meeting began droves of people were lined up outside to make sure they procured seats for the vote and also for the recognition of the students in the local area. As Curtis prepped for his live shot at 5:00pm he began to show me the ropes about reporting. He informed me to always be ready and prepared for anything that may ensue. I really admire his tenacity to tackle all his stories with the utmost commitment and dedication. His hard work paid off because we were the first news station on the scene to ensure we did not miss any details. The greatest element about working with Curtis is that he never sticks to a conventional script, he always knows what he wants to say and is ready to report. So after we grabbed the live shot the reality began to seep in.

As we sat in the School Board Meeting the tension began to increase after the awards were given out. It was so much anxiety in the room because numerous students and parents were there to plead their cases and to see what the outcome would render. Before the Board voted an enraged citizen stood up to address the school closings, his tone was so brutal he yelled and screamed at the board and Interim Superintendent John Phillips about money being wasted. He also begged that they keep Marshall and Edgewood open due to the major scholastic improvements the schools made in the past school year. He shouted from the top of his lungs to ensure that he was heard and he definitely poured out his heart to the crowd. After he sat down people in the room had a shocked look on their faces due to the passion of his argument.

Then the time of reckoning unfolded and the vote began to be discussed. At the moment the vote was tabled by Board Member Mark Cantrell so the Board could have more time to discuss the issue further but once it was explained to him he withdrew his motion to table the issue and then they proceeded with the vote. The results were clear the Board decided to close Marshall and Edgewood. As this decision was revealed it was a commotion in the crowd and many tears shed. One parent that we got an opportunity to interview said that “she had just had the chance to watch her son read for the first time.” She was heartbroken and she felt like all her hard work had gone in vein. The Board’s explanation boiled down to savaging the budget for Muscogee County. By closing these schools it saved the district 10 million dollars. Both schools were under the number of students they needed to remain functional so the Board decided to close the schools down. This major decision definitely touched the community and it is still an issue people are discussing. So my first day as an intern I got to be a part of a historic decision in the community and I got to view it through the lens of a reporter.

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Danielle Washington – WTVM NEWSLEADER 9 INTERN

There are so many great opportunities that the Communication Department of Columbus State University offers to their students. I truly believe that interning is the best opportunity students can take advantage of because it allows the students to gain real experience in a positive environment. I am very honored to be an intern at WTVM which is the number one Newsleader of Columbus, Georgia. I also have the privilege of shadowing Veteran Reporter Curtis McCloud during the course of my internship. Curtis McCloud is definitely a virtuoso of reporting and the broadcasting arena as well. As I have began to become a part of the team for the course of the summer, I realize that there is never a dull moment in the newsroom. Because there is always a story to cover or research to be conducted in order to present information to the public.

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For example, everyday the team meets to discuss the what is going on in the local area and in the world. These meetings are vital because it informs every one of their positions and topics in the broadcasting of the news later that day. After the meeting is concluded, then the real fun begins. Last week Curtis and I got to go live at a stand-off on Victory Drive where a man held a woman hostage and threatened to kill her. He was running away from a few misdemeanors in Macon and he also missed his probation and he decided to flee to Motel 6 on Victory Drive. He later released the woman and then requested for his wife to come see him or he would resort to killing himself. So about an hour later his wife showed up and they talked for quite some time and then he finally came out with his hands up surrendering himself over to the Columbus Police Department. The most pivotal thing I took from this situation is that when you are reporting, you must be prepared for the worst.

Reporting Live

We could not tape from the crime scene of course, but just imagine standing in the medium of Victory Drive with the sweltering heat beaming down trying to get information from the police department. It was very intense and then later Curtis McCloud was the only reporter there who went live at 5 during all the commotion of running back and forth in the middle of a busy four lane street. After that occurred we rushed back over to get a statement from Columbus Police Chief and I got the opportunity to actually tape his statement which was such an exciting experience. This story stirred up a lot of attention in the Columbus Area and I felt proud to have been behind the scenes to see how it all unfolds in the world of a reporter.

Following that we went back to the station and I got to observe Curtis compile a package together for this particular story. This is one of my favorite things to watch because that is the time in which a reporter has unfettered freedom to project a story in a creative way. WTVM uses a system called ENPS which allows them to present the information to the public via newscast for the shows that are aired live. ENPS is an editing system that allows one to maneuver footage and sound in a way that becomes the stories and coverage viewers watch daily. I have began to learn how to use this system and I must say it is a great tool to have. I really am enjoying every moment at WTVM and to be under such wonderful tutelage is definitely showing me the important things I need to know about the business.