Monday, June 28, 2010

TODAY Show Morning News Cut-ins

Cut-ins Monday, June 28, 2010

I anchored this morning's news cut-ins during the TODAY Show. I took my professor's critique from my last cut-ins and tried to improve my anchoring. It was a different experience this morning because the recorder stopped working after we had recorded all of the cut-ins. We had to do every cut-in live. Surprisingly, I seem to stumble over words less when I know I'm live on-air. The video above has my clips in it!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

AP Green Reopens as Mid America Brick

Mid America Brick Breaks Ground

I spent my third reporting shift in Mexico, MO (6/25/10). The AP Green plant, which made bricks from 1910-2002, reopened as Mid America Brick. This was my first experience reporting a press conference. I had to pick and choose which speakers to record because I didn't have enough memory card space to record the 1.5 hour long program. And I certainly didn't want to have to wade through it all when I got back to the station.

I started talking to a nice, older woman. Her late husband worked for the factory for 42 years. She provided a central character and personalized how important this factory was to the community. The interview was amazing because all I did was asked her, "Can you explain to me your husband's experience at the factory?" She talked for 10 minutes, answering every question I was planning on asking and she didn't ramble. I was amazed.

I seem to lean toward stories that are an hour away from the station. Once again, planning the story on the recorder in my iPhone helped me write faster when I got back to the station. Above is the package I shot, wrote and edited (link to web story).

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Glasgow Flood Stories

Sewage Lagoons

Glasgow Sewage Lagoons

Last Friday (6/18/10), I completed my first reporting shift at KOMU 8 News. I went to Glasgow, MO (about 1 hour from Columbia, MO) to report on the Missouri River flooding. I called the police chief who told me the town wasn't threatened because it's on a hill. He mentioned that the lagoon was underwater. I asked why that was important, because I was thinking of a lagoon in the sense of the ocean. He told me it is a sewage lagoon and it was leaking raw sewage into Hurricane Creek, which flows back to the Missouri River. I immediately knew this would be the focus of my story. The superintendent of the Public Works Department spent a majority of the afternoon showing a convergence reporter (who was taking still photos) and me around the three lagoons that make up the sewage lagoons of Glasgow. The video above is the package I shot, wrote, and edited for the 6 p.m. newscast. I also wrote and edited 2 VO/SOT/VOs and a web story (link).

Farm Crops

Glasgow Crops Flooded

The flood waters were expected to recede by this past Tuesday (6/22/10), my second reporting shift. Instead, the water had actually gone up. I did a follow-up story about how the crops were underwater (a detail I remembered from my trip to Glasgow on Friday). A friend of mine who grew up on a farm gave me some background information on farming and crops. This helped me ask more informed questions. He told me it would be hard to find a farmer who would be willing to get out of their tractor for an interview right now because it's a busy season on the farm. This turned out to be vital information because I asked the superintendent if he knew a farmer who wasn't working because his crops were underwater. He knew one and thankfully, the farmer agreed to show me his farm! I contacted seven organizations related to farming and none would agree to an interview. I had run out of time and returned to the station to use the farmer and National Weather Service as my sources. I shot, wrote and edited a VO/SOT/VO for the 10 p.m. newscast, a package for the KOMU 8 News Today show (above), and a web story (link).

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Scientific American and First Experiences

Journalism Reflection

This is the cover of the June 2010 edition of Scientific American magazine.

I am always attracted to categorical journalism. It doesn't matter if it's Food Network, the History Channel, People Magazine or Runner's World. I love seeing how the producers of these products continually find new ways to discuss the same general idea by exploring different avenues within the field. I decided to expand my horizons and read Scientific American (link).

"From the Editor" (pg 4 or link)

The first major part of the magazine I read was the "From the Editor" letter titled "Think Forward." It surprisingly answered a question I had: "Why can the editors of this magazine be trusted as an authority in science?" As the letter explains, they "go to conferences and meetings, pore over other publications, and routinely confer with our researcher sources and authors." While Mariette DiChristina, the editor, does not explain if the writers have scientific backgrounds, she makes it apparent that they immerse themselves in the topic and consult more than one expert. She goes on to explain how the editors decide what information to publish: they look for what readers need to know now and what might be coming up in the future. Readers of Scientific American feel they can trust the information they get from the magazine because the editor is transparent.

Australopithicus sediba is the latest discovery of ancient remains.

"Fossils of Our Family" (pg 12-14 or link)

Evolution has always been a topic that has interested me. I thought this article about a discovery of a new human species in Malapa Cave, Johannesburg, South Africa did a wonderful job showing the importance of presenting a balanced story. The article first explained what was found in the discovery (partial skeletons of an adult female and juvenile male) and why the discovering scientists think the remains belong in the ancestral line of current humans. After their side of the discovery is given, three different positions are given. In total, four sides are presented and the sources are from four different institutions: University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, Stony Brook University, the Institute of Human Origins at Arizona State University, and New York University. The end of the article lets the reader know other remains were found and they are currently being excavated. This informs the reader that more information will be available on this discovery in the near future. While this story follows the basic format of a story, I believe it’s necessary. If the writer had launched right into all the different sides without first explaining what was found and how it is impactful to the scientific community, readers would have been lost.

"Expert Education" (pg 17-18 or link)

This article discusses how geologists and their students are using an eye-tracking device to study the difference in how geologists approach a dig compared to students. They want to use the results to better teach the students perceptual skills. The writer, Charles Q. Choi, mentions that the device could be used in other professions, but doesn’t include journalism. Imagine how this device could change the way journalism students learn the power of observation and photography. Students would be able to see how experienced journalists pick up on environmental and body language clues that help make their story better. They’d also be able to see how good photographers chose the shots they video.

"12 Events That Will Change Everything" (pg 36-48 or link)

The headlining article of this issue covers 12 scientific events and discoveries that have the chance of happening by 2050. Each topic is ranked along a rainbow bar from very unlikely to almost certain. Here they are:

  1. Cloning of a human: Likely
  2. Extra dimensions: 50-50 Chance
  3. Extraterrestrial intelligence: Unlikely
  4. Nuclear exchange: Unlikely
  5. Creation of Life: Almost certain
  6. Room-temperature superconductors: 50-50
  7. Machine self-awareness: Likely
  8. Polar meltdown: Likely
  9. Pacific earthquake: Almost Certain
  10. Fusion energy: Very unlikely
  11. Asteroid collision: Unlikely
  12. Deadly pandemic: 50-50

Each section, written by a different person, gives an overview of the topic and then, most importantly, explains how this event or discovery will affect the world. In my opinion, the section that gives the best real world example is the nuclear exchange article. After explaining how the Hiroshima bomb affected the area, Philip Yam, the writer, moves on to the present-day example of Pakistan and India. Scientists have determined that if the two countries used all their nuclear bombs on each other, about 100 bombs, there will be devastating effects on the Earth. The consequences listed give the reader a vivid image of how the Earth would change. While it’s one of the shorter sections, I thought it was most effective.

"Alzheimer's: Forestalling the Darkness" (pg 51-57 or link)

This article first caught my eye from the cover, which says, “Alzheimer’s Advances: New Keys to Thwarting Dementia.” My family pays close attention to advances in preventing Alzheimer’s because my grandfather died with the disease last year. This article explains how scientists are about to start a research project that will look for a prescription drug to prevent the disease. A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s can’t be made until symptoms show up. Recent research has shown that the causes of Alzheimer’s are active five to 20 years before the symptoms present themselves. Also, several biomarkers and genetic genes have been singled out to measure Alzheimer’s. The researchers are choosing people with the genetic genes for Alzheimer’s and tracking their biomarkers in an effort to better map when the causes of Alzheimer’s start. With this information, the scientists will know when to start administering the test pharmaceutical drugs. These trials will take time, but hopefully scientists will have some new answers and drugs by the time my parents might suffer from Alzheimer’s. The writers of this article used graphics to better tell their story. One set of graphics shows how the number of people affected by Alzheimer’s will increase over the next 40 years and how age increases the risk of Alzheimer’s for males and females. Another set of graphics explains how brain imaging and spinal fluid tests will help track the progression of Alzheimer’s over the years until physical symptoms are present. A third sidebar gives a list of drugs that are currently being tested and how they try to prevent or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s. All of this information proves promising and gives me hope that one day this disease won’t affect my loved ones anymore.

Overall, the magazine does a good job of making sure a person with no significant scientific background, such as myself, can understand the article while still giving enough information to satisfy a scientist. Also, I was pleasantly surprised to see a half-page advertisement for the University of Missouri's graduate program for life sciences.

Personal News Gathering

The logo of the NBC affiliate where I'll be working.

This week marked my first official work at KOMU8 (NBC) in Columbia, MO. After all the hard work and hoops to jump through, it feels great to get to this place in my coursework! And I know it’s not easy from here on out, but there’s a certain element of reward to the hard work when you see your work on air.

"Tuesdays @ 2"

VO Patrol involves shooting video, writing a 40 second story, editing the video, and writing an online story. I completed my first VO Patrol on Tuesday, June 15, 2010. I went to Jefferson City and followed a “Tuesday’s @ 2” program about Mark Twain and riverboats. The greatest difficulty I had with this story was that the Missouri State Museum was dark. Even with a light, the video turned out dark. My producer and I managed to color correct it so the video was still useable. I enjoyed getting to write and edit my own story and see it broadcast.

"Nitro Joe"

I finished my second VO Patrol today. I went to the Daniel Boone Regional Library and watched kids be amazed by science experiments. “Nitro Joe” was great at involving the kids and keeping them interested. I think I had as much fun watching the kids and taking video of the program as the kids did watching Nitro Joe’s experiments. He showed the kids physical and chemical reactions. The experiments that went over best were the ones that involved dry ice. Shooting this story really challenged my ability to shoot sequences. Nitro Joe was a roamer: he moved all around and it was hard to catch him doing any repetitive action. I made it work while at the same time wishing I could participate too! (link)

Cut-ins Tuesday, June 17, 2010

I also anchored my first news cut-ins during the Today Show this morning. It was my first time to be on-air at all, let alone live! I had to learn to do broadcast makeup to do this and it was so thick, I wanted to take it off as soon as possible. I guess it’s something I’ll get used to as I wear it more often. I read the scripts multiple times beforehand, marked my breathing points, and hoped for the best. It went over well with no major mishaps. Overall, I enjoyed the experience but as with everything, practice makes perfect. I’ll be signing up for another cut-in shift soon!

I have my first reporting shift tomorrow morning. I’m looking forward to testing the skills I’ve learned so far because I have to get all the interviews and B-roll done, write and edit the package, write and edit the VO/SOT, and write an online story all in one day. For our classwork, we have had to complete this work but we’ve had several days to do it. I’m nervous but ready for the challenge tomorrow. Now, if only I had a story idea…

Friday, June 4, 2010

"60 Minutes" and Photography Lessons

Journalism Reflection

The show uses this ticking stopwatch to start and end every segment.

I watched "60 Minutes" (CBS) on Sunday, May 30. The show broadcasted three stories during the hour-long show. What I found most amazing was that I didn't realize the whole hour had past while watching the program. The storytelling was so powerful that I stayed on the couch and forgot about my typical multi-tasking!

This is a still shot from a video given to the soldier's family by the military. The family shared the video with "60 Minutes."

The first story was a follow-up report about road-side bombs in Afghanistan (watch here). The story was about how servicemen volunteer to be part of the team that looks for roadside bombs. The most striking line in the story was when they related that this team risks their lives to disarm a bomb that cost $10 US to make. They could lose their life over $10 but the possibility of saving other soldiers' lives is what drives them forward. A nat pop helped show the team's relief that none of them were injured when a bomb exploded. But not every expedition is so lucky. A service memorialized all the military personnel who had lost their lives disarming road-side bombs. The way the ceremony was included in the story made it extremely memorable. The dead soldiers' names were announced by military branch. The audio was the soldier's name, and the visuals were split-screen between a photo of the person and the video of the officer reading names. It demonstrated how every branch of the military was affected and how many soldiers gave their lives to save others. It was much more effective at showing their sacrifice than just saying that a certain number of men had died while disarming bombs.

This is what DNA looks like up close and personal.

The second story (watch here) was about how researchers are trying to gather DNA for animal species that are extinct and are almost extinct. They want to be able to preserve the DNA. The end result would be implanting that DNA into a similar animal, who would act as a surrogate. They've successfully done this process with African wild cat DNA implanted in a house cat. In this story they used nat pops to show how excited children got when they imagined dinosaurs. The nat pop really helped bring the story to life and show just how exciting it would be to bring dinosaurs back!

This is Anna Wintour with Morley Safer, who reported the story.

The third story was about Anna Wintour, the editor of Vogue magazine for the last 22 years (watch here). It was a profile story about her that focused on her trying to dispute the implied image of her in "The Devil Wears Prada". The show included very little footage of her smiling, which was opposite what she was trying to prove. I found this to be the weakest segment of the show because it was a profile, with no real news value. Maybe I would have appreciated the piece more if I was a devoted reader of Vogue.

Personal News Gathering Experience

I've worked on several stories in the time since my last blog. Here are several things that I learned about shooting video:

Sky is an energetic puppy who loves to chase people. In this photo, she's chasing a skateboarder (not seen).

1. Dogs are incredibly hard to photograph as your central compelling character (CCC) - especially when the puppy's only 6 months old and an avid runner! I was working a story about why it's important to microchip pets. I wanted to make the dog, a Siberian Husky named Skye, the CCC because she is going to be microchipped in June. Granted, I couldn't get her to do an interview, but her owner acted as her voice. But the shooting process got difficult when I was trying to get some B-roll of Skye. I found myself with a lot of shots of Skye running and not many cutaways. Dogs aren't like humans. Human actions are semi-predictable, but picking the next direction a dog is going to run is next to impossible!

When I used this shot in my package, I mentioned how roundabouts are better for the environment.

2. Angles help make the story more visually interesting. I was working on a story about roundabouts. Creating a CCC is troublesome when reporting about inanimate objects. I knew most of my video would be of roundabouts. It would get boring if all the video was on the same plane of view. So to mix it up, I shot video from the ground of cars driving past me and framed a yield sign between some of the flowers that were planted at the base of the sign. As my professor says, the camera needs to "take the viewer where the eye doesn't go."

3. Cutaways are important to remember to shoot. When I'm rushed to photograph a story and the interviewee is following me or showing me the item to shoot, I get nervous. Then I forget to shoot cutaways. I get the close-up shots, but they still manage to have the interviewee's hands in them. But now that I recognize this as a problem, I can fix it.