Posts Tagged ‘North Carolina’

Public Relations: Company’s Newsroom Makes News

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

Most company website newsrooms bore us. They include a lame list of news releases. Newsrooms should be multimedia meccas with company stories, videos and photos. But SAS, a North Carolina-based software company, shows there are many ways to make a newsroom interesting and newsworthy. See how the company’s newsroom lists all the company’s awards on this business being a great place to work. Do you think that’s boring? Ask us how we found this page. The Huffington Post posted a link to it as part of a story about the company. Now that’s a company newsroom making news!


Most Shocking Reports From Election Night Coverage!

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

Most Shocking Reports From Election Night Coverage!

“RT @APCampaign: ELECTION WATCH: At a polling station in the swing state of North Carolina, opinions differ” (Excellent insight!)

Inside Edition reported on actors who have played presidents.

MSNBC pointed out jazz was playing in the background at Romney headquarters.

MSNBC reported Virginia buys the most pick-up trucks.

MSNBC pointed out there always seems to be a Montgomery County somewhere.

NBC News discussed a trade industry article indicating money from campaign ads allowed local TV stations to buy weather centers and hire reporters.

Ridiculous Moments In TV News: Election Night Was Disaster Night For Me And Mister Big Sandwich

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

I was reporting for a North Carolina TV station and my election night assignment led me to the big city of Charlotte. I was working in a smaller TV market, so as silly as it now sounds, I envisioned a night of standing side-by-side with the big boys and girls delivering live shots.

My efforts to embody the young, future correspondent were contradicted by my reality. I worked at a station with ratings so low, a sports coach might as well have delivered the cliche speech about playing the rest of the season for pride. That night, I worked with a photographer I hung out with on weekends. My everlasting image of him that evening is him relaxed back in the driver’s seat with one hand on the steering wheel and the other holding a gigantic sandwich. He was the happy-go-lucky, let’s-eat-and-be-merry one sitting next to the nerd in the passenger’s seat. While he chewed, I figured staring a little bit longer at my notes might give me the edge to make my night special. Even our car sucked. We weren’t headed down to Charlotte in a Tahoe or Explorer or some other SUV that might portray a scent of journalistic testosterone. We and that sandwich squeezed into the type of hatchback you might see a Steve Carell character in on the way to his first date. To anyone watching, we appeared as the TV news version of Dumb and Dumber.

When we finally arrived at that big Charlotte hotel, I’m sure I was sporting my long, London Fog trench coach that took my game up a notch. We eventually found our position on a platform where reporters deliver live shots while rubbing elbows. While other reporters cruised around the ballroom as if this were familiar territory, I paced, wondering what interview I might grab to make myself shine. I weighed the risks and moved our position to a hallway, figuring I’d increase our chances of catching the candidate for a sound bite or two. But all I remember from that brief side adventure is some punk telling me I didn’t look like a news reporter. I wanted to believe he meant I looked smarter then some of my Ken doll colleagues. However he probably implied I needed to get a haircut and stop looking like a fresh face right out of college.

As the night wore on, something unfunny (but funny now) began to develop. Our newsroom took live shot after live shot that night and even took our candidate’s speech live from a podium directly before us. But the station took those live shots from a national feed, not once turning to us to appear on air. That night taught me a lesson that repeated itself before my eyes time and time again. Some of the most disastrous and unrewarding nights for a journalist can come election night. That’s when stations throw all they’ve got at the TV. They pre-plan like crazy for a series of spontaneous events that eventually turn everything upside down within minutes. And that’s even before the avalanche of technical problems.

On the way home that night, I was the calm one. Election night was over like the roller coaster you once feared to ride. But Mr. Big Sandwich was now the angry one, ranting and raving about the illogical plan of shipping us out of town to ultimately not use us. Sometimes it just doesn’t make sense. It’s just another ridiculous moment in local TV news.

Video Production: Has This Happened To You On A Street Corner?

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

Video Production:  Has This Happened To You On A Street Corner?Shooting indoors sometimes has its advantages.

After shooting video inside, I walked down the street to frame up a building on a corner. The camera almost always attracts attention. Two men walked up to me. One asked me to put them on camera.

As a TV reporter, I was accustomed to strangers walking up and asking, half jokingly, to put them on camera. They often had no good reason to appear on camera, but they wanted to be on TV. In college, I was shooting exteriors of a Chicago high school. Students leaving school saw the camera and went bonkers, actually falling over each other trying to compete for position in front of the lens. I turned off the camera, but the students still acted as if I were broadcasting a live shot to the rest of the world.

In North Carolina, I sat atop of a vehicle as part of a parade. Feeling embarrassed to wave to crowds like a beauty queen, I placed my camera on my shoulder and pretended to shoot video of crowds as I passed. I never turned on the camera, but people waved at me with great enthusiasm.

In this case on the street corner, I tried to explain I was shooting a business-type video and standing before my camera should not interest them. My logic did not appear to matter. They hovered, one of them asking me questions about the camera and telling me part of his story.

Video Production:  Has This Happened To You On A Street Corner?He then asked if he could rap for me and requested I provide him a topic. I learned long ago people want you, if nothing else, to respect them, so turning him down or brushing him off was not an option I considered.

I put in a request for him to rap about football. He asked what team. I said, “The Dolphins.” The other guy acknowledged the Dolphins had just visited to play the Cardinals. The rapper indicated the Dolphins are on the right track, leading me to believe he might be a fellow fan. But then he asked where the Dolphins play. Miami, I answered.

During this conversation, I continued shooting the building on the street corner. I wondered if these men expected me to turn the camera toward them for the football rap. I didn’t want to, but I would shoot video of their impromptu song if necessary.

But I took too long to shoot that building on the corner and the rapper indicated they needed to move on. We exchanged pleasantries and they crossed the street.

Shooting simple video of a building can get complicated especially when standing on a street corner with a camera.

Media Relations: Let’s Give Them An Exclusive To Talk About

Sunday, July 29th, 2012

Media Relations:  Let's Give Them An Exclusive To Talk About

I read the following Tweet posted by an NBC News political editor:

“Romney talks with NBC’s Brian Williams in exclusive interview”

The included link took me to the image you see. An NBC News reporter re-Tweeted it. Some journalists might complain politicians don’t take reporters’ questions frequently enough, but I wonder what would make a one-on-one interview with Romney or President Obama an exclusive in the true spirit of the word? I Tweeted to both people at NBC, asking what makes the Romney interview an exclusive. Neither person has responded. I asked for some other opinions.

“I don’t think a general run of the mill interview with any such public figure can be ‘exclusive,'” said a Michigan videographer with years of TV news experience. “The content however could be. Say NBC is getting Mitt to open up about his tax returns for the past 10 years and he is only talking to NBC about that. Then the content would be exclusive. A generic sit down interview is not exclusive especially when he is offering them up to everyone.”

A North Carolina videographer told me this about the Romney interview: “Unless he told the interviewer something about his taxes that he hasn’t told anyone else – then no.”

I haven’t heard new information about Romney and his tax returns. The NBC Tweet I saw about the exclusive interview focused on Romney’s comments on gun control. Since then, I read how some of Romney’s statements about the Olympics stirred up controversy.

The newsrooms I worked in rarely referred to their stories as “exclusives.” I think the stations would have used the term more often, but getting a truly exclusive story on an important issue isn’t easy for most journalists. And when the newsroom asked the graphics department for that slick exclusive banner to splash across the TV screen, I used to joke that we were reminding viewers that 99 percent of the time, we offered stories they could also find somewhere else.

“I think it’s a term that only means something to people in the business,” said a former TV news supervisor in Chicago. “Normal folks watching at home have no idea what it means or why it’s important. It means someone’s bragging they got something no one else got.”

Did NBC get something significant that no else got? The answer often isn’t easy to immediately figure out.

“I’m always very wary of using it because it’s hard to be sure that someone else wasn’t able to get the same interview after you,” a California TV reporter told me. “In general I find it’s an overused phrase used for shameless self promotion. I don’t generally use it unless specifically instructed to.”

The media’s job is to slice through the spin, not offer a different form of it. Save the exclusive label for an actual big scoop, an interview your competitors actually want but can’t get. You don’t outdo the competition by simply saying you did.

Why The Media Gets Hot And Bothered Over Weather

Sunday, July 15th, 2012

Why The Media Gets Hot And Bothered Over Weather

When rain recently persuaded me to switch on my windshield wipers, I had forgotten how weather often impacted my life.

Reading this Tweet reminded me:  “Love that taking pictures of wet concrete constitutes news in Phoenix today.

Weather and I have often danced together in the rain, from the hurricanes I covered in North Carolina to standing in a strong Phoenix downpour because it made for a much better live shot.

Covering flooding several days straight in a small Arizona town showed my new co-workers when I started at a Phoenix television station the depth of my creativity for live shots and storytelling.

Weather persuaded me to perform an epic-long live shot as I walked from the very front to the very back of a mobile home, showing damage.

Weather led me, again in the cause for creativity, to walk across a bridge on live TV while traffic passed and snow fell.

Weather ruined a good pair of boots as I stood in knee-high water for a live shot from a flooded apartment parking lot.

After weeks of studying a political race and arriving at election headquarters, weather erased all, sent me to damage and landed me as the lead.

Weather, or a lack of it, led me to call a producer and explain the damage didn’t warrant a story. She ignored my advice and assigned me not one but two reports.

Potential weather sent me to the outskirts of town to cover two stories on snow that never arrived.

Weather that had passed led me to splash my foot in a puddle on TV, later forcing me to realize never again to deliver such a stupid live shot.

We can muddy the waters with philosophy, but broadcast media cover the weather first and foremost because it typically translates into top-notch ratings. The problem is too many TV stations don’t decipher between legitimate storms and a few swaying trees and often insist on drenching us with coverage no matter how many snowflakes settle on the ground. This is similar to the embarrassing relative who is loud and obnoxious no matter if he is in front of a few family members at home or whether he is in public where people stand and stare. He has no filter.


“Weather is a huge part of news wherever you are located,” a Kansas photojournalist told me. “Tornadoes, heat, rain or lack of rain. To me, it’s the same by comparison. Yes, watched by viewers. Gets ratings for sure. They played the same piece on tornadoes four times here and when weather here happens, every reporter is on it.


“Like the world is coming to an end,” said a former Chicago TV news supervisor when I asked him about coverage in his area.


“As for our weather coverage, we definitely focus on severe weather more than you might think for a place that gets a decent amount of rain,” said a former Phoenix reporter now in The Golden State. “But they don’t go nuts for a few drops like some folks at [my former station].


I asked a Michigan photojournalist, “Do Michigan stations over cover the weather?” “Yes” is his final answer.


A former Phoenix reporter now further north told me, “Not quite as aggressive. But when it snows, we do go bat s—t crazy.”


“It’s about the same. [My station] is less obnoxious,” told me a Phoenix reporter who has worked at more than one station in the market.

TV stations cover so much weather, people often advise reporters not to include their awesome weather live shots on their resume tapes. Most reporters have an awesome weather live shot and it won’t usually help distinguish them from the other candidates for a job opening. (I included one anyway. It was really awesome!)

The morning that reminded me of all this, the FOX, NBC and CBS stations each led their noon newscasts with weather, when their live shots showed it was no longer raining.

FOX, my former station, called the morning’s rain a “quick and intense downpour.” Their coverage included a reporter’s live shot, video from a department of transportation camera, additional video of a freeway and a report from the weather forecaster.

The NBC station displayed toward the bottom of the screen a banner “Summer Storms” and checked in with its weather person.

The CBS station took us to a live reporter, where the reporter said there was still a “bit of overcast.” Their banner read “Valley Rain” and also took us to their weather forecaster.

The next time you search for an umbrella and worry how the rain impacts your hair and clothes, remember how rain and its cousins of precipitation make some people go “bat s—t crazy.”

Journalists Should Follow Their Dreams. And I Mean It!

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Journalists Should Follow Their Dreams. And I Mean It!


A fellow reporter introduced us to “his” intern from Arizona State University. The intern walked into a cesspool of cynical people sitting in their seats. As if fathers warning their sons, several people surrounding me warned the intern to re-direct his career path away from broadcast journalism.

When the reporter introduced the intern to me, I told him to “follow his dreams.” The group exploded in laughter. I unintentionally tried to inspire the college student with words said in a deadpan fashion. I portrayed myself as a beaten man giving one last thumbs up before my head disappeared into quicksand. Until the day I left the TV station, co-workers randomly told me to “follow my dreams.”

I genuinely meant, “follow your dreams.” I know firsthand broadcast journalism isn’t always glowing in the glory of Walter Cronkite. Instead of regularly saying thank you for your contributions, some stations simply hope you appreciate being employed. Instead of handing you a company credit card for out-of-town stories, some stations will want you to pay up front and ask you, if you forgot to obtain an itemized receipt, to call the restaurant and request someone to fax the necessary documentation related to your meal. (The restaurant may hesitate to help you because the station required you to give the nice waitress a tip you consider to be low.) While some stations are happy to try to meet your vacation requests, others will ask you to calculate every day off a year in advance. While some stations will congratulate you on a new job and notify the public of your part in the company’s success, other stations will view anyone who leaves as a cousin of Benedict Arnold. While some stations will watch your time with James Bond technology, other stations will define your efforts by quality not quantity. And some stations simply pay better.

Young journalists shouldn’t walk into any job as if they landed on a new planet of shiny, happy, perfect people. But young journalists also should follow their dreams and never let a disgruntled news veteran discourage them. Most of my college classmates in broadcast journalism never tried for their first job after hearing the salary and the small city they might initially live in. I, on the other hand, rented an apartment in North Carolina, drove about an hour each way to work and smiled like a young fool filled with passion.

Follow your dreams. I mean it. And if a station inexplicably takes months to reimburse your out-of-town expenses after you light up the airwaves with a series of awesome live shots, don’t worry. You’ll eventually get your money … I think.