Our featured guest today is Scott Orr, a reporter for the Prescott Daily Courier. He is a 28 year news veteran, with experience in both print and television journalism. Scott, welcome to the Exigence Report.
We’ve been talking a lot on this blog about the struggle to achieve quality storytelling, while still keeping an eye on breaking news. Was it a difficult balance to strike when you were the assignment editor at KRDO?
S.O. – It was, especially when there’s a push from management to do more of the breaking news. Sometimes TV news managers get so wrapped up in having the fires, shootings and other spot news first, they don’t allow for any time to do quality storytelling. It’s “get it on now” at all costs.
Then the quality stuff becomes a “sweeps only” special, and that’s a shame, because [those stories are] what people remember.
Did you feel that you had any power to make storytelling decisions on your own, or were you under a strict mandate to carry out a breaking news agenda?
I felt very little ability to make decisions except as they related to how to best get breaking news on. That was radically different from my experience at KTVK (an independent station out of Phoenix – ed.), where we were supposed to be first, but not at the expense of all else.
Is the breaking news emphasis also having a change on reporters? In my own experiences at KRDO, reporters who would come in with good story ideas were the exception; many more relied on the assignment editor to provide all of their story ideas.
True. And this differs from print. We don’t HAVE an assignment editor. We are expected to generate our own stories every day–and we can’t get them out of the newspaper, because we ARE the newspaper! I always found it amusing when TV reporters’ story ideas were on page 6A…I’d already read the newspaper and so I saw that. [Television reporters] will bring in sweeps ideas if they are asked, but on a daily basis, they don’t really have the ideas.
I get to pick my own stories. That’s something the TV folks don’t get; if you have your own ideas, [newsroom editors] don’t tell you what to do. That’s a real plus.
What else is different between the two mediums?
I can tell complete stories now. As a TV producer, I had 15 seconds to tell the whole story most times. That’s, what? 100 words? I just ran a 1,250 word story today. It was comprehensive and, I think, interesting.
It sounds like print media is much better suited to good storytelling, despite that however, the newspaper industry struggles. The trend now seems to be that newspapers are trying to be more like television in some ways.
Yes, and it is annoying. [Print managers] want videos for the web, but don’t want to allow time to do them right. I was just asked recently if I could [limit my shooting] to the first three questions in my interview (Thus creating a smaller video clip for faster ingesting onto a video server – ed.). I said no, and good thing. The best stuff was 20 minutes in!
So it sounds like both media types have their pros and cons. That being said, do you have any advice for your former TV colleagues on how to encourage better storytelling?
It’s hard to do. You have to motivate yourself. You must find the stories that the paper will have tomorrow. [I was fond of saying] when I was a [TV News Director], “There’s nothing happening? I guarantee there will be news on the paper’s front page tomorrow. Go find it.”
You need to find a way to produce quality quickly. That’s the challenge. I [also] wonder if the fact that TV reporters change markets so much doesn’t keep them from adequately learning any one city.
(All images in this post were provided by Scott Orr. Use without express written permission is prohibited.)