Archive for the Shop Talk Category

Shop Talk – Print Versus TV; A Two-Way Veteran Shares His Thoughts

Posted in Shop Talk on February 23, 2013 by sasquatch77
During nearly three decades in the news biz, Scott Orr has done every job imaginable.

During nearly three decades in the news biz, Scott Orr has done every job imaginable.

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.

Scott gets the scoop on a high profile love-triangle murder.

Scott gets the scoop on a high profile love-triangle murder.

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.

Scott bring added value to his newsroom through his longtime affiliation with the Civil Air Patrol.

Scott brings added value to his newsroom through his longtime affiliation with the Civil Air Patrol.

(All images in this post were provided by Scott Orr. Use without express written permission is prohibited.)


Shop Talk; A view from the producer’s seat.

Posted in Shop Talk with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 21, 2013 by sasquatch77

From time to time, I will be bringing you conversations with the men and women who are out there in the trenches, dealing with storytelling issues on a day-to-day basis. Today in Shop Talk, we’re speaking with Chris Loveless, the 10PM producer for NEWSCHANNEL 13 (KRDO).  Chris is an 11 year news veteran who has dealt with the entire spectrum of the news business here in southern Colorado.

A major theme here on the Exigence report is the conflict between ambulance chasing news and the type of storytelling that wins Edward R Murrow awards. How do you view that relationship, and what effect does it have on your job?

CL – Ambulance chasing news is the best way to get the biggest bang for your buck if you’ve got a small staff and a tight budget. I think that’s why you see so much of it. Storytelling still has its place, and it is a legitimate service to the community. The challenge is finding the time to craft those stories, and still get the “must cover” news of the day taken care of. In general I think the business is doing too much ambulance chasing and not enough storytelling right now.

Ex Report – Do you see any way that could be alleviated?

CL – Sure. Commit to being a station that does quality journalism, and follow through with that commitment. That means you may not cover every fender bender or robbery, but it’s okay to be okay with that. It’s okay to say telling a good story serves a higher purpose, and commit to doing that.

Do you buy into the idea that viewers prefer breaking news? My personal view is that we often don’t give news audiences nearly enough credit for wanting better stories.

CL – [Do viewers value] legitimate breaking news? Yes. A fender bender shouldn’t be breaking news. A robbery at Arby’s shouldn’t be breaking news. I think the viewers are smarter than that. Or, at least the viewers we are trying to attract. When real, big spot news happens you have to be all over it. When you treat a run of the mill robbery like the second coming, you look stupid, and I think most viewers get that. Unfortunately I think the less educated viewers are the ones who post the most on station Facebook and Twitter accounts, and I’m afraid oftentimes they are the ones we are trying to impress. It’s a mistake in my opinion because while they are the most vocal, I don’t think they are in the majority.

What role does management play? Is there pressure from their end to maintain a war room type atmosphere?

CL – I think this is where the news philosophy of the general manager and news director comes into play. If you’ve got a GM and a news director who are truly committed to storytelling, they will make it happen. A lot of news managers these days would rather go the ambulance chasing route because it’s easier & cheaper to gather, sell as something really important, and package with minimal resources. I also think it’s important for all levels of news management to be on the same page. You can’t have a GM who wants to tell stories and a news director who wants to chase ambulances. In that scenario, the newsroom staff has no idea what it’s supposed to be doing and the organization loses its focus.

And what about the tendency for management to defer to consultants, do they complicate that relationship? [Ed. Note – It is common practice amongst local news stations to consult with research companies and image consultants. Everyone does it.]

CL – I think most consultants push ambulance chasing, but not all. I think if you are a manager who wants to tell stories, you can find a consultant who will help you accomplish that goal. It would also serve newsroom managers well to remember that consultants are just there to consult. Their opinions and advice are not gospel.

What’s the current atmosphere in your newsroom? Are you dealing with these issues on a nightly basis?

CL – In recent weeks our organization [KRDO] has started to shift its focus back from ambulance chasing to storytelling, particularly on the newscast I produce, the late news. The biggest conflict we’ve run into with that change is that while before, in case of say… a robbery… a 10:00pm reporter would be expected to go to that robbery and cover it for the early newscasts. Now, if the 10:00pm reporter has a good story they are working on, they don’t have to cover that robbery for the early newscasts. That’s created some consternation on the part of the early newscast producers who feel like they’ve lost resources.