It was the summer of 2000 when the small Northern Central West Virginia town, the site of an apparent hate crime, found itself in the national spotlight. I, too, shined a light as one of the CBS network affiliate reporters assigned to cover the vigil scheduled for the Marion County Courthouse in Fairmont.
I had been on the job as a News Reporter for 4 years and 1 year as a newly minted News Anchor for the station. Although, 4 years is still relatively new in journalism, I was assigned to cover the memorial of a young African American man who was victim of an alleged hate crime due to his sexual orientation.
The courthouse was more than 95 miles (3 hours round-trip) away from the news station which meant managing and prioritizing multiple tasks with a sense of urgency to get a story in the can for the evening news.
Tasked with finding friends and family to speak with on the behalf of the deceased while covering the controversial matchup between GLAAD (formerly, Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) and the Westboro Baptist Church members including the infamous Fred Phelps, and simultaneously seeking official confirmation of criminal charges within the allotted time would be a test of team work, fact-finding skills and personal intelligence. My videographer and I were up for the challenge and we synchronized our watches and agreed upon how much time we were going to spend gathering info, interviews and b-roll at ground zero before heading back.
As evidence from the above video(s), news reporting requires teamwork and requires an unbiased approach to information gathering. We also rely on intuition to choose what activities to shoot for b-roll while in the field for future screening to ensure we use engaging video that will best tell the story, visually.
There’s also sifting through a lot of handwritten notes and selecting the strongest soundbites that enable us to write and produce an intriguing story for the news broadcast. Once, twice sometimes three times in an 8-hour day, we’ve gathered information, written and produced stories to keep the attention and interest of an audience who have varying degrees of intellect while being mindful that minors could be watching. What results is a first draft of story – with a little-to-no time to polish before the deadline of the Noon, 6 or 11 pm news broadcast.
In broadcast news, no one misses a deadline, and neither did I.