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’d been on the job as a News Reporter for 3 years and 1 year as a newly minted News Anchor for the station. I considered myself a cub reporter. But my news director assigned the memorial of a young African-American man who was the victim of an alleged hate crime due to his sexual orientation.
The scene was at a courthouse more than 95 miles (3 hours round-trip) away from the news station. Time-management and juggling multiple tasks was necessary to get a story in the can for the evening news.
To get the story my news videographer and I had to:
- find friends and family to speak with on behalf of the deceased,
- cover the controversial matchup between GLAAD (formerly, Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) and the Westboro Baptist Church members including the infamous Fred Phelps,
- and obtain confirmation of criminal charges.
All would be a test of teamwork, fact-finding skills, and personnel management.
My videographer and I made the deadline. 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 evidenced by the above video(s), news reporting requires teamwork and an unbiased approach to information gathering. We 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. In an 8-hour day, I’ve gathered information, written stories to keep the attention and interest of an audience while being mindful of minors. What results is the first draft of the 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.