Day 26: Fighting the bite of West Nile in North Texas

Fridays can sometimes be fairly slow news days, but today must have been a fluke. Many of the reporters had scheduled vacation, which I assume is due to the upcoming 4th of July holiday.

Today I worked with government reporter Chris Heinbaugh, who was shifted to cover another reporter’s beat. Chris was assigned to the Fort Worth newsroom while those reporters were covering the ongoing flooding.

We headed out to Fort Worth, which was yet another reason I am still astonished by WFAA’s resources.  Between the Main Studios, Victory Park Studios, the Forth Worth newsroom, and the Collin County Bureau, Channel 8 is ready to cover news when and where it happens. Just like their Dallas newsroom, the Fort Worth team seems to operate in a close-knit work environment. Continue reading

Day 25: It’s all about perspective

It's all about perspective“Did you see that show the other night? The one where the guy was carrying a bunch of boxes and he kept getting tripped up by different things. He finally fell and everything went flying! That was so funny.”

How many times have you re-told a story that no one found interesting or funny? Sometimes things are only of interest if you were there. Many newsworthy stories are often served up in a “cookie cutter” or “plug and play” manner.

Just because it may seem like a run-of-the-mill story, doesn’t mean that reporters have to treat it as such. I’ve learned to dig for a different angle of a story. The reporter isn’t necessarily changing the story, simply finding a unique viewpoint to share.

It’s our job to find a way to bring the person to the story. These are the stories that people often remember. Continue reading

Day 23: Mastering the art of interviewing

Mastering the art of interviewingSam Waterston is one of my favorite actors of the Law and Order television series. His character Jack McCoy, the determined prosecutor, often lets his emotions and personal views drive his courtroom behavior.

In the series, Lady Justice often “peeks through her blindfold” and creates a difficult situation in the hearings. Though he usually maintains his composure, McCoy sometimes employs a “bully” technique to get the answers he desires.

All too often I have seen reporters use this same tactic. Sometimes it works, but at what expense? Being forceful with an interviewee compromises journalistic standards because it tricks the subject into giving a skewed response. There is a defined boundary between asking the hard questions and being intimidating.

Today I was able to learn about interviewing for specific types of stories that require tough questions.

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Day 19: Who’s behind News 8 graphics

WFAA 22“Now… news that matters to you. This is NSU22 News, working in the spirit of Northwestern.” Purple swirls and dissolves, beauty shots of campus landmarks, the NSU22 logo — all elements of the newscast open for Northwestern State University’s student newscast.

In the late 1980s, news graphics staked their claim as a critical element of TV newscasts. Today, some stations’ graphics help to sensationalize the news product, by adding unnecessary hype, altering mood, while others complement the message by bringing another element of storytelling.

Channel 8 News seems to have the right balance of artistic creativity and to-the-point visualizations. I believe there is nothing wrong with being visually engaging, as long as it does not detract from the news product.

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Day 18: How do J-schools stack up?

Do I cut the red wire, or do I cut the blue wire? There are 10 seconds left on the timer. Tick tock, tick tock. The voice over the radio screams “Come on, you’ve got to cut the wire.” You know the inevitable is looming.

If you cut the wrong wire, it’s over. Your heart is pounding. The ticking is as intense as a marching band drum line.  5…4…3… You close your eyes and snip a wire. 2…1… This same plot sequence that is often over-played in Hollywood, perfectly describes the kind of last minute decision I made in choosing a college.

I’ve never been one to make a potentially life-changing decision in an extreme hurry.

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Day 17: Adventures in mass transit

The DART rail has been a quick and cost-effective solution for my daily commute.After returning to the station from Gainesville on Tuesday, I realized that I had to figure out which train to take home from downtown. After checking the schedule, I waited for the train, when suddenly it hit me.

I had always been told “Do not take the DART rail after dark.” Friends and family had never given any details or reason, other than that stern directive. Not a second later, I was swarmed by people asking for spare change. I felt as if I had a bulls eye painted on my back.

Wearing business attire and carrying a briefcase, I couldn’t have looked any more conspicuous. After boarding the train, I popped in my iPod earphones and hoped to escape the uneasy mood I had created for myself.

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Day 16: Flooding devastates North Texas community

WFAA field producers, reporters, photographers, and interns worked inside this mobile newsroom, one of the station’s satellite production trucks.

Early Monday morning torrential rains soaked much of the northern part of the Metroplex. Gainesville was the unfortunate target for the brunt of Mother Nature’s fury. So far officials have estimated damage at more than 30 million dollars. Several people lost their lives, while others find themselves with only the clothes on their back.

Flood waters ripped through low lying areas, sweeping away everything in its current. Homes, businesses and cars-very little was left untouched. This small town, as often demonstrated in the most trying of times, has sought comfort in the arms of its neighbors.

Today, I spent the day in Gainesville to follow rescue searchers looking for missing residents. As you can imagine, the muggy Texas heat was relentless. While the search for the missing has turned up a few happy reunions, much of the town remains somber. Yesterday, two bodies were pulled from the creek that was responsible for much of the flooding. So far six people have died in relation to the flood. Continue reading

Day 13: And the winner is…

WFAA 3I’ve always been a huge history buff. Whether it’s the Articles of Confederation, the Lincoln presidency or World War II, I’m fascinated.  Being interested in history plays a huge role in why I’m studying to become a journalist.

Watching current events unfold before my eyes each day and being able to share this news with countless others is exactly what drives me.

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Day 12: Stumbling upon hidden treasure

DSC02493Take a step in any direction in downtown Dallas, and the only way to find any sign of nature, is to look straight up — way up at the sky, slightly hazy from the tinge of smog lingering over the city. One would not expect to see the simple, delicate spirit of Mother Nature present in this jungle of glass and steel.

At the edge of downtown is an escape from the hustle and bustle of the metropolis. The Katy Trail provides a tranquil acquaintance with nature to thousands of walkers, joggers, and other enthusiasts.

As part of a national “Rails to Trails” program, cities take defunct railroad lines and transform them into accessible nature pathways.

The Katy Trail in Dallas meanders away from the downtown areas and through University Park and Highland Park, near Southern Methodist University. It’s tastefully landscaped, incorporating native plant species that attract small creatures such as butterflies. Continue reading

Day 11: No shortage of big news in the ‘Big D’

Time and again we hear stories of criminals caught because of their stupidity — the bank robber who leaves his drivers license behind at the teller window or the thief who takes time to stop and stare into the security camera.

The subject of today’s commentary isn’t quite as clueless as many “bonehead” criminals. My mentor, David Schechter, recently worked on a story about Dallas police arresting a sex offender, out of jail on probation, for using MySpace.

Using the internet, including site like MySpace, violated the terms of the offender’s probation. The arrest may be among the first of its type in the nation.

Several states, including Texas, recently subpoenaed information from MySpace about known sex offenders who use the site.  Continue reading

Day 10: The rush of breaking news

Competition keeps multiple news outlets in the same coverage area constantly sharpening their skills.  I would imagine in some smaller markets, news outlets cut corners or fall into poor routines due to the lack of competition from other television stations.

There is no race to cover a big story or effort to attain a unique angle.  Sometimes, however the reason is the inability to cover an angle because of lack of resources.

When a major story breaks, it is easy to panic.  The excitement can be overwhelming and sometimes dangerously blinding.  Journalists must keep their focus as they collect what little information is available.  Many times public officials don’t have adequate information, so relaying the few details in an accurate manner is crucial.  Motivation comes from breaking the news first, but more importantly correct.

A water rescue this afternoon was a textbook example of how to approach a breaking news story with few details.

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Day 9: The answer is right under my nose

The Dallas Morning News is located on the Belo campus in downtown Dallas, along with WFAA-TV and TXCN.

Every person, in some way draws inspiration into their life, whether they are honest enough to admit it.  Some look toward personal heroes- mothers, celebrities, spiritual leaders.

Others nurture their determination by immersing themselves in the serenity of nature.  So many more get their “kick” each day with a cup of coffee and a few moments of silence in the car before work. I would count myself among the few who gather inspiration or motivation from every aspect of life.

A beautiful sunset, quality time with family, reflection and prayer, interaction with random “Joes”, and very subtle messages are only a few of the sources I feed upon each day.

Every day as I walk from the DART rail station to WFAA I pass in front of the Dallas Morning News building, which is next door to the studio. While I’ve paid notice to the massive inscription etched into the edifice, never before have I taken the time to consider its meaning.

It so eloquently says, “Build the news upon the rock of truth and righteousness. Conduct it always upon the lines of fairness and integrity.  Acknowledge the right of the people to get from the newspaper both sides of every important question.”

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Day 8: Living in Cowboy Country

After only one week in the Lone Star State, I’m starting to immerse myself in the culture of Cowboy Country. This morning’s DART Rail commute to the station led to a surprise discovery on my iPOD.

I don’t recall having 45 minutes of country/western music on my playlist, but apparently it was just what I needed to jump start my Monday morning. Don’t expect to see me wearing boots and a cowboy hat just yet.

My mentor, David Schechter and I arrived in the newsroom at the same time this morning. As he unpacked, he told me about his weekend in Phoenix, Arizona, where he and another reporter from WFAA attended the IRE National Conference. Investigative Reporters and Editors, or IRE, is a professional organization for investigative journalists.  Continue reading

Day 5: My first week in the newsroom

I’ve had a spectacular first week at WFAA. Let me recap some of the highlights. I couldn’t ask for a group of people who are so professional, personable, and committed to their responsibilities as journalists.

I’ve learned walking is the cheapest form of transportation. Gas prices are still ridiculously high (might be the topic of a future post.) I’ve concluded that the easiest, fastest and cheapest form of transportation for me will be using the light rail, DART, or Dallas Area Rapid Transit.

Walking past the buildings downtown is fulfilling — the views are great and I think I’m doing my body some good. Continue reading

Day 4: Learning the ropes in the newsroom

Learning the ropesToday I’ll start by saying, “This is exactly how I had dreamed WFAA would be.” I arrived a little early to finish some work on a story from the previous day.

My mentor David Schechter arrived shortly thereafter and we delved into his upcoming special project. He’s working on a sweeps piece for later in the year and has the potential to have a big impact.

Unfortunately, I can’t give any further details. This story is requiring a tremendous amount of research, looking for specific contextual facts. It’s very exciting to envision the finished product. Continue reading

Day 3: Starting to settle in

Let me begin tonight by thanking the growing number of you who take time to stop in and read about my daily happenings. I appreciate the comments and feedback I receive. Please continue to add ideas and suggestions for future posts. I’m starting to feel that I’m developing  a routine, not that it is necessarily a bad thing. My daily trek to work is increasingly amusing. Each day builds upon previous instances, like a soap opera.

Sometimes I see the same people, but usually it’s a relatively interesting crowd. I’m becoming very proud of the amount of money I am saving on gas. I can’t stress enough the need for mass transit like this is many other cities. Dallas hit the nail on the head with this one.

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Day 2: “I Can See Clearly Now…the Rain is Gone”

Before I start, let me apologize for the cliche song reference in the headline. I can’t help but be thankful that the monsoon is over, but also shrug at the scorching week ahead. Today’s hot, dry weather is closer to the normal weather patterns for north Texas.

Upon arrival at work, I finally worked out the kinks with my employee log-in to the Belo corporate intranet. I figured out how to file my electronic time sheet and smoothed-out the details of their direct deposit system.

I was immediately struck by the size of the WFAA newsroom. Located at the entrance of the room is the assignments desk, the “nerve center” of any news operation.

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Day One: Comparing apples to oranges

WFAA is one of the most respected television newsrooms in the country.

Let me begin by making note of the vast differences between my current and previous internships. Using the “apples and oranges” comparison between KPLC and WFAA would fall short of adequate. The stations are completely different environments, with each offering unique experiences and opportunities to grow and learn.

At KPLC, I worked with journalists who are in the early years of their careers, hungry for any shot at their big break.

WFAA has a long-standing reputation as one of the top news stations in the country, with some of the most respected names in broadcast journalism on their team. I’m looking forward to building on the incredible foundation KPLC has already provided me. Continue reading