Day 4: Learning the ropes in the newsroom

Today 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.

I am professionally interested in investigative reporting, so this hands-on experience is an incredible opportunity. David is also teaching me how to write requests for public documents.

He’s leaving for a conference in Phoenix, so tomorrow I’ll be working with crime reporter Rebecca Lopez. I’m particularly looking forward to exchanging ideas and experiences since one of my primary beats at NSU was the campus police department. I’m meeting her at the Dallas Police Headquarters, which is where she starts each day. We’re going to check police reports and get a briefing from her contacts.

Today’s newscasts were solid. The 6 p.m. newscast featured a dramatic live shot and package about the use of a new emergency-911 system.

Reporter Bob Greene told us of the recent death of a man and his wife, whose car crashed into an area river. The man called 911 from his cell phone, but the emergency operator was unable to collect any information or dispatch help, because the man was speaking Korean. Sadly, the man and his wife drowned, trapped in the submerged car.

Several Dallas-Fort Worth cities have begun using a new system that could eliminate similar problems. With a push of a button the technology would identify the language and dialect being spoken. Immediately a 3-way conversation will begin between a translator, the emergency operator, and the person in need of help.

The Dallas County Emergency Center doesn’t have plans to implement this system, despite several other DFW cities already using the service. In his story, reporter Bob Greene uncovers that the 911 operator is still on the job. Even if she had dispatched rescuers to the man’s location, Dallas County says the time-frame for survival would have already passed.

These are the type of stories that I’m interested in learning how to cover. It’s a difficult balance, showing care and respect to the victims while asking appropriately tough questions. These are not experiences you can pick up in a journalism textbook.

On a different note, I am surprisingly impressed with how pleasant the work environment is at WFAA. Everyone has been exceptionally friendly and helpful. It’s a refreshing dynamic.

All of the reporters and anchors have been very humble, eager to help, and enjoyable. I asked David if it was always like this and his response was, “give it some time.” He did say however, that teamwork is necessary. “You can’t be successful by being a jerk,” he said.

I was used as a hand model today for Janet St. James’ package. I had to open a bottle of Vitamin Water and pour it into a glass.  The photographer used a special light filter to create some really appealing visual effects. Her story looks into the claims of heath benefits from energy drinks and infused waters. I would encourage you to visit www.wfaa.com if you are interested in learning more about any of the stories I discuss on this blog.

As I type this post, I smell some great food cooking, which reminds me of lunch. Yesterday we grabbed lunch at the Burger House, a diner-style restaurant with all types of burgers and their signature seasoned salt fries. Check them out at www.BurgerHouse.com.

The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the views of the corporation and employees of WFAA-TV, Belo Corp., or Northwestern State University. They are solely the opinion of the author. All content © Copyright 2007 Lane Luckie

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