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.

What started out as a relatively slow news day, ended with a slew of breaking stories. Suddenly those at the assignment desk began to scramble when a notice came over the police scanner calling for a water rescue in Cedar Creek. They were able to determine that 5 children were in a creek when waters began to rise.

Part of the area had been under a flood watch, when afternoon thundershowers moved into the area. Apparently the teens had been playing in the creek when waters swept them downstream. Dallas emergency responders were able to reach the teens and place them in life preservers until additional help could arrive.

Chopper 8 was immediately dispatched from its traffic watch duties to cover the breaking story.  Veteran reporter Gary Reaves was directed to meet a live truck which was en route to the scene.

Upon arrival, Gary collected as much information as possible from officials.  Producers in the newsroom, who were watching the live video, which had not yet been switched on air,  coordinated with Gary on the ground and the chopper pilot to determine if the rescue warranted a live break-in. The live truck had not yet reached the scene, however Gary was standing by on a cell phone as the chopper circled overhead.

The rescue crews then moved in to hoist the teens up the side of a bridge to safety. After agreeing that enough information was available, the decision was made to interrupt programming to update viewers on the situation.

Evening anchor John McCaa informed viewers of the developing story and explained the location of the rescue. He then tossed to Gary Reaves on the scene to share all the confirmed details of the rescue operation. He also gave some background about the creek’s history of flooding unexpectedly.

Reaves reminded viewers that less than a month ago, severe flooding swept a car off of the bridge and into the creek, killing the passengers. Back in the studio, John McCaa recapped the story and then returned viewers to programming.

WFAA chose not to stay with the coverage to avoid making a show out of the rescue. Staffers demonstrated their ability to think on their toes, while getting the story right. Nearly 30 minutes passed until the NBC 5, FOX 4, and CBS 11 were live at the scene. It was very exciting to see this story unfold and happy to report that all of the teens are safe after the ordeal. To watch the water rescue, click here.

Other than learning about the inner-working of a spot news story, it was a relatively slow news day. Earlier that morning, I spent time learning how to use iNews Clip Edit, which is the station’s non-linear editing system. It is less complex than Avid Xpress Pro, which is used at Northwestern State.

The editing software is reminiscent of EditStar, which I used while interning at KPLC in Lake Charles. After editing some sample VO/SOTs, I sat in on the afternoon news meeting.  All of the newscast producers held a conference call with reporters in the Fort Worth and Collin County news bureaus. They discussed the day’s plan for news coverage as well as what stories would appear in each evening newscast.

Lunchtime conversations with fellow interns Morgan Parmet and Chris Ghanbari, focused on future plans in the news business, as well as journalism school comparisons. Morgan isn’t sure what she wants to do just yet, but enjoys producing South Methodist University’s daily newscasts.  She spends time each day with the producers, who decide which stories will appear in their assigned newscast.  They also oversee the news content in each newscast, making changes to creative elements and writing styles.  Morgan is from Houston and is a junior.

Chris plans purse a career in news editing, where he’ll assemble the most relevant and compelling images to complement a reporter’s script. He is already interning in the editing department and will learn from some of the best in the business. He’s a senior at UT-Arlington and is from the DFW area. UT-Arlington does not have a newscast, however he gets plenty of experience using Avid editors.

Since today’s news commentary was devoted to the breaking news, I’ll hold off one more day on discussing the story I alluded to yesterday. I will give you a quick tease — Sex offenders and MySpace. I’ll brief you on the story, plus give you some personal opinion on the outcome.

Tomorrow should prove to be an interesting day. I’ll be helping with a story where we’re interviewing Dick Bartlett, the vice president of Mary Kay Cosmetics. We’re talking to him in relation to the “secret story” that we’re working on for November. He and his wife are involved in some good work in the community that’s connected to the story. I’m very excited about this interview because Mr. Bartlett is a member of my fraternity, Pi Kappa Phi.

Just a little lagniappe for you… I’ve included a picture of advertising on the side of a bus.  WFAA is promoting their new Chief Meteorologist, Pete Delkus, who is replacing local weather icon Troy Dungan.

Troy is retiring  in July after decades of forecasting weather in Dallas for Channel 8.  The sign says “What you see is what he said you’d get.” Dungan hand picked Delkus as his heir after a nationwide search. Billboards, commercials, public transit advertising, fans, and public appearances are centered around their campaign “Delkus Delivers.” He’s a really nice guy too, by the way.

I hope you’re enjoying how this blog is evolving. I really think you’ll like tomorrow’s discussion of the MySpace story.

Thanks for stopping by. Have a great evening!

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


3 Comments Add yours

  1. bonniemoon says:

    Why do the exciting things happen on the days I’m not there.

    So not fair.


  2. Geof says:

    Take pictures with the pi kapp guy so we can use it on the rushboard hahaha! This was an exciting one today lane! My only question is, why are those kids playing in a stream!? Shouldnt they be like normal kids today and not know what the outdoors are!?!? Haha! Have fun tommorrow and enjoy playing with the makeup man!


  3. Mary Brocato says:

    Keep up the good work. You seem to be having a fantastic learning experience.


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