Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A Visit to Morning TV Land

Rachael Faust, promotion coordinator for KGAN/KFXA speaks to Mount Mercy students April 26.

I unfortunately didn’t take her photograph or write down her name (since I didn’t write down anything), but for me a highlight of a tour of KGAN CBS2/KFXA Fox28 in Cedar Rapids was a chat with a news producer.

She explained that her job is mostly to write—and it  highlighted a message I often tell students. In any media work—journalism, PR, web, etc.—there are always writers.

In TV, there are many people behind the scenes who make the programs happen.

MMU CO 120 class tours TV studio. Can you spot the news anchor?

KGAN/KFXA kindly hosted a tour by my Introduction to Journalism class from Mount Mercy on April 26. Rachael Faust, the stations’ promotion coordinator, was our guide. Along the way, morning anchor Kelly D’Ambrosio and morning reporter Stephanie Johnson also chatted with the class.

News Anchor Kelly D'Ambrosio talks in TV studio.

It was, I hope, an eye opening visit for students. For one thing, even a small market TV station is a pretty substantial operation, and that spells opportunity for the motivated student. For another thing, if they listened as I did, they heard many pieces of advice that echo messages Joe has said before: For instance, learn all the media basic skills you can. Know InDesign, PhotoShop and basic video editing. In any communication career, flexible, basic skills are important. That was one message Rachael spoke about.

It was also interesting to speak to all several people whose days begin at 3:30 a.m. New Anchor Kelly was just back from lunch at 10 a.m. when she spoke with my class.

A TV studio looks a little like your crazy Uncle Ed's attic.

It was an interesting tour, and I’m glad that local media companies are willing to allow my students to poke around a bit.

And in a recycling bin in the news studio, I had to show several students the discarded scrips. They were done in split format, video on the left, audio on the right, what is meant to be spoken in ALL CAPS.

It looked just like the format students are using for their current video stories.

Fun with the green wall--Logan, above, and Connor, below, at TV studio.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Seeing the Gazette Again in its New, Old Home

Zack Kucharski, executive editor of The Gazette, speaks with MMU students Thursday.

He wasn’t unexpected—in fact I invited him—but Donald Trump’s appearance wasn’t entirely welcome.

Each spring, my Introduction to Journalism class from Mount Mercy University visits several sites. Thursday was our annual Gazette visit. I usually bike there, but drove this year due to cool, wet weather. We were hosted by Zack Kucharski, executive editor. In addition, we spoke with from Diana Nollen, arts and entertainment writer, and observed a daily meeting of other editors.

In the past, we’ve toured the building and then sat down with Zack and some members of his staff—but The Gazette recently sold KCRG and moved back into its old building, so there is a bit less to see on a tour. No matter, we saw and heard plenty while staying in one room. Zack gave very informative opening remarks. Then Diana came in and shared some anecdotes from her career.

Zack has been with the paper for 16 years, so has quite a memory, but Diana’s history dates back to the year I graduated from college and got my first full-time job as a sports editor for a daily paper in Missouri—1982.

As always, she had interesting anecdotes to share about singers and other celebrities she has interviewed, and some reporting tips for students, such as go ahead and record interviews, but never depend on a recorder. You always need to take notes.

Zack pointed out that you often need those notes not just for when the sound or recording fails, but also to explain the recording—maybe you’ll capture audio of a source saying “this project here is my most complicated work,” and you need the notes to know what she was pointing to when she said “this.”

From www.newseum.org,
 front page of today's paper.
After an interesting chat, the students were allowed to sit in on the morning editors’ news budget meeting. The lively give-and-take was great for students to observe. Afterwards, one of the editors mentioned that things often change in the news business, and it would be a good idea for students to check the Gazette this morning to see how it had evolved from what was discussed.

As it happened, this was not one of those days when a lot changed after the meeting—yet it was kind of cool over my cereal and banana nut bread breakfast this morning to flip through the paper and think, “I remember when they spoke about this story.”

After the meeting, students had an additional chance to ask questions. I posted one to Zack abut Donald Trump—partly, I think, the fact that his campaign manager was charged with assaulting a reporter put the man on my mind, but mostly it’s because Trump supporters seem so deeply distrustful of all the news media.

Zack agreed that the Trump phenomenon represents a challenge to journalists—and a sign that building and keeping trust with the audience is a growing issue. He seemed a bit surprised and taken aback by the whole Trump thing, but I kind of share that same reaction.

Someone shot this man in Reno, just to
watch me cry. commons.wikimedia.org, image of
Trump from Reno, 20156, posted by
Darron Birgenheier on flickr.
Sadly, I neither recorded nor took notes on his thoughtful response, which I should have because it would make this blog post a bit more meaningful.

Anyway, it was, as always, an entertaining visit. I’ve spoken with several students from the class after the fact, and they all seemed to enjoy the visit, too. One of the better writers from the class was just in my office, and, like, me, she really enjoyed sitting in on the meeting, even if she didn’t imagine an action movie. As a class, we’ll debrief at out next session.

So, thanks, once again, Gazette and Zack and Diana. It was fun!