Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

Posts Tagged ‘correspondent

What Do You Think?

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Flight 370

A common thing radio hosts and interviewers ask their correspondents and reporters to do is speculate.  They’re assumption is that those people, on the ground at the site have as much information about something as they can possibly have at that moment.  And since it is a news program, those reporters should share and summarize their reporting into an opinion.

But as a listener, I am clear that when I hear the reporter speculate as to the what or why of something, I am no longer listening to news, but to conjecture.  And even some reporters don’t seem all that comfortable engaging in it.

On July 30th, Melissa Block of NPR’s All Things Considered was talking with science correspondent Geoff Brumfiel about the discovery of debris that washed up on the French Island of Le Reunion.  Media reports were that the debris was possibly from Malaysian flight 370 that disappeared in March 2014.  Until now, no debris from that crash has been found and the many false reports were frustrating to family members but fodder for less reputable news outfits.

At the end of the report, Ms. Block asked Mr. Brunfiel if he thought the investigation “was much closer now to knowing what happened to the missing plane and solving the mystery behind that?”  To his credit, Mr. Brunfiel said he could not definitively say and would have to wait until French investigators have been able to examine the debris.

Reporters on the ground are the eyes and ears of the listening audience.  They’re job is to synthesize, simplify, boil down complex situations so the public has what they need to help them make decisions in their own daily lives.  And to that end, they can restate facts when asked to sum up what they’ve presented.  But they are not the agencies or professionals they are tasked to report on and can’t know the situations as well, with one exception.

That exception is investigative journalism which is an entirely different animal from spot news.  An indepth investigative journalism piece may take weeks to months to years to develop.  And at the end, those journalists may, in fact, know more about a situation than the agencies and professionals involved.

But otherwise, to ask a correspondent to guess in those kind of complicated, constantly changing situations doesn’t seem feasible to the news mission or fair to the audience.

*Photo by Sam Catherman of State Column.

What’s in a Name?

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Press

For anyone who watches, reads or listens to news, you know the people who deliver that news to you can go by different titles.  And sometimes, it’s not always easy to understand how the title connects to how they are delivering it.  This is a primer for you.

Anchor or Host – This is usually the person whose voice you hear or whose face you see.  Often, they introduce people, called reporters or correspondents, who have stories to tell although they too tell stories.  The difference is reporters and correspondents have gone somewhere else or are somewhere else and either tell that story from where they are or have come back to share what they’ve learned.  The stories the anchor tells may be from someone else, meaning the anchor probably didn’t author them.  Also, anchors tend to their stories only from the “anchor chair” in front of the microphone or the camera.  This is why sometimes, your anchor will be “on assignment”.  Anchors or hosts sometimes become reporters to help them resharpen their reporting skills or because of their prestige or stature within a station, they are afforded the opportunity to do high profile stories and return to the station to tell them.

Correspondent – A correspondent is a reporter who reports from a location outside of the country which is home to their media organization.  US reporters working as foreign correspondents serve like diplomats.  They may be assigned to a news bureau in a country for a year or more and spend time developing contacts in that country.  They may regularly use foreign language skills and work closely with the US State Department or the US Military.  Because of their connection to media and government, they may also be targets of hostile host nationals who would seek to kidnap and extort or kill them for some political or geo-political purpose.  Many times, when a network correspondent leaves an assignment, they return stateside for a period to “detox” from their foreign service which may have included long stretches in war zones.  Freelance correspondents however may move from one such hot spot to another.  Much has been written about this suspected “addiction to conflict” among some foreign correspondents.

Reporter –  A reporter usually operates close to their media organization “in the field” although they may occasionally report “away” but in the same country.  They tend to float from one story to another depending on where the station needs them to go.  Or they cover certain types of stories all the time; the political reporter, the finance reporter, the crime reporter.  It used to be that reporters traveled with support.  For instance, a newspaper reporter would be accompanied by a photographer.  A TV reporter would be accompanied by a videographer.  Radio reporters, because radio didn’t have a visual component, went alone to stories and had a tape recorder.  Today, because of budget cuts at media organizations and the increase in the use of social media, newspaper, TV and radio reporters may be responsible not only for telling the story verbally or aurally but also visually.  Many reporters may now carry small, high definition cameras for providing content for station run, social media accounts.

Journalist – Ideally, all anchors, correspondents and reporters are journalists.  A journalist is a storyteller who, under the best conditions, investigates stories and tells those stories with a minimum of bias and in such a way that the reader, viewer or listener has enough trustworthy facts to make up their own mind about what the story means to their lives as well as to whom and what they care about.

Written by Interviewer

January 27, 2015 at 04:48

CBS correspondent Elizabeth Palmer speaks volumes

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Elizabeth Palmer

Elizabeth Palmer, a correspondent for CBS News gave an excellent report this morning from Paris about how the French snapped up every copy of the satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo.  The magazine was the target of a terrorist attack last week that killed staff and police.

Over the last few days, there has been a discussion in the media as to whether the media should show the cover of the magazine.  Critics say covers that depict the prophet Mohammed are disrespectful and incite violence.  The attack, claimed by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, was precipatated it says by previous covers that also depicted the prophet Mohammed.

The discussion has mostly been around the reaction by print and online publications and should they or shouldn’t they reprint Charlie Hebdo’s controversial images.  The intesting thing about Ms. Palmer’s report was that at the end of it, she calmly held her copy of the magazine up to the camera while doing her lockout.

The thing is, the report showed many French buying, holding and reading the magazine.  And for at least the last two days, the proposed cover has been broadcast around the world in advance of the record setting 3-million print run.  And while journalists are discouraged from editorializing, they can occasionally say something without directly saying it.

Ms. Palmer didn’t have to hold the magazine up in front of the camera as  she was ending her report, but as a journalist, she was also making a statement.  I think she was saying, as were the  French and journalists around the world, “We own this”.  A friend had another interpretation; “F—- You, Al-Qaeda.”

Either way, classily done, Ms. Palmer.