Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

Posts Tagged ‘KATU

Not Just Pretty Pictures

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Graphics Designer

I’m not sure how much credit graphics people at TV stations get, but they should get a lot more.  And I think particular attention regarding computer graphics needs to go to meteorologists.

Those over the shoulder images you see when the anchor is doing the news were created by a team of one to a few people in a little room somewhere.  If it doesn’t already exist in the station’s graphics library, or if it’s not part of a graphics package the station pays for, it has to be created in-house.

After a news meeting, the graphics people get a list of graphics needed for subsequent newscasts.  These things take time to make.  And consider a graphic that was accurate for a story last year, might need to be tweaked because an updated story needs an updated graphic.  So the person doing the work needs to have computer savvy and arts expertise to put them together quickly and have them look good too.  It’s important because if a graphic doesn’t fit the story, nobody is happy.  Likewise, if the thing gets corrupted or deleted, that can give a news director or producer conniptions.

Meteorologists, also create graphics, but they are building their animated vs. static graphics that must be in real time to follow constantly changing weather.  They don’t have a team.  Instead, they have to do it themselves.  It’s sort of like, the graphics people are cooks in a restaurant, while the meteorologists are cooking for themselves.

Interpreting high and low pressure areas, temperature isobars, radar images and satellite data, weather people have to turn National Weather Service information into something a viewer can plan painting their house or washing their car around.  I imagine it gets to a point for them where it’s easy, but not necessarily simple.  Proof of that is in the presentation of each channel’s weather.

None of the displays look the same.  And the clickers they hold are different, meaning the hardware and probably software are different.  Unlike static graphic folks who all probably use Adobe, for forecasters, it might not be as simple as choosing weather themes like writers get to choose font styles.  WX people might need to learn all new packages when they move from station to station.

There is a lot more that goes on at a TV station besides video.  Those static and animated images weren’t created by fairies.  People who create graphics that also help tell the story, moving or not, are unsung heroes and heroines of the TV news business.

 

 

 

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Written by Interviewer

April 9, 2016 at 07:38

A Viewer’s Perspective on the Greenpeace Protest Coverage

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St. Johns Bridge

I watched drama under Portland’s St. John’s bridge unfold yesterday.

At 7 a.m., the CBS Morning News began as usual. But at 7:05, local affiliate KOIN cut in with breaking news about a protest by activists to prevent the Fennica, a ship owned by Shell Oil, from moving northward on the Willamette River. Apparently, as the ship left dry dock around 2 a.m., protestors were already positioning themselves to dangle themselves in front of it. The ship is an icebreaker and has the ability to cap blown out oil wells.  The US Government gave Shell permission to drill in the Arctic only if that capability is on site.  By blocking its passage and preventing the ship from leaving, activists were preventing the drilling.

The protest was clearly illegal, but it was also quite elegant. Thirteen protestors suspended themselves in hammocks from climber’s ropes beneath the deck of the bridge. They hung low in the shipping traffic route of the Willamette. Their intention was to prevent the high masted Fennica from passing by daring the ship to endanger them in an attempt to pass them. As the Fennica approached, the protestors lowered themselves another 50 feet to make it even more difficult for the ship. And, connecting each protestor was an even lower hanging cable that looped from one to the next to the next. Long and colorful red and yellow streamers waved downwind of many of them.  Over the next hour, the Fennica would stop, turn, retreat and advance as authorities tried to figure out what to do.

I soon realized that this was an great chance to see how all of Portland’s TV news teams covered an event with international appeal. So I started switching between all four stations; KGW Channel 8, KPTV Channel 12, KOIN Channel 6 and KATU Channel 2. It was hard to pay attention to all of the nuances of each station’s coverage considering the story was fast developing and had lots of moving parts. But I had some overall impressions.

  • CBS affiliate KOIN’s video feed from the river shoreline was intermittently terrible. Perhaps it was because the microwave signal for the camera operator was in a bad location. Or maybe they were using a technology other than microwave. But the picture was frequently pixelated. However, Ken Boddie in studio, Brent Weisberg on the river, and Elishah Oesch at the street level were professional and comprehensive in their reporting despite technical difficulties. KOIN did get some beautiful shore level video of protestors hanging from the bridge.
  • NBC affiliate KGW relied heavily on their helicopter, as did KATU and KPTV, although I couldn’t tell if KGW had a reporter in theirs. The footage they shot gave excellent perspectives on kayakers, protestors hanging from the bridge and the moving Fennica thanks to anchor Russ Lewis and reporters Stephanie Stricklen and Rachel Rafanelli.
  • ABC affiliate KATU’s Mike Warner was their reporter in the air. His reporting personalized what was happening on the water and made me appreciate that his play by play was just as if not more important than an aerial view with no commentary. I counted four and maybe five KATU staff on this story including reporters Katherine Kisiel, Matt Johnson, and Warner as well as anchors Lincoln Graves and Natalie Marmion.
  • KPTV provided the most long lasting coverage. As each network affiliate left Portland’s local coverage at 8 a.m. PST to rejoin network programming, channel 12 stayed and continued to follow events. Anchors Pete Ferryman and Kim Maus, along with reporters Anthony Congi and Debra Gill worked it for at least another hour.

One takeaway for me was the advantage a helicopter provides to a station’s coverage. For example, both channels 8 and 2 seemed to report on a hang glider dangerously manuvering amongst the suspended protestors from their choppers at least a minute before 6 did. But KOIN had some impressive water level shots of the Fennica. And using its long range lens, the ship looked massive and imposing. Plus, KOIN’s Carly Kennelly seemed to be the only one I saw using ODOT traffic views of the St. John’s bridge.

By afternoon, U.S. Coast Guard and Portland Police had cleared a path for the Fennica ending a nearly 40 hour standoff. Portland’s fire and rescue team rappelled off the bridge and managed to remove three of the 13 protestors who hung over the center of the river channel.

Overall, the coverage by all of the locals was outstanding. And this kind of unique protest is what Portland is known for. Although opponents could argue that the protest was illegal, supporters can also argue that it was both ethical and necessary. If there is a positive, it is that worldwide attention was focused on something other than a mass shooting.  Here, both sides can claim a degree of victory with no injuries or loss of life.

Written by Interviewer

August 1, 2015 at 03:25

Eyes Wide Shut on the KGW Rally

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KGW Pioneer Square

A Google search as of 4/28 at 4 p.m. reveals eleven results with the search terms “KGW, IATSE, IBEW, SAG AFTRA and rally”.  Of those, one is a blog post from me, two are from NWLaborNews.org and the rest are a collection from Facebook, YouTube, IBEW and a few scattered others.  Even a search of the Oregonian, a non-broadcast medium, shows no coverage of Saturday’s event.  Perhaps the alternative weeklies will have something about the rally when they go to print in a few days.  But it seems no local, major TV or print media have yet produced anything about the event.  A search of those terms at the online archives of KATU, KGW, KOIN and KPTV show no stories about the rally with some search efforts showing no results for IATSE and SAG AFTRA acronyms.

What this tells me is that the public seems to see no story here and so the stations don’t cover it. Media companies in general and TV stations in particular are economic animals.  If the market wants it, they’ll begrudgingly report it even if doing so is against their interests.  But if the market doesn’t show any interest, and especially if that reporting works against owner interests, such a story won’t see the light of day.  And I know some people may think that a story like this one is surely in the public interest and so, stations have an obligation to cover it.  But again, the FCC has designated stations like KGW as the ultimate gatekeepers of the public airwaves and those stations have always determined what “in the public interest” ultimately means.  Because I can find precious little about a rally for employees of a television station, it reminds me how much of an insular racket commercial broadcasting actually can be.

I can imagine that the employees themselves are stunned at the completeness of the blanket media companies have dropped on them and their issue.  That they had to go to the center of the city and essentially scream at the top of their lungs because they knew they wouldn’t get an electronic megaphone speaks volumes to the power of media corporations rather than of media workers.

Thinking about the general public now, I don’t understand how so many people can benefit from unions but not do more to learn more about unions and what they are facing from a business climate that places efficiency and shareholders above all else.  But conversely, I’m sure a lot of those same union workers have 401K plans with Gannett or Clear Channel bundled somewhere in their asset mix.  And the closer they get to retirement, the better they want that portfolio to perform.  What a miserable conundrum.

One thing for sure … what ever happens, we’ll get out of it exactly what we put into it.  Here’s what I put into it.  The story begins at 27:28.

BTW, I tweeted that I’d produced that story to the three unions mentioned in the piece and, separately, to the local TV stations with employees who could be affected by KGW’s union fight.  As of 4/29 at 9 a.m., I have 253 impressions that seem linked to the unions and 25 impressions that seem linked to the the TV stations.

Written by Interviewer

April 29, 2015 at 23:27

I Don’t Have to Take This.

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Image

Oregon’s governor, John Kitzhaber, walked out of an interview with KATU reporter Kelly Lane in early January after four minutes and two questions.  Staff cut the interview short because they said the governor needed to stay on schedule.  But coincidentally, the interview ended immediately after Ms. Lane asked Mr. Kitzhaber about the failed Cover Oregon website. The governor’s office has taken an intense amount of what some would call well deserved heat for a breakdown in the site at practically every level of its development and implementation.

There are many reasons why a prior appointment time may have been missed by a staffer, thus forcing an interview to be cut short. Staffers also however, have the responsibility of shielding their bosses from potentially embarrassing questions that could lead to other questions about credibility. Which precipitated this incident is unclear.

This non-interview reveals how the most simple questions can be the most explosive, with two in particular being the time honored fuse and match. They represent the most basic questions reporters must ask whenever they are talking to a politician about a high profile and potentially politically damaging subject.  Ms. Lane managed to ask a derivative of one of them. They are:

1.  What did you know and when did you know it?

2.  Where did the money come from and where did it go?

This whole kerfuffle was because the governor said he never received a message regarding an update on the problems of Cover Oregon although a member of the legislature said they received a reply from the Governor’s office that he would.  Email messages can certainly be lost, accidentally deleted or misdirected.  Which was the cause of the truncated conversation comes down, sadly, to he said “I didn’t get the message” while she says “Oh yes you did”. But there are things the reporter can do to not get in the way of these snits because such confusion can be surprisingly illuminating. And when it happens, it’s not the reporter’s job to get in their way or save an interviewee from themselves, although there can be exceptions.   Those safeguards include:

1.  Confirming the amount of time that will be set aside for the interview in advance and re-confirming that time before the interview begins.

2.  Never taking such incidents personally.  Reporters should only be a mirror that reflects the candidate’s behavior and actions back to themselves and their audience.  A clear reflection lets the audience apply their own filter and make their own judgments on candidate viability.

I’ve said before how one of the most important things that the reporter can do during an interview is prompt a “reveal”.   But as this example shows, non interviews can prompt them as well.

Written by Interviewer

February 26, 2014 at 12:21