Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

Posts Tagged ‘KGW

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.

 

 

 

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

Gannett No Good for Portland

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TV Tower

This was the title of a press release issued by three union locals representing professional broadcasting; the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the Screen Actor’s Guild – American  Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA). I called IATSE spokesperson Dave Twedell to learn more.

Essentially, these unions are worried by changes media corporation Gannett wants them to agree to, primary of which is allow “amateurs” or people not represented by the union to do union jobs.  This means, according to Mr. Twedell, bloggers, podcasters and possibly independent videographers would begin doing the work of professional writers, producers and field camera operators under what’s called a “Non-exclusive jurisdictional contract”.   And this is feared to lead to other changes, including:

(1) The firing of local television engineers at Channel 8 and turn local engineering responsibilities over to Gannett’s automated Master Control facility in Jacksonville, Florida,

(2) The possible elimination of Ch. 8 news altogether because Gannett may sell away the station’s bandwidth (including part or all of Ch. 8’s frequency) at the next FCC auction.

Mr. Twedell said the purpose of a planned rally at Pioneer Courthouse Square on Saturday is to distribute information on the proposed changes by Gannett and give the public a chance to make their concerns known to Gannett.

I asked Mr. Twedell if he expected any of the “talent” (any of the Channel 8 anchors or reporters) would show up.  He said he can’t speak for the SAG-AFTRA part of the coalition, since this event focuses more on the photographers and video editors side of TV operations.  But he said several SAG-AFTRA members are “active participants in our campaign” and we’ll see what we’ll see.

The release was issued on April 20th.  Let me know if you’ve heard anything about it on any news broadcast.

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Here is the full text of the release:

“Ever since Gannett took over KGW in late 2013, things have progressively gone downhill, including cost-cutting by bringing in amateurs and outsourcing work to machines located thousands of miles away.  That isn’t right”.

“KGW is a vibrant part of the community.  Because KGW is licensed to broadcast in the public interest, the public has a right to know what the new corporate owner, Gannett, wants to do with KGW”.

“The city goverment relies on Channel 8 to provide reliable real time information during emergencies.  The station’s advertisers rely on it to provide a large audience and the large audience is made up of stakeholders who can and we believe should speak up about the Gannett business model”.

“On Saturday, April 25, join us for a rally and celebration of KGW in Portland’s iconic Pioneer Courthouse Square.  Help us protect quality broadcasting and family-wage jobs, and stand up to corporate media.  KGW must maintain its standards and identity.  This is OUR air”.

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The rally takes place Saturday, April 25th at Pioneer Courthouse Square from Noon until 2 p.m.