Module 63-2


Updated: 06/18/2014

Module 63

News and

Documentary Production


" We are at the beginning of a golden age of journalism -- but it is not journalism as we have known it. Media futurists predict that by 2021, citizens will produce 50 percent of the news...."

- Online Journalism Review Report on Participatory Journalism

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 ENG Personnel

The number and type of positions involved in producing a daily newscast will vary from two or three people in a very small station to more than 100 in Toronto, New York, Los Angeles, or Tokyo.

ENG personnelAlthough responsibilities and titles can vary among stations, generally the news producer is the person who is directly in charge of the newscast.

In this digital, file server era, the role of the news producer has changed. Today's news producer typically puts together the list of segments for each newscast based on the stories available.

The Director will then check the segments and make sure they are ready for air and then call for them as the news is broadcast. The person who responds to the director and operates the switcher during the broadcast is the TD or Technical Director.

Larger stations have segment producers in charge of specific stories or newscast segments. Some stations will have an executive producer who is over the producer(s).

As the title suggests, the ENG coordinator starts with the story assignments made by the assignment editor and works with reporters, ENG crews, editors, technicians, and the producer to see that the stories make it to "air."

ENG coordinators must also understand news, which brings us to...


Uncovering Truth

>>Ultimately, the job of the journalist  — especially the investigative journalist  — is to Food Pleaseuncover the truth about situations and explain that to an audience in a clear and succinct way.

It's not the responsibility of the reporter to advocate a particular viewpoint but simply to bring all of the related facts to the public's attention and let those facts speak for themselves.

Once a news source is suspected of having "an agenda," credibility is lost and all of their reporting becomes suspect. If public perception is a gage, this has clearly happened in the case of some of today's "news networks."

The Press As a Watchdog

>>In mid-2002 two major stories were reported in the U.S. press: the molestation of hundreds of children by clergy and the largest corporate bankruptcy in U.S. history.

In both cases the incriminating facts had been successfully hidden from the public as the situations continued to get progressively worse.

TV newsHad the truth been uncovered and publicized earlier something could have been done to head off the pain and suffering that a great many people had to subsequently endure.

This includes the many additional children who were molested and the scores of people who lost all of their retirement funds while some corporate executives pocketed millions of dollars.

In both cases it was the journalist's job to uncover the facts that people were rather successfully hiding and bring these facts to the public's attention; in other words, to fulfill their role as "the watchdogs of a democratic society."

>>Broadcast news today is a highly competitive business. Being first with the news can equal a boost in ratings and, of course, ratings translate into profits.

A reporter that can "scoop" competitors by being first with a story can gain personal and professional prestige, and even awards.

" This pressure results in reporters sometimes stepping over the line of civility, and this has resulted in the brazen image of TV reporters that is frequently portrayed in dramatic television."

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At the same time, today reporters are facing increasing efforts to legally hamper their efforts to uncover political and corporate wrongdoing.

The reason is not a mystery.

The individuals who are frequently the target of political scandals are the ones with the power to shape and interpret laws that can hinder these investigations.

At the same time, the major contributors to political campaigns are the corporations that are frequently the targets of investigations.

News organizations, themselves, are not immune to pressures, since both political and corporate pressures end up having a strong influence over their own profits.

More than one reporter has been pressured to "back off" from an investigation when the outcome could affect political power or corporate profit.

Many examples are never brought to light. But one alleged and seemingly clear and striking example is covered in red dot this YouTube video.

" The liberties of a people never were nor ever will be secure when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them."

-Patrick Henry

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Video Journalists (VJs)

>>Today, we commonly see "one-man bands" covering televisionone-man band   news; i.e., one person doing everything: camera operator, reporter, sound person, and editor.

In case you are wondering what the term "one-man band" refers to, it originally referred to a man who played multiple musical instruments at the same time. In the case of the person on the left, however, we have a one-woman band.

A more modern broadcast related interpretation is when an on-camera reporter shoots the basic story, then sets up a camera on a tripod, focuses on a mark on the ground, tilts the camera up to his or her height and locks it, puts on a mic and checks the audio, rolls the recorder, and then standing on the mark delivers the opening and closing to the piece. The same person may edit the piece and do the voice-over narration,

As television news moves to IP (Internet protocol) as a point-to-point medium this "all-in-one" individual may send the story from the field directly to the studio or "cloud," (remote depository), to be used as needed. All that's required is an Internet connection -- and, of course, a person who is very good at multi-tasking.

This has led to the term, video journalist (VJ), a single field reporter who does it all.

It's not easy, but it saves hiring extra people. Thus, it's more important than ever to understand the entire production and news process.

Reporter's Checklist

Feeling the rush to get a story, it's sometimes tempting to guess at facts or use information from a questionable source.

However, errors in stories not only damage a station's credibility but they can derail a reporter's professional future. Here are five points to keep in mind when writing news stories.

1. Question those who claim to be a witness to an event and confirm that they really were in a position to see what happened. See the blog entry, Yellow square "When Everybody Gets It Wrong."

2. Use a second source to double-check information that seems surprising or may be in doubt -- especially if it could put any person or agency in a bad light.

3. Double-check all names, titles, and places, and, when necessary, write out the pronunciation of names phonetically.

4. When writing the story, do the math on numbers. If a telephone number or address is involved, make very sure they are accurate.

5. Make sure that sound bites selected during editing accurately reflect what the person being interviewed meant.


News Producer's Checklist

>>Once reporters turn in their stories and a news producer or director takes over, many decisions must still be made before the stories are ready for broadcast.

Among other things, the stories must be reviewed for balance, lead-ins (story introductions) must be written, and appropriate graphics must be prepared to support the stories.

Suppressing Stories

>>Even in the United States attempts are regularly made to keep news people from reporting on certain events.

In doing a TV documentary the writer had his own experience with this, an experience that demonstrated just how little power a news or documentary person sometimes has against a system bent on suppressing facts. (See Murder and A Police Cover-up.)

This recently has been taken a step further when some municipalities enacted laws to make it make it illegal to film public police actions.

In some cases cell phone cameras have been confiscated and contents erased and copied -- including phone contacts and personal photos.

 The legality of this has been challenged by the ACLU.

It would seem that for a democracy to function and for voters to make informed decisions they must be made aware of malfeasance on the part of government employees and elected officials.

It is no secret that if you can control journalists and the news media you can influence elections and legal processes.

The Freedom of Information Act (FOA)

>>To help address this issue The Freedom of Information Act (FOA) was passed that allows citizens and reporters access to government documents, thereby bypassing the filters of press releases.

However, not only is the process of obtaining documents through FOA fraught with red tape and delays, but key information is often blacked out (redacted), and in 2008 two-thirds of the requests were simply refused.

One 2013 request resulted in a 57 page reply but with more than 98 percent of it blacked out, leaving not much more than the title page.

Although the FOA law stipulates that the government must reply to a request within a set period of time, in practice that part of the law has sometimes been ignored. Since the FOA law has no "teeth" in it, there is little that can be done.

Even so, over the years some major stories have resulted from FOA documents.

 As attempts to repress truth has increased
around the world, murder has become
the leading cause of work-related
deaths for journalists.

At Times, A Dangerous Profession

>>Investigative journalism, especially when it involves corporate and governmental wrongdoing, it not a profession for sissies.

Throughout the world, and even in the United States, reporters have been imprisoned or killed to keep their stories from being aired.

By 2007, more than 100 journalists had been killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. In the last decade years more than 1,000 journalists have been killed around the world. Laura Logan

>>Those who feel that covering wars from the battlefield is a man's job need to consider yellow
                  intidator the story of Lara Logan.

Although this woman's life is not without personal and professional controversy, she has won numerous prestigious awards and is considered one of today's most successful foreign correspondents.

The file,   Are You Paranoid Yet?, covers two of the most recent attempts to stop U.S. investigative reporters from doing their jobs -- not in some dangerous foreign country without the rule of law, but in the United States.

After computers and telephones of major news centers, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Fox News and the Associated Press were hacked, reportedly by a branch of the U.S. government to find out who their sources were, journalists have suggested somewhat drastic procedures designed to protect themselves and thwart hacking attempts. 

>>Suffice it to say, investigating and breaking important stories often carries a degree of professional and personal risk. At the same time, this is the way awards are won and professional careers are advanced — and, far more importantly, wrongs are rectified and needed social change is instituted.

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