Archives for category: Broadcast Journalism

Advice from Sachin Seth

Internships are the key to the industry. If you want to make serious connections in the field, the best way is by completing as many internships during your university career as you can.

I got really, really lucky. I scored two really great internships in 2010, one at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta, and the second at the CBC’s foreign bureau in London, England.

It was a great opportunity for me to see the contrast between two of the biggest journalism organizations in North America.

I learned a lot, but there was one thing I learned that made me especially happy. If you’re a visible minority (I’m South Asian) don’t pay attention to the stats that tell you that you have a less of a chance of making it big. In a world that’s this globalized,  journalists of diverse backgrounds are gaining a lot of support from upper management in big organizations, so the shift in employment is in your favour.

Since finishing the pair of internships, I’m frequently asked two questions:

Question One: “what does a correspondent actually do on a daily basis?”

Sachin worked with CBC correspondent Susan Ormiston (pictured) in London

Last fall, I got the incredible opportunity with the CBC’s new London correspondent Susan Ormiston for six weeks. The London bureau was really small (about 11 full-time staff) and the place gets pretty hectic on filing days.

For example, when Susan had to file a story on the announcement of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s engagement, we were out all-day shooting visuals, interviews by Buckingham Palace, and doing live hits with the studio back in Toronto. Susan was writing her script for the final piece while out in the field, and when we got back in the evening, she voiced it and oversaw the editing process through until the end (which wrapped up around midnight or 1 a.m). That was a 14-hour day.

The days can be long and jam-packed, but really, the work is incredibly fun and there is very little repetition. You come into work with something new to do everyday, and that’s one of the joys and main attractions of the field.

In short, a correspondent may not have the same thing to do on a regular basis. Depending on his or her position, he or she may or may not file everyday. On non-filing days, the correspondent usually works on future stories, by researching and doing pre-interviews with future subjects. Their interns or assistants help with streeters*, doing pre-interviews, researching and, on occasion, writing.

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*streeters: non-gender-specific version of what used to be called the man-in-the-street interview. “Go out and shoot some streeters on gas prices.” Also known as voxpops (Latin: vox populi, voice of the people).
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Question Two: “What does an anchor do all day before going on-air?”

Sachin worked with CNN's Don Lemon (pictured) in Atlanta

Before my internship in London, I was at CNN in Atlanta for 9 weeks, working almost 60 hours a week. I worked, for the most part, on a specific show called “CNN Newsroom with Don Lemon.” I got to see first-hand what a national anchor does every day, and how crucial his supporting cast is to the successful execution of the show.

Don, like most anchors, does not write his full script (that would be impossible, especially for shows that go on for one or two hours). He did however write the tease* for every show, and read over his scripts several times before going on-air, just to make sure he was familiar with the material.

He also made executive decisions on which stories to include and not include, and was heavily involved in story meetings on the two days leading up to his weekend shows, as well as on the day of the shows.

Don did a number of live interviews on his shows as well, many times with questions that were written for him but that included a lot of his own input. Of course, the live follow–up questions were his responsibility.

Being a correspondent/anchor/reporter/any type of journalist is really hard work. As you’ve probably have heard a thousand times already, the hours are horrendous, the pay is usually pretty sub-par, the work is stressful and can be depressing. But the type of people who work in the industry are probably the kindest and funniest people you’ll ever meet. The people who practice journalism do it for the love of the work, and because they feel a responsibility to educate others on subjects that they care about.

If you feel the same way, then you’re in the right field.

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*tease: a promo which doesn’t give away the kernel of the story. “This man has committed no crime, but he’s wanted across Canada. We’ll have his story…later on the show.”
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About Sachin

[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/AYH2_0UC%5D

Advice from Adam Avrashi

Broadcasting is very technical and, popular belief aside, it’s not about shoving a microphone in someone’s face and hoping for the best. It requires a lot of preparation: know what questions you want to ask, know what sound you will need for your report and be prepared for difficulties.

Questions should be specific ( because a microphone just incites most people to just blather on) and you need to be very attentive. Also, as an interviewer, speak as little as possible. You should be listening to what your interviewee is saying and be prepared to ask a follow-up question based on that.

1) Your story is too long

You should know what clips you want to use for a report before you get into the editing booth. Know your material, and the piece edits itself.

In my experience, the best editors aren’t the ones who know how to create cool effects. They are the ones who insist you cut down your story. And trust me: your story is too long. It always is.

It took me a while to realize this, but the audience has a short attention span, and no matter how much you like a particular clip or sequence, if it doesn’t add to the story you are trying to tell, take it out.

Broadcasting is not about quantity but about quality. If you’re story is two and a half minutes long, try cutting it down to one minute 45. Chances are you are saying something superfluous or belabouring a point, and your audience will definitely appreciate a more concise piece.

2) You don’t have to have a “voice for radio”

I don’t have a God-given voice for radio. And yes, some people just do have that booming presence. I’ve worked with and gone to school with a handful of them. But having a booming voice isn’t really that important, but sounding authoritative and interesting is.

If you are like me, and just have a normal speaking voice, there are a couple of things you can do to try and improve your on-air delivery.

First off, record yourself having a regular conversation, just on the phone with someone or speaking with a friend in person. Then listen to it. Chances are, you will be very surprised with what you hear. We are used to hearing our voice in our own head, so having our actual voice played back is a strange phenomenon.

Once that’s done, try recording yourself reading some news copy (don’t just read an article online—go ahead and actually write yourself some news copy. Remember, the shorter the sentences, the easier they are  to say). Now record yourself, with headphones in your ears to hear the resonance, reading the copy. Try to make your voice sound powerful, use pauses and try to alter the speaking tone and insert emotional flourish when appropriate—no newscast should be read with a monotone drone. Practice and repeat.

You know you have found your broadcasting voice when you can listen to yourself without feeling embarrassed or self-conscious. You should be able to listen to the piece and hear your story instead of your performance. Then you’ve got it.

3) Tips on hosting a radio show

I have hosted my own current affairs radio show for nearly two years on campus radio. If you are interested in broadcasting, this is some of the best practice you can get. Booking guests, preparing interviews, producing discussion topics and segments all take practice and it’s something you won’t learn in class.

I’ve interned in two different radio newsrooms and the equipment and the preparation process aren’t so different than working on campus radio.

My tip would be to over-prepare — know your topics and discussion points so well that when you go on air, you barely need any text in front of you. All you should have are facts or story details—you shouldn’t have everything you want to say written out or the show won’t feel organic and result in boring radio. And remember, radio is the theatre of the mind, so make sure you are descriptive and illustrative when recounting a story. Make your audience sees what you are talking about.

4) Where to get story ideas

Story ideas can come from anywhere: a newspaper article, a press release, something I overheard on the bus or a story my grandmother told me. But remember that not every story will be a good fit for every audience, so make sure you know who is listening to your show or report. Read newspapers and listen to radio, that is how you develop a good sense of an interesting story. But if you get a tip that excites you and you think would be of interest to others, it is worth exploring.

5) How to address controversial subjects

When talking about something that could be construed as controversial—religion, politics, sex, etc—don’t panic but bring your A-game. This is the type of show or report where you need to triple check your facts. Also, if you are concerned about saying something that may offend others, try picturing those people sitting in the radio booth beside you. Would they be offended? Do they have reason to be offended? Are you treating their point of view fairly?

As a show host, you have the right to say something controversial—it is stipulated under media law as fair comment—but it is important that the comment actually is fair and based on truth. A Muslim woman in Quebec refused to give a presentation in front of her class because she claimed it was against her religion. We covered this topic on my show, and it was important for me to express my point of view, but I imagined that the woman and her family were sitting next to me. It is easy to say something into an empty room with a microphone, and much more difficult to say the same things in person.

Final thoughts

Practice, practice, practice. If you can’t get your own show on community radio, make a podcast and put it online or play it for your friends and family. The more practice you get, the better you will become. And have fun.

About Adam

Advice from Lauren Pelley

My advice is simple. Just love what you do. Take on more complicated stories than you think you can handle, try new things you haven’t done before, explore all areas of media from video to social media to beyond — and don’t be afraid to make mistakes along the way. Embrace every challenge thrown at you and learn how to be the best journalist you can be. And do it with integrity. But back to my first bit of advice — just loving the job. If you aren’t enjoying this field 110%, you’ll never be happy (since the pay is crap and it’s an uphill climb to get any decent jobs). So above all, find out if this is truly your passion… or just go into PR.

About Lauren

Lauren Pelley

  • Name: Lauren Pelley
  • J-school: Western
  • Current/Past employers: The Gazette, CHCH Television
  • Publications in which her work has appeared: See above
  • Platforms she works in: Print, web, broadcast
  • Website: LaurenPelley.com
  • Twitter: @LaurenatGazette
  • Sample work: The Dundas Dilemma
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