“The Super Semester will be unlike anything you have ever done.” This sentence, uttered in our first class by instructor and professor of Communications Jill Falk, made me excited and anxious to find out what this cluster of courses is all about.
Almost three weeks into the semester, my excitement and enthusiasm have not diminished. Now that we are actually immersing ourselves in writing, producing, shooting and editing, I feel as though it is only getting better. Although none of us has been through the full rotation cycle at this point, I have already experienced how the work we are doing is challenging yet rewarding. Television is a fast-paced working environment that revolves around conveying the most recent and accurate information to an audience in a conversational yet professional style. I also learned that producing a newscast means adhering to deadlines and industry standards.
Working for television can get hectic at times, especially in the two hours leading up to a newscast. I personally enjoy the sense of urgency one automatically gets when it is crunch time. The energy of everybody around me being focused and working toward a common goal rubs off on me. During the second week, we received breaking news regarding one of the stories we covered that day just three minutes before we went on the air. In order to give our viewers the most current version of the event, we had to slightly alter the story. I felt the pressure while the clock was ticking mercilessly, but I managed to include the latest information in the story, finishing with just a few seconds remaining before the start of the newscast. I was a little proud of myself having stayed calm and having kept my cool. Frankly, the little time I had was not sufficient to check the facts or properly attribute what I wrote. I believe, therefore, that regarding breaking news the challenge is not only to include it in the newscast in time, but, more importantly, making sure that the information is accurate and attributed to a source (and the correct one of course).
The feeling I often have after a challenging newscast is one of pride and elevation, especially if I have made a major contribution to the success of the show. It makes me feel like I have accomplished something, one of the reasons being is that I have not done this on my own but with a bunch of equally motivated people who are eager to learn something and develop their skills. In my experience, the required teamwork, the accountability and the hard work television news demands bring out the best in people.
So far I anchored once. Going into the newscast, I was not particularly nervous, and as the show progressed, I was able to relax more and started feeling more comfortable reading the stories. While I thought I did a decent job considering that it was my first newscast, having watched the DVD I now know that I still have a long way to go. For instance, I have to interact with my co-anchor better and more often, I have to understand the nature of a story and adjust my facial expression accordingly, and I have to work on my intonation and enunciation. Furthermore, I learned that it is essential to read your script aloud, best with your co-anchor, to avoid hiccups during the show, and, if necessary, to ask how to pronounce unfamiliar names or places. It is also important to be at the anchor desk at least 15 minutes prior to the newscast.
While I am also keen on writing for newspapers and for the web, the thing I like about writing for television is immediacy and timeliness. Naturally, not every event presented in a newscast happens shortly before airtime, but news tends to be more topical; Even if a story started developing the previous night, including the latest development in your show gives your work an aura of relevance and yourself a feeling that you have your finger on the pulse.
Switching between different styles of writing, i.e. newspaper, blogs and television is definitely something I have to learn this semester, for every art of writing has different rules and requires dissimilar skills. The conversational, declarative, unadorned and to the point television approach differs greatly from the more formal, eloquent and in-depth way to write for a newspaper. Blogging, on the other hand, also has its own rules and tendencies. What I like about writing for television is finding a way to tell a story in a way so that the audience can relate to it. In doing so, using empathy can go a long way, for when you try to imagine how an incident might affect somebody, you have a good chance to come up with a compelling, captivating lead. Naturally, this doesn’t mean that you should try to be as catchy as possible. After all, sensationalism does not have a place in serious, investigative, quality journalism. Instead, the goal is to grab the audience’s attention by telling them why a given matter concerns them.