Sunday, June 22, 2008

New Reporters To The Area Should...

There are always new reporters, editors and producers coming and going at area newspapers, radio and television stations. That's a fact of life. Here's a few of the things they should learn and keep in mind so they and their stations and newspapers don't sacrifice credibility as they get acclimated to the region.

My Advice to New and Novice Reporters in the Region:

1. Learn the area and learn how to pronounce the regional cities and counties and the idiosyncrasies involved. Learn that while Fulton is in Fulton County, Hickman is NOT in Hickman County. It's in Fulton County, too. Dyersburg is in Dyer County, but the city of Dyer is in Gibson County. It goes on and on. Ask the experienced reporters and producers at your station or newspaper. Ask the locals....BEFORE they call and remind you AFTER the fact, before heading to the local gathering place and telling everyone what idiots you are.

2. Learn about the rivers and the river industries. Learn that tugboats guide ships in harbors, mostly in saltwater ports, and the boats on the Ohio and Mississippi that push barges are TOWBOATS. Every time you use the term "tugboat" concerning the local river industry, you lose credibility.

3. Learn how the local government works. Learn the local civics and who the local leaders are. Ask! It's much better to ask one local person a stupid question in private, than to make a statement that tells tens of thousands of readers or viewers that you're not from around here and you don't know what you're talking about.

4. Learn the history behind the stories you're reporting. It doesn't take much effort to go into the "morgue" and look up the backgrounds on stories. Also, ask the old timers and experienced reporters and producers. In the long run, it can save you a lot of time as well as credibility.

5. Soak up all you can from the experienced reporters and producers on your staff. They're your organization's most valuable resource. They're also the ones your readers and viewers trust the most.

Credibility is one of the few things you can have to set your organization apart from the competition, especially these days when so many are skeptical of the "media." Experience and credibility is why losing Tim Russert hurt NBC News much more than losing Katie Couric. Credibility can take your organization years to build, but one inexperienced reporter can damage it in mere seconds. For most street level reporters and some anchors and editors, too, this place may be merely a stop off for the duration of your three year contract, and then you'll be moving on. While you're here, please respect the local region, and it's people. Please build upon your organization's credibility instead of damaging it. When you get to that larger market you desire, do yourself favor. Take what you learned here and apply it there. You'll be much better off. What you're doing is more important than advancing your career. You're part of the "record" of a place and it's people. Make sure you get it right.

1 comment:

Leonard Riggs Jr said...

You are sorely missed in the local tv industry.

Funny you should mention "learning the area". Just last week one of the newbies at WPSD kept mispronouncing the name of the small town of Valier, Il(which is just a couple of miles from where I live). I remember years ago sending snail mail to certain morning show anchor from the late 1980's (who shall remain nameless-you worked with him) for mispronouncing that town("it's NOT VAL-Year, it's Vuh(as in Duh) and Lear(as in your ear) But it's those attentions to detail that matter. It really makes the whole station look foolish.