How I Got the Job: Hannah Everman

Everyone takes a different path to their first media job. Some people land their first choice right out of college. Others need to apply to dozens of places before landing an interview. There’s not a perfect way to get the job you want, but it can help to learn from the experience of others. In our feature “How I Got the Job,” we talk to some of the best people working professionally in media about what they did to get a foot in the door, and what it took to finally sign the contract. This week: Hannah Everman, producer and former assignment editor at KDRV in Medford, Ore.

bde68c350ed8b362b4ded36867e7442dWhen did you start looking for your first TV job?

I graduated from the University of Oregon with my bachelor’s degree in Journalism, and an emphasis on broadcasting, in June of 2013. My classmates had begun looking for jobs months before graduation, but I chose to search for internships, because I was not positive on the track I wanted to take within TV news. I solidified an internship in my hometown of Medford over spring break, and I started the week after graduation.

Do you remember what work samples you included in your job hunt?

As I progressed through my three-month internship, I realized I didn’t want to be an on-camera reporter or anchor. I found myself thriving behind the cameras, and decided to pursue a job as an assignment editor. AE’s don’t need reels, but they do need a spotless resume, cover letter and great people skills. My resume was one page, and played up my strengths. I also didn’t include anything that I couldn’t confidently talk about in an interview. Assignment editors may also be asked for work samples. I included only my published articles, and when possible, ones that were written in AP Style. In my cover letter, I tried to focus not just on why I wanted the job, but also drawing attention to my personality and why I would be a better fit than anyone else.

You started as an intern. What did you take advantage of in your internship to help you land a full-time job?

First off, I love internships! As an intern, I was willing to do anything and always available. I was a pushy intern. In local news, you’re often thrown into the deep end without a life jacket, and I was determined not to drown. I always arrived 10-15 minutes early, I brought story pitches to every morning meeting, and most of all, I always kept myself busy. The greatest gift of interning in a small market is that the station usually needs the extra help! I took advantage of that by offering to be a reporter’s photographer for the day, I would help producers write scripts, and if a production assistant was gone, I’d offer to operate cameras on the floor or run teleprompter. As an intern, I think you are never too low or too high for any task, you are simply there to soak up all the knowledge you can in the time that’s given to you. Throughout all this, I would also check in with my news director as often as possible to ask him for feedback on my performance. All of this combined, ultimately gave me the skills I needed to head into the workforce. By the end of my internship, I had experience in everything from being in production to editorial to on camera techniques.

What happened in your first interview?

My pushy intern personality pushed itself right into my first interview. At the end of my internship, the woman working as the assignment editor at my station was leaving. Her contract was up, and they needed to fill the spot. I immediately went into my ND’s office and said he should consider me. Because he knew me from my internship, it was not as formal of a “first” interview as many people experience. If you ever find yourself grasping for a job out of your internship, my advice is to have your goals clear. He asked me certain questions to make sure I didn’t just want any job, but that I wanted that specific job. Stepping up from being an intern to a full-time employee can also be a challenge, and he questioned if I would be able assert authority and not have my coworkers refer to me as “The Intern” for the rest of my career. Other than that, it was more of a conversation than an interview and focused more on long-term goals, rather than talking about strengths and weaknesses.

Did you ever turn down a job offer? Why?

Not yet! During the last few weeks of my internship, I applied to two stations in Philadelphia, but I didn’t hear back from them before I took my current position.

When did you get an offer? How did it happen?

It moves fast. A few days after that interview with my ND as an intern, a contract was drawn up and I was made an offer. I had a weekend to think about it.

Looking back, what would you have changed about the process?

I wouldn’t change a thing. It was the best opportunity for me to start my career with a team I was already familiar with, and living in an area I knew well.  It’s coming up on two years that I’ve been with my station, and everyday is still a learning experience, which is amazing.

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“News Junkies” and the Tragedies They Exploit

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The Oak Knoll Fire. August 2010.

I remember it was about 4 p.m. I was just wrapping up a package for the 5 and 6 p.m. newscasts about Ashland teachers using iPods in their lessons. It wasn’t a particularly memorable story, but I remember it came together pretty easily that day. I had finished all of my shooting by noon, and was about to finish my editing. Best of all, it was a look-live package; a story with a pre-recorded standup and tag. It meant that I didn’t physically need to be in the newscast, and could go home as soon as I was done editing. I was looking forward to a beautiful afternoon home in the summer sun.

Then, almost as soon as the clock hit 4, the police scanner went berserk.

SQUAWK! UNITS 80101, 80102, 80103, 80104, 80105, STRUCTURE FIRE ON OAK KNOLL DRIVE.

UNITS REPORTING A HOUSE ON FIRE.

SQUAWK! WE NEED ODF ON SCENE NOW!

CALLER IS REPORTING THE FLAMES HAVE JUMPED THE FREEWAY.

Moments later, our 5 p.m producer approached my desk.

“Steven, we need to send you out there,” she said calmly. “Ric is already on his way with the live van and will set up a shot next to I-5. We’ll have you live at the top of the show.”

I grabbed some gear, got into my news car, and as I turned the key in the ignition, I thought:

“Why me?”

You see, at that time, I thought about my stories in terms of what they meant for me. Was it a package I could put on my reel? Could I shoot a cool standup? At the time of this incident in August 2010, I had been to my fair share of house fires, which were always defined by what I brought back. “I got awesome video of flames! You could see the wall collapse!” or “Man, I didn’t get any flames. The house was burned down by the time I got out there.”

“What could I get out of it” was the prevailing thought.

And in this case, all I could think about was that my early afternoon at home was ruined. But hey, maybe at least I’ll get a cool lead story out of it, and be the first-on-the-scene reporter! I got to the scene and did my live shot, and was disappointed to find that our vantage point didn’t give us anything interesting to see – only some flames far in the distance.

So much for my reel.

Slowly but surely, they allowed reporters to get closer and closer to the scene, and I was soon joined by other reporters and photogs from my station, who came to give the event team-coverage. “Great,” I thought again. “Now they’re going to get the good story instead of me. What’s the point of me being here?”

Soon we all got the call from our producers back at the station. We would have to stay late. I would grab a story. Report for the 11 p.m. news. As my fellow reporters and I gathered around a fire truck, with emergency crews and neighbors standing nearby, I turned to my co-worker Tove Tupper and loudly complained. “Man, now I have to stay late! Is this really that big of a deal?”

Tove, who had worked at the station for a couple years and who had been the reporter who trained me, quickly grabbed me and pulled me aside.

“Steven,” she said pointedly, her eyes a mixture of anger and disappointment. “Eleven families just lost their homes.”

Her words and her tone said everything. Her single sentence changed the way I thought as a reporter.

In what became known as the Oak Knoll Fire, the flames had jumped I-5, caught a house on fire, then went barreling down the block, burning house-to-house, like a string of firecrackers. The neighborhood looked like a bomb had gone off. Everything was destroyed. And most importantly of all, people’s lives were in shambles.

This wasn’t about whether my punk ass got good video or got to go home early. This was a tragedy that happened to real people. I had to work late. Their lives were ruined.

Good reporters like Tove knew that they had a higher responsibility than bringing back good flame video. They needed to inform the public, share what happened, what was still to happen, and how people could help.

To this day, I’m still ashamed of myself for thinking so selfishly during such a devastating time.

Breaking news is some of the hardest assignments for a reporter of photog to do. Often someone is hurt, or killed, or a person’s home or place of business is destroyed. So news teams go in, do the story to the best of their ability, and move on to the next assignment. We don’t revel in it, and we don’t go looking for it, because it always, always comes at someone else’s expense.

And that’s why it troubles me when I hear young reporters refer to themselves as “news junkies.” You’ll see it written in their boisterous biographies on station web sites: I live for that next fire, the next severe weather system. The next big breaking news. They’ll list the big moments of their career, like covering stories of kidnapped children, deadly shootings, or natural disasters. Deadly storms or other tragedies that killed people are treated like fun anecdotes about how they became “inspired” to become a reporter.

(It only took me five minutes of research to find reporter biographies that read like this.)

Inflated egos and self-promotion are already too rampant in local news, even without people reveling in the tragedies that gave them such good video.

These tragedies are likely the worst moments in someone’s life. But to some reporters, it’s just another line on the resume.

I started thinking about this subject this morning, when I saw a video a reporter made about herself to help viewers “get to know her.” She begins by telling the story of the deadly tornado in Joplin, Mo., in 2011, that killed 89 people. But instead of sharing the stories of first responders, or the efforts of the community, or the impacts on families, she told the story of herself; how she saw the sky get dark and heard the news of the devastation come in.

And she told it with a smile on her face.

She showed video with the caption “89 dead.” And she said it was “the moment she had waited for my entire life,” since she was mimicking reporters as a little girl.

But it didn’t end. She then recounted her experience covering the 2013 tornado in Moore, Okla., that killed 24 people. With another grin on her face, she said it was “an addiction, bottled as breaking news, an addiction to creative storytelling.”

113 people died so she could have a good story on her reel.

This isn’t professional detachment. Quite the opposite – news junkies like this embrace the tragedy.

And that’s how some of these so-called “news junkies” view the world. Not as a place with real people, but as stories. As a package to fill 90 seconds. As opportunities for standups. There’s no empathy or human connection. Never any thought of how their actions will affect people. That’s why when a grieving mother hangs up on a reporter, it’s the reporter who says “what a bitch.”

If only we could treat people like people, instead of like a face in a soundbite. If only we could view an event for what it means, instead of whether our white-balance was off.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t be proud of the work you’ve done, but you shouldn’t be happy about being so close to a tragic event. If the story is done right, it will tell itself, without making the story about you. Then, you can slap it on your resume, or talk to people about the efforts you observed others make on that day. But don’t take the story of other people’s suffering and make it about how awesome your flame video is.

When I think back on the Oak Knoll Fire now, I think of people like forestry officer Brian Ballou and fire chief John Karns, whose crews helped to fight the flames. I think of the volunteers who set up at a nearby golf course with water and food. I think of the homeless, mentally-handicapped man thrown into the spotlight as the one who lit the flames. And I try to forget how inconvenienced it made me feel for a few minutes.

That’s our responsibility as storytellers. We’re observers and information gatherers. We share facts and give information to help people move forward. We show the tragedy, but we shouldn’t use it for our own ends.

Giving Yourself a Presence During a Job Search

When I was about to graduate college, I thought I was the shit.

I had done awesome work in college, and just got finished doing two excellent media jobs the past two summers. My plan was laid out for me: I would quickly get a TV job, get promoted, rise through the ranks, become a big-time reporter in a large market, win some awards and be well on my way to ESPN.

Then a few weeks went by. And I didn’t hear anything back on my job applications. Nothing. OK, maybe I’ve been shooting too high. I’ll try applying to smaller markets.

A month went by. And another. Radio silence.

I redoubled my efforts. I finally got a TVjobs.com account. I created a folder of every TV market in the west, complete with the names and email addresses of news directors. I spent my mornings printing and shipping DVDs, got a quick lunch, and spent my afternoons emailing and calling news directors. I applied to every market in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, California, Nevada, and Arizona. I sent applications to stations in Wyoming, Montana, Tennessee, Ohio, and Mississippi. When sports jobs weren’t working, I tried news reporter jobs. When those didn’t pan out, I expanded to photog jobs.

Nothing.

It got to the point where I applied and interviewed for a production position with the local cable access channel before I finally got a callback, interview, and offer from a TV station. It was four months since I had started my job search.

Basically, I learned getting a job can take a long time.

During that stretch, I occupied myself in my free time by starting a sports blog. I wrote a new column every day, posted videos and pictures, brought in guest columnists, and tweeted out my links. That daily creative process gave me a regular presence online. I wasn’t stuck in limbo, sending out links to my work from a vacuum. I was creating, interacting, and showcasing my work. Maybe a news director or sports director would see it and get a sense of my personality, work ethic, and writing style.

I have no idea whether that blog actually helped me get an eventual job, but I do know that it didn’t hurt my chances. Anything you can do to maintain an actual presence will help you stand out during your job hunt.

Whether you are just starting out, or you are looking to take the next step in your media career, you need to be prepared for a potentially lengthy job search. That means taking steps to ensure you’re ready when a job comes open, and finding new ways to potentially shorten the search.

Save all of your work

usb-flash-drive-as-virtual-ramBenjamin Franklin once said: “Never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today.”

Homer Simpson put it a little better: “Just like the time I could have met Mr. T at the mall. The entire day, I kept saying, ‘I’ll go a little later, I’ll go a little later…’ And when I got there, they told me he just left. And when I asked the mall guy if he’ll ever come back again, he said he didn’t know. Well, I’m never going to let something like that happen again!”

Don’t wait to start saving your best work. The moment it’s in the can, it should also be in your hard drive.

Jobs can appear quickly and disappear just as quickly. When one pops up, you don’t want to waste time editing together a new reel or searching for that old article you wrote. Save everything you make, regardless of quality. You’ll want to hang on to it for nostalgic purposes, but you’ll also need it as work samples. If a news director looks at your reel and says, “OK, now show me three recent packages,” you better have something to show them right away. Saying “I never saved them” is a sure-fire way to have your resume thrown in the trash. Save your work in clearly labeled folders so you can access it the moment you need it.

The same concept goes for your reel or resume. Keep it constantly updated with your best, most recent work, to the point where you may be editing a new one every week. Make the process of sending it to an employer just a few easy clicks.

Put your work online

Screen shot 2015-03-25 at 11.28.41 AMPart of making it easy to send your work to employers means getting it on the Internet. If you try to mail your resume, clippings, or a DVD of your work, it’s already too late. Not only is snail mail ridiculously slow, it also sends the message to your employer that you don’t know how to use modern communication methods. No news director has the time to open 100 DVDs, put them into a player, watch them, and eject them. They’re under pressure to fill the position quickly, so give them something they can view quickly.

If you have a video reel, it needs to be on YouTube or Vimeo, something that can be sent or shared with a single click. Put other full packages online as well. If you are a writer, get the links to your stories and save a version of them on your own computer. You never know when your former employer changes web servers and all of your old material gets lost.

Create a web site

Screen shot 2015-03-25 at 11.32.46 AMThe easiest way to put this all together is to create your own web site. Think of it as one-stop shopping for employers during your job search. If an employer goes to JohnSmith.com, they will see your resume, your video reel, your biography, links to your work samples, or anything else you choose to include.

The advantage to creating your own web site is that you control everything about it. You don’t have to worry about related YouTube videos distracting your viewer, or unrelated ads or articles getting in the way. It’s entirely your creation, and it serves as a way for an employer to see what you create.

You also need to know where to look to create a professional-looking web site, because we all know journalists need to stretch every dollar. GoDaddy is pretty cheap, and Wix lets you design your site, but the easiest option might be WordPress, which can give you professional looking templates at no cost.

Whether you are creating a web site or just using YouTube you need to understand your legal rights. In most people’s contracts, the station or publication owns all of your work; it’s their property. That being said, I have never heard of any news director coming after a reporter for posting their resume tape online. To me, your reel is your resume, and being forced to take it down because of intellectual property rights would be the equivalent of asking an employee to take a resume down from Monster.com. Like I said, I’ve never heard of a news director ever taking steps like this, so just make sure you’re not selling the video to a third party and you should be fine posting your stories on your web site or to YouTube.

Do a little more

Blue_YetiStudio_01Once your site is up, do more with it. It can’t just be a repository for work samples and resumes. Take this thing you have created and take the next step – be a regular content producer. Show that you still work on new projects even in between jobs.

Write a regular blog, produce a weekly podcast, link to your Twitter feed or a Facebook fan page. Post a photo of the day, a video diary, or link to news that interests you.

This does two things – one, it increases your portfolio and makes you more versatile. Maybe someone is looking for a writer, and you have a ready-made work sample. Maybe a radio job comes along that suddenly interests you because of your podcasting experience. You suddenly become more than your 3-month-old work samples – you are a content creator.

And second, it gives your mind a creative outlet during the job search. Sometimes that job search lasts a hell of a lot longer than you think, and if you get stuck in an endless loop of printing resumes, emailing links, licking stamps and shipping DVDs, your life and sanity will go into a downward spiral. Creating something new, whether it’s a daily blog or a collection of still photos, gives you something to do every day that isn’t job search-related. It will keep you sane. You’ll also create a good collection of work samples to do with it.

The road to a job can be long, so prepare for the trip!

How I Got the Job: Whitney Clark

Everyone takes a different path to their first media job. Some people land their first choice right out of college. Others need to apply to dozens of places before landing an interview. There’s not a perfect way to get the job you want, but it can help to learn from the experience of others. In our feature “How I Got the Job,” we talk to some of the best people working professionally in media about what they did to get a foot in the door, and what it took to finally sign the contract. This week: Whitney Clark, reporter at KGUN9 in Tucson, Ariz.

WhitneyClarkWhen did you start looking for your first TV job?

I started looking a few months before I graduated from college. I didn’t seriously start applying though until the week before graduation. I was so busy at the end of the semester and I really wanted to enjoy my final college days.

Do you remember what you included on your first tape?

I had about 45 seconds of live shots/stand-ups and three packages. I of course put my best stuff first. Choose stand-ups where you are showing viewers something. Include one that shows your personality! It sounds weird but you want to show your smile at least once!

How many rejections did you get?

Too many to count! Well, I guess not really “rejections,” I just never heard back from most stations. For my first job I applied to 50+ stations and heard back from about three of them. That’s the hardest part of the process! You apply to a job and just NEVER hear back. It will make you feel really terrible and that everyone hates you. When I was feeling discouraged I just tried to remember that every station is looking for something VERY specific, and though it may not feel like it there is a news director out there looking for you!

Did you have to change anything about your approach to the job search?

Not really, but I do think that the job search is an ongoing process. Figure out where you want to be in five years and the steps you need to get there. I have spent an insane amount of time researching how anchors and reporters have ended up in their positions. It’s fascinating to me. If you want to live in a particular place, follow the stations and reporters in that market. Reach out to them and ask them for feedback. You’d be surprised at how many people are willing to help. Let them know that when a position opens up you would be interested. Use. Your. Connections. That’s the best/easiest way to get a job!

What happened in your first interview?

It was over the phone and honestly I don’t remember a lot of it because I was so nervous! The news director explained the position and the station. He asked why I wanted to work there and I didn’t know what to say! “I just want a job” is not a good enough answer. Make sure you know why you want to work at that station. Do your research and pick out a few things that you like about their coverage, and maybe something you would improve.

Did you ever turn down a job offer? Why?

There have been a few job opportunities I have not taken because I knew that I had zero interest in living in that particular market. A lot of my friends have had terrible experiences in their first market and they end up getting out of the business. Most of them hate it because they hate where they live. If you like to work around people, don’t work at a bureau. Do you hate the snow? Don’t move to a place where it snows a lot. If you are signing a three-year contract make sure it’s at a place you will enjoy living!

What was your experience like during your in-person interview?

My first in-person interview didn’t really feel like an “interview” at all! I went to a station to interview for a morning anchor position. I went in super early – like I was going in for a normal shift. I shadowed the producers, learned about the newscast, about the station, etc. It can be intimidating going into a newsroom where everyone knows each other. Just be yourself and ask a lot of questions. It shows you’re interested. Also remember – you are kind of interviewing them too! If you get a bad vibe from the news director or the newsroom, maybe that’s a sign it’s not the right place for you.

When did you get an offer? How did it happen?

I had a few phone interviews with my news director, and then he called and offered me the position! I never even went for a visit. I was surprised at how quickly it all happened. I got a contract a few days later and that was it.

Looking back, what would you have changed about the process?

There are a LOT of things I wish I had known. Definitely do your research when it comes to the company that owns your station. What other stations do they own? Is there room for you to grow and transfer to a bigger market? Know what your “outs” are! (Editor’s note: “outs” are terms negotiated into your contract that allow you to leave if certain stations, cities, or markets give you an offer) Also – make sure you know how much notice you have to give when you do get a new job. A lot of times it is 30 days, but others are longer (like 45 days) and some stations might have a problem with waiting that long. Never turn down an interview. If a station reaches out to you, at least do one phone interview. If anything it will be good experience.

I think really the most important thing when looking for a job is to be patient! Go into with an open mind. You learn a lot about the news and just life in general at your first job. I was shocked at how much I didn’t know – from how city government works, the judicial system, etc. It took me about a year to really feel comfortable at my first job. I felt like I had no idea what I was doing and seriously doubted myself — but just know you will get better!

Comedy as Journalism, and Journalism as Comedy

Yesterday, we talked about the story of WFAA’s Dale Hansen bashing the Cowboys’ signing of convicted accused girlfriend-beater Greg Hardy. We discussed whether local news was the right platform for a “commentary” segment, whether Hansen was fanning the flames by saying fathers would “shoot Hardy’s ass through the glass,” and whether that was the best way to get his point across.

In our discussion, I challeneged reporters to take their anger about emotional stories and channel it into their reporting. Use your emotions as motivators to find facts, dig deeper, and ask tough questions.

Well last night, Jon Stewart and the crew of the Daily Show dropped this.

A couple caveats up front: Jon Stewart has obviously been highly critical of Fox News in the past, and he himself is not a journalist (people tend to forget that it’s a comedy show, for God’s sake). Stewart knows his audience and knows how to get a laugh.

Now, that being said … damn.

That was one of the best examples of fact-finding I have seen in a long time. Stewart and co. did exhaustive research, going back two years and digging through likely thousands of pages of reports to gather those facts and compile those soundbites. Then – the master stroke – they used Fox News’ own soundbites against them. They used the facts to obliterate the preconceived narrative.

Yes, it is a comedy show, and we all laugh at the jokes. But take the jokes away, and the hard work and fact-finding remain. That’s what has always made The Daily Show (and others like The Colbert Report and John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight) so successful: the ability to go out and gather and package information.

They are doing the work of dozens of journalists. And it’s a comedy show.

It’s “investigative comedy,” as Robert Thompson, director of Syracuse University’s Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture, told the Huffington Post.

News reporters could learn a thing or two about that kind of dedication and work ethic.

TV is often so concerned with arbitrary rules – a story must have at least two sources, a package can’t exceed 90 seconds, get the rebuttal from the “other side” – that sometimes it fails to acknowledge the most important and relevant rule: the facts are the facts.

So much of TV news, both on air and online, has become white noise, because the facts get drowned out by debate, discussion, analysis, and branding. We need the scientist who doesn’t believe in climate change! We need a roundtable with a Ku Klux Klan member! Things like this – that’s the real joke.

Sometimes you just need to gather the facts and report them.

Whether you like Fox News or not, whether you agree with the motivations of The Daily Show or not, the diligence and journalism showed by its staffers is incredible. When a comedy show’s methods are the gold standard, it’s time for journalists to step up.

Channel Your Anger Into Reporting

Last night, WFAA sports anchor Dale Hansen devoted his “Hansen Unplugged” commentary segment to the Dallas Cowboys’ signing of Greg Hardy, who had previously been convicted of beating his ex-girlfriend and threatening to kill her. Hardy appealed and the charges were later dropped when the victim didn’t cooperate with prosecutors.

In his segment, Hansen blasted the signing.

“Is there no line you won’t cross? Is there no crime you won’t accept? Is there no behavior you will not tolerate?” he said.

“Greg Hardy’s jersey is being sold at the Cowboys online pro shop now. You could get one for your sister or daughter and then explain to her that Hardy beats up women, but we’re cheering him now because he’s really good on game day, and game day is all that really matters to me. Your daughter will understand. But the reality is, if Hardy knocks on your front door to take your daughter out for a night on the town, the man you cheer now you would shoot his ass through the glass.”

It was a fist-pumping moment. I admit, I watched the video and said “yeah!” Hansen was taking a stand, the same way he admonished those in the NFL who called the openly-gay Michael Sam a “distraction,” or when he spoke openly about racism in a 4-minute monologue. I applauded Hansen for calling out the Cowboys.

But then I put on my journalist hat.

As a columnist, there was never a better feeling than writing an opinion piece in which you nailed somebody. When your words are eloquent, your arguments are sound, and your heart is in the right place, publishing a column can be a powerful tool – using the power of the press of enact change.

But being a columnist and being a reporter are two different things. Columnists share their thoughts. Reporters share facts. When the two blend together, the line is blurred and neither one is effective.

Because reporters have a higher responsibility to the public. People come to journalists seeking information, clarity, and facts. And journalists are in a unique position to be able to use mass media to share that information on a large scale. Don’t abuse that position of power. With great transmitters comes great responsibility.

And that’s why Hansen’s segment irks me. Hansen is the lead sports anchor at WFAA, responsible for gathering stories. And he’s also the station’s sports director, who leads the entire sports team in their coverage and decision-making. Last night, he threw down the gauntlet and proclaimed that this is the way we feel about Greg Hardy. Now, every story about the Cowboys or Hardy will be tainted by whether it’s coming from fact or emotion.

This isn’t about the importance of fact gathering (those were already handled in court) or an antiquated checklist of “getting both sides.” And it’s not even about deciding how your feel about Greg Hardy (I think we can all agree on that). It’s about perception, sway and how better to use your tools to make your point.

Because reporters are human. Hansen saw the Greg Hardy situation and reacted like all of us would have, with anger and disgust. But the problem became when he took his anger on the air, where he has a higher responsibility. The best news teams don’t just throw facts against the wall, they examine all sides of it and find people with solutions. They don’t just show the carnage and mayhem, they look for the causes and solutions. Does Hansen saying that fathers would “shoot Hardy’s ass through the glass” do anything to better the situation? Does it help the public? Or does it drag the already horrible situation down further?

Reporters have always encountered stories that pissed them off. We can’t be around death, destruction and corruption every day and not have a human reaction to it. But the question is, what form does your reaction take? Do you rant and rave and make up your mind about how you and viewers should feel? Or can you find an option that maintains your high responsibility as a public figure?

Sometimes it takes a trigger to get journalists fired up. The best journalists can find ways to take all that anger and channel it into their reporting. Turn the emotions into hard-hitting questions, diligent fact-finding, and powerful storytelling. Get the answers, or use someone’s own words and actions against them. You can still enact change and get your point across.

I would like to have seen Hansen apply his same effort into asking these questions directly to the Cowboys. Don’t just say the Cowboys are letting people play who use drugs, or who kill someone in a drunk driving crash – see if their actions reinforce that notion, and see if they have a good answer for those claims. Put Hardy under the microscope, too. Use the tools at your disposal to do more than write an angry column to read on the air. Make a difference with your effort.

In 1954, CBS journalist Edward R. Murrow exposed the hypocrisy and fear-mongering of Senator Joseph McCarthy by using the senator’s own words and actions against him. He didn’t say that McCarthy was “lying his ass off,” he showed it, by presenting McCarthy’s claims against sourced facts. Murrow even learned things during the investigation, and admitted the areas in which McCarthy was accurate. The facts, once presented and weighed, showed McCarthy’s tactics and disgraced him, but ultimately it was his own actions that caused the downfall. Murrow simply pointed a camera at it.

Mad about the terrible reality? Then show that reality. It’s much more effective.

I admire Dale Hansen for standing up and speaking out publicly about an issue like this (and others). But it’s a delicate balance. The platform, the power, the topic and the responsibility all come into play. So find the best way to make your point that maintains that balance.

Because the alternative is just making up your own mind, and those who rely on your service as a journalist. Near the end of his segment, Hansen said of Cowboys coach Jason Garrett: “He’s one of two things: He’s either a fraud and hypocrite when he talks about having the right type of guys, character guys, on his team, or he really has no say in this and he’s simply the puppet so many of you think he is. It’s one or the other, and I’ll let him decide.”

But as for what viewers should think about that black-and-white scenario, Hansen had already made the decision for them.

How I Got the Job: Molly Garrity

Everyone takes a different path to their first media job. Some people land their first choice right out of college. Others need to apply to dozens of places before landing an interview. There’s not a perfect way to get the job you want, but it can help to learn from the experience of others. In our feature “How I Got the Job,” we talk to some of the best people working professionally in media about what they did to get a foot in the door, and what it took to finally sign the contract. This week: Molly Garrity, anchor and executive producer at KIDY in San Angelo, Texas.

6384845_GWhen did you start looking for your first TV job?

I didn’t really start looking until spring of my senior year (or if we’re REALLY honest, after graduation).  For some reason I had this idea in my head that I would just get a job without trying.  Wrong.  I applied in Boise and Spokane.  That’s it.  And surprise, surprise, it took over a year of sending out emails, resumes, emails and more resumes before I finally got a bite.

Do you remember what you included on your first tape/work sample?

My first tape is cringeworthy, but it’s the best I had.  Tip for students: Do as much on-air work as you can to make your reel as good & long as possible.  My first reel is 1:30, and includes literally everything I had to work with.  Slacking and procrastinating are not your friend, and I learned that the hard way when I began putting together my reel. Give yourself options!

How many rejections did you get?

Rejections? None.  But I got a whole lot of silence from news directors (the same news directors who came calling after I finally got a job at a different station, I might add).

Did you have to change anything about your approach to the job search?

ABSOLUTELY!  I tell everyone I can to GET AN INTERNSHIP.  I worked a part-time job in college (not in the broadcasting industry) and decided I didn’t have time for an internship.  Instead, I wasted time I could have been learning more about the business and making impressions on future employers, working somewhere I knew would only be part time.

What happened in your first interview?

My first interview was at KREM 2 News in Spokane, WA.  I’d applied for their Morning Weather position, but being so inexperienced the News Director asked if I’d consider producing.  We met at the station, then went to dinner with the news director and executive producer.  Dinner interviews are the best, because if you’re nervous you have something (food) to distract you.  And you can always take a bite of food as they’re asking a question to give you more time to think (no talking with food in your mouth).  Then it was back to the station for a current events quiz & writing test.  I think it went well, since they offered me the job :)

Did you ever turn down a job offer? Why?

After 2.5 years producing and reporting at KREM I was offered an Anchor/EP position at my current station KIDY/KXVA in West Texas. The same day I was offered the TX job, my ND at KREM offered me a promotion as a producer.  I’ll tell you that was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made… but I chose the Anchor gig in TX & couldn’t be happier!

When did you get an offer? How did it happen?

My first “offer” came from the ND in Texas.  I’d put a link of my most recent work on Youtube and got an email out of the blue from this News Director saying he thought I’d be a good fit for their open anchor position.  After several email & phone conversations, he sent me a contract.  I told him I wouldn’t sign anything unless they flew me down to meet the team and see the station.  Long story short, they flew me down and I fell in love with the town.  Packed up my car and drove from Washington to Texas in early September and I’ve been here ever since!

Looking back, what would you have changed about the process?

I wish I’d gotten an internship and applied for jobs outside of Spokane right out of college.  I’m proud of the path I’ve taken to get to be on-air, but I’m sure if I’d broadened my search out of college I would have gotten on-air sooner.  I also wish I’d asked for more help from mentors.  I hope future broadcasters take me seriously when I say I’m MORE THAN HAPPY to answer any questions they have about the business!  I wish I’d taken that advice!

(Editor’s note: follow Molly on Twitter @MollyGarrity)

VIDEO: How to multiply yourself in a standup

It always amazed me as a viewer when I was watching a reporter’s package, saw him or her pop up on screen, then saw them pop up again, and again, and again!

It was as if they cloned themselves, just for the purpose of creating that story!

(Uh oh, better not give news directors any ideas)

When I was a young TV student, I thought, ‘man, something like that must take tons of time, lots of effort, and high-end technology.’ But it’s actually not as hard as you think. It just takes a little creativity and some planning.

Once again, we turn to Joe Little of 10News in San Diego. I was sent this video Joe made for a 2013 NPPA workshop, which shows what you need to do to make a five-man standup as a one-man-band. Enjoy!

Got another example of a multi-person standup? Put the link in the comments!

The Unsung Heroes: A Tribute to Photogs

News photojournalists – or photogs – are really the unsung heroes of the news team.

They are given more to do than anyone. They are asked to shoot multiple stories a day, and still get sent out for breaking news. They need to run the live truck or know how to set up an in-studio shot. They have to be able to edit a VOSOT while writing the script for two others.

They are called in at 2 a.m. to drive to a tsunami hundreds of miles away, and asked the next week to turn something interesting about a hospital fundraiser. They are sent out to the fluffiest puppy dog stories and the most dangerous black ice stories. They are asked to set up one live shot at 6, then tear down and set up another across town by 6:30 (“oh, and if you can also shoot some video and FTP it back for the web, that would be great”). Reporters even use them as de facto mirrors; “is my hair messed up? Is my tie on straight?”

And even with all that, if you hand them a camera and give them room, they’ll still create a spectacular story or natpack.

(They just won’t get to be on camera to get the credit).

Didn’t I tell you it was thankless?

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Michael Cooper, who just LOVED getting his photo taken.

One of the best qualities of talented photogs is their ability to think differently about stories and assignments. A vain reporter might think: “How can I get creative with my writing? Will this end up on my reel? Will I look good in my liveshot?” But a photog thinks: “How can I make this reporter look good? How can the story be told in a different way? How can I get this done efficiently and get to the next assignment?”

I saw this on my very first liveshot. I was a couple weeks into my first job as a reporter, and I was working on a story about snow plows being prepared for winter weather. I rushed out to the Oregon Department of Transportation yard to set up next to some snow plows.

Because it was my first live shot, I was worried. Was I late? Would I remember my script without looking at my paper? Would I stumble over my words and look stupid? I didn’t want to look like an idiot in my first live opportunity.

I got to the site and met up with photojournalist Michael Cooper. I instinctively stood in a spot with a snow plow in the background. I could see Coop furrow his brow.

“Umm, do you want to try something different?” He asked out of the corner of his mouth. He had the tone of someone who had done this a lot longer than me.

“Huh? What do you mean?”

He chuckled. “I mean, we can walk along the front of the truck, we can move you to the side and look down the plow. You don’t gotta just stand there.”

He then walked over and showed me what he was talking about. Then it dawned on me: he was a photographer. He wasn’t someone who was being paid to just point a camera at a static shot.

Suddenly, having an ally who wanted to be creative got my own creative juices flowing. He quickly discussed different shots, different angles, different positions for me and the camera. Finally, we settled on a unique shot: Coop would point down the “barrel” of the snow plow to see me crouched down behind it, then follow me as I stood up. It was different and it was creative, and it resulted in a much better live shot than something I could have done by myself.

From that day, I knew all I wanted to do was collaborate.

(When you’re working alongside an artist, why wouldn’t you?)

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Scott Perry shoots everything from breaking news to live basketball.

I tried to make it a point to arrive at my live shot early, to begin talking to the photog about how to make an interesting shot. I was very lucky, I got to work with talented photojournalists who are now putting their skills to use in several markets, people like Cooper, John Bartell, Adam Thompson, Evan Bell, Scott Perry, Steve Kaufmann, Kathy Wing, Dustin Peters, Ric Peavyhouse, Julian Olivas and others. They set up near wildfires and alongside freeways. They shot during torrential rainstorms and tsunamis. They set up inside a hot van or on top of a rickety scissor-lift. That group knew how to take a basic live shot and make it fun.

I came with my own ideas. They came with theirs. I knew what information needed to be conveyed, and they knew the advantages and challenges of the camera, lighting, and environment. I’d come in with a prop and ask them to zoom out and focus off it, and they’d come with an idea for a “Tarantino whip-zoom.” The result wasn’t my live shot or their live shot, but our live shot.

When that trust is built, you begin to go to bat for each other, to see the other succeed. Moments after one 6 p.m. live shot, John Bartell and I learned where to find the actual scene of a crime, and discovered it wasn’t far away. We looked at each other and decided “let’s try it.” We worked together to tear down the camera and lights, threw everything into the van, hauled ass five blocks away, spotted the police tap, and somehow managed to set up a quick live shot in time for the 6:30 p.m. newscast. Our live shot was a success.

And it wouldn’t stop there. Many of the photogs I worked with were hungry to get stories on the air. Whenever possible, I loved going out on a story with a photog. They would get shots I would normally miss. They helped lend creativity to standups. They set up interview shots that weren’t just “head-and-shoulders.” And again, it resulted in something unique. Some of my proudest stories came from collaborating with photogs who suggested edits, got good shots, and helped tell the story better than I could myself.

Together, we made good TV.

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Evan Bell braved wind storms and the aftermath of a tsunami – plus Safeway-brand rain gear.

But as I said earlier, the photog job is often a thankless one. With so many TV markets pushing reporters to be one-man-bands, there are fewer opportunities to join forces on a story. As markets spend more money on backpack LiveU units, reporters are setting up live shots themselves and photogs are losing their jobs. And even in markets where photogs have a steady gig, I’ve seen them become the workhorses for newsrooms; being given the toughest and sometimes least rewarding assignments. I’ve seen many reporters arrive at a liveshot and spend the entire lead up to the show on their cell phone, with very little interaction with the photog other than telling them where to point the camera. I’ve heard discussions in the newsroom about assignments that went “Eh, that’s such a small story. Let’s just send a photog.”

These are the newsrooms that fail. The ones who have talented individuals and give them nothing interesting to do.

Great TV is the result of many people working together, from reporters to photogs to producers to studio crew to sales and front office workers. When it comes to producing a great package or liveshot, I would much rather work together with another talented individual.

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Dustin Peters had a knack for finding something creative in any assignment.

Reporters and photogs can be a great team, but there are things they should keep in mind to help the other.

Tips for reporters:

  • Don’t tell the photog what to do. They’re not there to serve you, or do the work for you. You’re a team.
  • Make reasonable requests. Understand that the photog probably can’t set up the live shot from inside the flying helicopter while also doing a pan and zoom. Know the advantages and limitations of a shoot.
  • Give credit where credit is due. Worked with a photojournalist on a package? Include that fact in your script and byline.

Tips for photogs:

  • Suggest shots, words, questions. Work together on every aspect, including shots, interview questions, and scripting. Your collaboration shouldn’t begin and end with the camera.
  • Understand a reporter’s vanity and work with it! Reporters want to look good on camera; that’s how they’ll get their next job. Work together on shots and find the right balance that makes everything in the frame look good.
  • Pitch stories. Attend the morning meeting whenever possible, or make friends with the Assignment Editor. Pitch the stories you want to make and enlist the help of others to get a great product on the air regularly.

If a reporter and photog are a dynamic duo, then the photog is Batman. He or she has every tool in their utility belt to get the job done. I was so fortunate to have worked with as many talented photogs as I did. Thanks for making all of us reporters better.

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Chatting with the Pros: Michael Driver

Monday we showed you examples of good ‘natpacks’ – packages that use natural sound, interviews, and good visuals, without a reporter’s voice. The concept seems tough – and it is. But in my opinion, if you can tell a good story using only your images and your sounds, you’ve made it as a storyteller.

xL54tz2PKATU’s Michael Driver knows how to tell a story. He was NPPA’s West Top Photographer in 2013, and has shot great stories in Denver and now in Portland. In our Q&A, he explained his approach to getting sources comfortable enough to clip a mic on, how to let natural moments happen, and making the most of your equipment as a one-man crew.

SS: What got you into TV news?

MD: I started when I was a junior in high school. I was working in the electronics department of Walmart, and I had a buddy that had graduated a couple of years before me move off to Oklahoma to work at a TV station, and he came back to Kentucky to work at a TV station that I ultimately decided to go to. He came in to pick up some pictures and we got to talking and he said ‘I’m going to work at a TV station here.’  I said ‘that’s awesome. I don’t have any experience, but I’m a hard worker, throw my name out there.’ I never thought anything could come of it.

Two days later, he called me up and said ‘I talked to my boss and said good things about you, do you want to come in for an interview?’ And I went in to the interview, they put me on the spot and said if I wanted the job it was mine. And from that day forward I picked up a camera and really enjoyed it.

It’s really fun. There’s something new every day about it. I come into work every day excited because I don’t know what the day holds. It lets you be really creative and do creative things with video editing.

SS: What’s a typical day like for you?

MD: I go out a lot and do nat packages, which are… I kind of go out on my own and go try to tell the story with no reporter. I enjoy it a lot. Natpacks are really difficult. Basically, you have to go out and be able to tell a story with a solid beginning, middle and end that the viewer at home is going to understand what the story is about, but you have to do it with just the moment, the sound, everything that you gather while you’re out there.

I go out and shoot a nat pack about once or twice a week.

SS: When you are assigned a nat pack, what’s your process in the field?

MD: The first thing I do is I go up and meet those people. I never show up to a scene and just grab my camera and start rolling. I go up without a camera, I introduce myself to the people I’m doing the story with, because my main goal, initially, is to build a rapport with those people. When you build a rapport with somebody before you even start rolling, once you put a mic on them, once you put the camera on your shoulder, they’re going to be so much more open. The answers you get will be so much more natural.

It allows you to tell a story with really natural moments that the viewer is going to look at like they’re in that situation. They feel like they’re in that moment.

You’ve got access to multiple audio units. You might have two wireless lav mics and a stick mic. When you go out, you want to gather that sound, so there’s no reason when you’re out shooting that you’re not utilizing all those.

When I’m doing that, I’m asking questions that will fill in the gap of what the reporter will usually do. So I need you to describe, what’s going on here today? How long as this thing been going on? Those basic things, the narration I can put into the package while I trickle in those natural moments and those good, crisp sounds that I’ve gathered.

SS: Do you ever find it difficult to get a natural reaction when you clip a lav mic on someone? I know some people tend to change when a camera is around them.

MD: Not really. I’ll usually joke with (the interview subject). I’ll say ‘I’m going to put this mic on you so I can pick up your sound. In 2o minutes you’ll forget you even had this on!” Honestly, that happens the majority of the shoots that I go on.

The lav mic helps you get those natural moments, as opposed to grabbing a mic with a flag on it and sticking it in their face.

You have to do it with just the moment, the sound, everything that you gather while you’re out there.

SS: One example of that is your story “I miss you, Beryl.” How did that story come together?

MD: That’s probably one of my favorites, because you’re taken into this natural moment that a lot of people don’t get to experience.

The (assignment) desk said, ‘it’s Memorial Day, do you want to go out to Fort Logan cemetery? There’s going to be lots of people paying their respects to loved ones.’ They told me to get a VOSOT, but when I got out there, I’m already thinking in my head, if I can get a good character and elements, I’m going to do more than that. The first thing, I found a woman that was going to put some flowers on her father’s grave. I mic’d her up, got some great sound, then shot some visuals of the cemetery.

At that point, I could have been done. I could have gone back to the station and gave them what they asked for. But as I was finishing up with her, I looked over and there’s this old man with a cane, hobbling back to his car to get in. And I thought, I had to go talk to this guy to see what was going on. So I approached him, he told me he was a veteran, and his wife, who had been with him for 60 years, had died. He was there that day to pay his respects to his wife who had passed away. And I just talked to him for a minute, built up a little rapport, and asked him if I could get some shots of him going to pay his respects to his wife. He had no problem with it.

If you look at the video you’ll notice I’m very far back. I’m not in his face. I did that because this was a very sensitive thing going on and I felt like if I was going to get any natural moments, I needed to fall back. So I got to where his wife’s tombstone was before him, and he walked in, and what I got was an amazing, natural moment that I wasn’t expecting. He started talking to her. He had a conversation with his wife. And I think back to my shot, and if I was in his face, would I have got the same natural moment? Probably not. So hanging back and capturing the moment he was allowing me to capture was the best way to do it.

SS: A story like that is obviously very emotional. When you were out there talking to people, did you get anyone who said ‘no thanks?’

MD: After I got him, I was thinking that maybe I needed one more person to get the natpack put together. After him, I went to one lady and asked if she minded if I got some shots, and she said ‘I’d rather not.’ She was having a moment. And at that point you just say, OK, and you walk away and respect their wishes. You’re going to have situations where it’s an emotional time and you’ve got to tread lightly and be respectful.

SS: What’s something that TV students should know if they are looking to get into a career as a news photojournalist?

MD: Passion. Honestly, if you want to be a photojournalist in a television career, passion and a great attitude are the two main things. If you don’t have a passion for this, you’re going to get drained very quickly. Because in this business, you’re on a constant deadline. You’re going to get to go out and do natpacks, feature stories. But on a daily basis on general assignment, you’re going to be pushed really hard to get content for all these shows. And it can be draining on you. But if you’re passionate about what you do, and you want to go out and do something new every day, you’re going to find that you will rise above the people who have lost that passion.

The reason I think I was able to put my skills to use is because I did a lot of things on my own time. When I wasn’t shooting something, I was picking up the camera, I was going out trying to improve my skill level doing different things. And that’s what you’ve got to do. You can’t wait for your manager so say ‘go out and get a camera.’ Take incentive to do things on your own time