Local News Service / Fox 29

The Internship Portfolio of Brian Donathan

The End

myfox_full_logo_1011I finished up my internship at Fox29/LNS by once again filling in for one of their employees who was on vacation.  I worked at the newsdesk as a production assistant.  I answered phones, fed video out to other Fox stations, and ran scripts.  Nothing out of the ordinary occurred, although the little protest being held by a young crowd near Independence Mall resulted in an over abundance of phone calls requesting coverage.  It was a bit annoying after the 50th call in 5 minutes.

The last two (extra) evenings were pretty uneventful.  I had a lot of time to reflect on the past couple of months — what I had learn, what I had experienced, etc.  I thought about my first interview with Eagles’ tackle Jon Runyan.  I could barely hold the microphone high enough to get quality sound from the towering football player.  I thought about the highs and lows of covering a fatal car crash and then a “date night” pottery wheel event, both on Valentine’s Day.  I thought about interviewing a young girl from a low income family who had just bought her prom dress for one dollar at a special dress sale at the Franklin Mills Mall.  The happiness her and her mother expressed still sticks with me.

I also think about how helpful everyone at Fox29 was throughout the internship.  George Roach was my partner in crime throughout most of my time with LNS.  The 15-year veteran photojournalist truely showed me the ropes.  He taught me the functionality of the camera, how to set up the live truck in a time pinch, and most importantly, that “spraying” the event to save time is a short cut to half-handed news.  Roach was all about the VOSOT.

Kyle Carmean and John Taylor at the Fox29 newsdesk were always willing to discuss why this story warrants coverage and that story does not.  Their insight provided a backbond of knowledge in terms of what often works for television and what is difficult to cover for a myriad of reasons.

Jackie Seltzer and Manny Smith were my LNS generals.  I supplied the coffee and Jackie supplied the advice.  I learned so much from Jackie and Manny as I watched them tackle the role of the LNS guinea pigs.  They have both done a tremendous job with LNS, and as time moves forward, I have no doubt they will continue their contributions to the new venture’s overall success.

Of course, I have to thank Michelle Buckman for the opportunity to assist with her packages.  Not only was it a welcome break from the crazy world of the assignment desk, but also a hands on learning experience that will benefit me as I move forward.

There are too many people to thank all by name.  I went out in the field with a handful of photographers.  All of them were gracious, and willing to talk.  I asked a lot of questions, and tried to get as much out of this experience as I possibly could.  I believe I have achieved this goal.

Kyle has offered to assist with my job search by giving my name to a station manager in Maryland who know has a copy of my resume.  Others from Fox29 have offered to help and a few have agreed to be references.

In many ways, this internship was the most valuable experience from the entire two years I spent in the MJ program.  I would recommend it to any student undergraduate or graduate level.

May 13, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Learning The Real Deal with Michelle Buckman

Pitched a little effort in today with Fox29’s consumer reporter Michelle Buckman. Michelle put together a package dealing with refinancing and/or modification of home mortgages. It was a good package. It aired on the Tuesday 5pm “5 Spot.”
The package was a useful information piece warning homeowners of potential scams and where they could get help.  My role came into play when Michelle asked me update her blog with the information on useful tips, warnings, etc. she had accumulated through research and interviews.  I was able to successfully update the blog with appropriate links and bullet points just in time for her to say (live on the air), “go to my blog…”

I aslo assisted Michelle on a couple more stories during my last few days at Fox29.  We worked on a story about dropping prices of building materials, and the market being ripe for home renovations, if one could afford it.

Michelle also allowed me to pitch in with a story about woman selling their hair for profit online.  I know… kind of creepy.  Finally, I worked with her on a story about locksmith scams here in the Philadelphia region.  I actually did an interview over the phone for Michelle, and sort of helped set up Michelle’s live interview for a couple weeks out.

Mostly my role was logging tape of video to be used in her pieces.  It’s not exactly exhilarating work, but it’s a critical task to the process, and I was more than happy to assist.  I learned quite a bit about how her stories are packaged, what works, and what doesn’t.  Even the editor, Shane (last name forgotten — he won’t read this anyway) let me sit in while he edited a couple of the packages.

May 13, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Couple Nights at the LNS Desk

2-5TwoPhonesIn an effort to mix things up a bit. I requested to stick around the desk this Friday and Saturday. I had been spending most of my weekend shifts out shooting VO/SOT with an LNS photog, and I wanted to make sure I was maintaining a sense of balance.

The LNS desk, not unlike the regular Fox29 newsdesk, is a practice in multi-tasking —
answering phones, ingesting video shot by both WCAU’s LNS crew and our own, updating information in the news queue as it becomes available, coordinating photog logistics, and trying to pick up breaking news on those ridiculously difficult to comprehend emergency scanners.

As always, questions arose throughout the night about what LNS should and should not be covering.  The Fox29 newsdesk, only one floor above, called a couple of times wondering if we were heading out to the scene of a fire or a shooting in North Philadelphia.

Other concerns arise when it comes to the organization of everything coming into the LNS newsroom.  LNS has essentially become a second news division, and as information comes in — particuarly video — it must all be organized not only for the LNS crew, but also for the Fox29 crew upstairs.  LNS at Fox29 is using the exact same database used by the newsroom for Fox29’s editors and producers.  If LNS does not continuously update the incoming information Fox29 will not know what’s going on in terms of what video or SOT is available.  At the same time LNS is responsible for making sure incoming video, whether it is something the photog brought in by hand or is feeding from a live truck in the field, gets into the hands of the newsroom at NBC10.  It’s a constant exchange with both stations, and organization is crucial.

May 13, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Shadowing the Producer

I had an opportunity to shadow Fox29’s noon show producer this morning.  Mace is a Northwestern journalism graduate who has an edgy side.  I could tell he takes a geniune interest in the show he produces.  At the very least I believe he has a good eye for what is news and what isn’t.  He has 30 minutes of news — more like 20 after commercials — so he has to be choosy about what makes it to air.

Mace also gave me a chance to write some VO for the show that day.  I worked on a few small — 20 seconds — stories.  One involving some Darwin billboards going up to celebrate his birthday, another about weather in Michigan, and a brief piece about a large brush fire in Florida.

Okay… so, not ground breaking news events, but it was nice to get the opportunity to write something that would be read on the air.

Today’s experience provided fairly good insight of what Mace has to deal with on a daily basis.  It’s clear it can be frustrating at times, but unclear whether he gets any enjoyment out of completeing a successful show.  He definitely takes pride and demands good work, but in the hustle and bustle of everything going on leading right up to the moment of “roll camera,” I’m not sure if there was time to take stock and pat oneself on the back.

May 13, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

More LNS… the VOSOT King

LNS continues to look for its niche in Philadelphia.  Being the first city to take on this venture, there is a lot riding on its success.  A model that functions well would likely be the mold that is taken to other markets around the country.

It’s clear from my experiences both at the LNS news desk and out with LNS photographers that a differing of opinions on how stories for LNS should be covered.   The concept of sharing the footage means both NBC10 and Fox29 have access to the raw video.  There are those at the Fox29 side of LNS who believe photogs should simply “spray” the scene, be it breaking news or previously scheduled press conference.  Others believe this half-handed approach weakens the overall product, and encourage photogs to work in some respects as the reporter as well as the cameraman by asking questions and getting sound along with the video.

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These SOT (sound on tape) portions, in my opinion, are critical in order to quieting critics who believe the LNS model is nothing more than short-handed, effortless coverage.  In the dwindling news rooms around the county staff are being asked to do more than they used to be, and this is only one mor part of that consolidation.  Photographers have to try — when applicable — to hold the mic and the camera.

May 13, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Bustling Nature Of Local News

radioThe amount of information, story ideas, tips, etc. coming across the news desk at a major market television station is remarkable to say the least.  Having worked at the assignment desk on a more regular basis lately, I have had the opportunity to witness this constant flow up close.

I’ve filled in for Fox29’s regular desk assistants recently.  It’s nice to know the Assignment Manager, Kyle Carmean has had the faith in me to ask this favor.  This has turned small moments of the internship into more actual job-related functions for me.  They have placed a little more responsibility in my lap, and that experience has been a true learning experience.

As a desk assistant I take phone calls from tip callers or reporters in the field, I listen to the police scanners for breaking news, and I scan emails for upcoming events or updates on previously covered stories.  At times it can be a lot to keep track of  — reading an email when the phone rings, while listening to the police and fire radios of nearly 7 counties squawking nearby.

May 13, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Figuring Out A Model For LNS

I have been working with LNS two nights a week for the past few weeks, and it’s becoming apparent that a lot of confusion still exists between this new video sharing venture and its television station cohorts.

Producers at Fox29 are often overheard admitting complete lack of understanding when it comes to LNS’ role.  For example, a breaking news event will surface, and the 10pm producer will not have an available photographer to cover it.  Their first instinct appears to lead them to want LNS to cover it. The problem is that LNS is its own entity, and doesn’t necessarily jump to change plans just because a producer wants breaking video.  LNS has its own events to shoot, and must make its own decision when to bust one event in favor of another.  This has been an obvious frustration for many people on the Fox side of the newsdesk.

In many ways it seems LNS lacks a specific identity.  The need for a clear definition — one all producers and assignment editors can understand — seems critical to the elimination of existing complications and/or confusions.

I will focus a short column at the end of the semester based on what I think LNS’ bread and butter should be — community event specialist.

May 5, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Two Vigils, Two Messages

Once again I was out with George Roach and LNS.  Tonight we were scheduled to stop by and gather video of two candlelight vigils for victims gunned down on the streets of Philadelphia.  The first was for Dwayne Canty — a young man gunned down by an uknown assailant.

The vigil appeared to be attended by not only Canty’s family, but many friends as well as others from the neighborhood.  Several people spoke through a load speaker as the flames flickered in the chilly night air.
The message of the night was one of coming together, taking responsibility for the youth in the neighborhood, and avoiding tragedy in the future.  Dwayne’s mother spoke briefly.  She looked barely old enough to have a baby, let alone three (now two) teenage sons.

It was a rare glimpse for me (someone not originally from Philly) into the hearts of residents who are faced with crime and death on a scale I could not possibly imagine.

I held the mic as George asked Canty’s mother questions — her two sons flanking her.  Her strength was remarkable.

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The second vigil for another shooting victim had a slightly different feel to it.  As we pulled up in our SUV, which was unmarked, the young group standing outside the victim’s home began muttering “police, police.”  It was at this point that George filled me in on the details behind this victim’s death.  The story is that a young boy (around 12) was robbed leaving a pizza place in the neighborhood.  Upon informing his father, a police officer, his dad and a friend began combing the area for anyone suspicious when they stumbled on to the victim (I cannot remember his name) and some friends.  To make a long story short, the scene escalated and the young man was shot by the off duty officer.  The wound paralyzed the young man who months later would die from further complications.

Once the people at the vigil realized we were media, they began clowning for the camera.  It was apparent this vigil wouldn’t have the same uplifting message the other one had.  At one point, a marked police car drove by resulting in chants of, “F*** the police!” from the almost entirely teenage crowd.

May 5, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Scene Of The Crime

crime-scene-tape-police-lightsI was working with LNS tonight, and was given the opportunity to head out with veteran photographer George Roach.  We were shooting a few events that had been predetermined when we heard the police radio in our live truck squawk something about a shooting on Hunting Park Ave.

It sounded bad, so we checked in with the LNS desk.  They made a call to Philadelphia Police radio who confirmed a homicide in the parking lot of a KFC/Taco Bell.  George and I sped to the scene, where we found crime scene units marking 9mm shells in the parking lot.  Both NBC10 and Fox29 were about to go on the air, so George and I set up the live truck, hooked up the camera, tuned into both stations, and starting feeding images within minutes.

This was one of the first, if not the first, test of LNS feeding live for both NBC10 and Fox29.  It was difficult due to the limitation of communications between the photog and both stations.  George could only speak with the producer in the Fox29 control room.  He had no way to communicate with the NBC10 producer, which sort of fell to me on another phone speaking with our LNS desk editor who in turn was speaking with people at NBC10.

It was a bit hectic at first, but everything fell into place.  This is the news though, isn’t it supposed to work that way?!

May 5, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

First Full Day With LNS

Finally my requests were paying off.  The Local News Service crew had moved into their new room on Fox29’s second floor, and I was going to be spending 1 to2 nights per week working alongside their staff.

At this point the, the Fox side of LNS was operating with 3 different desk editors and a small group of photographers.

The operation of LNS is simple on the surface.  Time will tell how well it all works together.  Here are some basics:

The LNS office located within NBC10 runs the dayside of the operation.  Stories are selected based on events both stations would require, such as a press conferences, breaking news, etc. (typically where a reporter is not being sent).  Photogs shoot VO and sometimes gather SOT that is then ingested at NBC10’s location and fed back to Fox29.

In the evening, Fox29’s LNS office handles all video gathering.  News events follow the same criteria, and most are agreed upon by both LNS offices before all coverage transitions over to LNS at Fox29.

May 5, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment