I attended an amazing session yesterday titled “A day in the life of a TV reporter” that may have seemed like it was about news, but was really about PR. Specifically about pitching your story to a TV news team,
Gerard Braud who ran the session is a been-there-done-that kind of guy. It was not the usual how to, with five golden rules, etc. It was an exercise in every sense of the word –one of the most fast paced sessions I’ve ever attended– to put us in the hot seat of the news team.
I guess you never realize the “if it bleeds it leads” imperative in a newsroom until you work in one. Attendees were divided into four news stations, KSUK, KRUD, KNTS and KRAP (no shortage of acronym fun!) given the same stories, and asked to produce three news bulletins -an A.M. newscast, an afternoon, and the big enchilada, the evening news. But it wasn’t just that. We were assigned to roles of egocentric, tired, underpaid, ambitious and reclusive individuals who put it all together. But if they were caricatures, Braud assured us he had worked with precisely these types.
That was the whole point of this. To see how stories, pitched to a news organization made up of dysfunctional (read: human) individuals dealing with the pressures of advertising, sweeps, budget constraints and deadlines ever make it.
The day’s story line-up included murder, corruption, a weather related car wreck, a local government story and a technology piece among others. As we set off to report and package the stories for the bulletin, a story of a blogger (posing as a child to lure a pedophile) was dropped by most teams, never mind the social media hook. (Please don’t tell Shel Holtz that!) The zoo story about a giraffe giving birth, survived. But you knew that, didn’t you? Even though it meant sending a cameraman in two different directions, it was in keeping with the silly convention of a cute story wrapping up a bulletin stacked with very depressing stories..
Just when we began to get the hang of things, Braud threw a curve at all four teams. I won’t spoil it for any other group who might attend this session some day, but just say this. Hard exposive stories are the sexiest -with the exception of the giraffe.
There were some great lessons. Pitching lessons, empathy lessons, and sensitivity to the news cycle. “We tend to treat them news people as special, don’t we?” remarked Braud. “We put them on a pedestal, but don’t recognize they are human, just like us.”