Module 63-2


Updated: 02/18/2017

Module 63







News and

Documentary Production

" We are at the beginning of a golden age of journalism -- but it is not journalism as we have known it. Media futurists predict that by 2021, citizens will produce 50 percent of the news...."

- Online Journalism Review Report on Participatory Journalism






 ENG Personnel

The number and type of positions involved in producing a daily newscast will vary from two or three people in a very small station to more than 100 in Toronto, New York, Los Angeles, or Tokyo.

ENG personnelAlthough responsibilities and titles can vary among stations, generally the news producer is the person who is directly in charge of the newscast.

In this digital, file server era, the role of the news producer has hanged. Today's news producer typically puts together the list of segments for each newscast based on the stories available.

The Director will then check the segments and make sure they are ready for air and then call for them as the news is broadcast. The person who responds to the director and operates the switcher during the broadcast is the TD or Technical Director.

Larger stations have segment producers in charge of specific stories or newscast segments. Some stations will have an executive producer who is over the producer(s).

As the title suggests, the ENG coordinator starts with the story assignments made by the assignment editor and works with reporters, ENG crews, editors, technicians, and the producer to see that the stories make it to "air."

ENG coordinators must also understand news, which brings us to...


Uncovering Truth

Ultimately, the job of the journalist  — especially the investigative journalist  — is to Food Pleaseuncover the truth about situations and explain that to an audience in a clear and succinct way.

It's not the responsibility of the reporter to advocate a particular viewpoint but simply to bring all of the related facts to the public's attention and let those facts speak for themselves.

Once a news source is suspected of having "an agenda," credibility is lost and all of their reporting becomes suspect.

The Press As a Watchdog

In mid-2002 two major stories were reported in the U.S. press: the molestation of hundreds of children by clergy and the largest corporate bankruptcy in U.S. history.

In both cases the incriminating facts had been successfully hidden from the public as the situations continued to get progressively worse.

TV news>>Had the truth been uncovered and publicized earlier something could have been done to head off the pain and suffering that a great many people had to endure.

This includes the many additional children who were molested and the scores of people who lost all of their retirement funds while corporations reaped billions in profits.

In both cases it was the journalist's job to uncover the facts that were being successfully hidden from exposure and bring these facts to the public's attention; in other words, to fulfill their role as "the watchdogs of a democratic society."

Broadcast news today is a highly competitive business. Being first with the news can equal a boost in ratings and, of course, ratings translate into profits.

A reporter that can "scoop" competitors by being first with a story can gain personal and professional prestige, and even awards.

" This pressure results in reporters sometimes stepping over the line of civility, and this has resulted in the brazen image of TV reporters that is frequently portrayed in dramatic television."

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At the same time, reporters are facing increasing efforts to legally hamper their efforts to uncover political and corporate wrongdoing.

The reason is not a mystery.

The individuals who are frequently the target of political scandals are the ones with the power to shape and interpret laws that can hinder these investigations.

The major contributors to political campaigns, which politicians depend on to stay in office, are the corporations that are frequently the targets of investigations.

News organizations, themselves, are not immune to pressures -- pressures end up having a strong influence over media companies, and thus their employees .

More than one reporter has been pressured to "back off" from an investigation when the outcome could affect political power or corporate profit.

Many examples are never brought to light. But one alleged and seemingly clear and striking example is covered in red dot this YouTube video.

" The liberties of a people never were nor ever will be secure when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them."

-Patrick Henry

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Video Journalists (VJs)

Today, we commonly see "one-man bands" covering televisionone-man band  news; i.e., one person doing everything: camera operator, reporter, sound person, and editor.

In case you are wondering what the term "one-man band" refers to, it originally referred to a person who played multiple musical instruments at the same time. (Note photo.)

A modern broadcast related interpretation is when an on-camera reporter shoots the basic story, then sets up a camera on a tripod, focuses on a mark on the ground, tilts the camera up to his or her height and locks it, puts on a mic and checks the audio, rolls the recorder, and then standing on the mark delivers the opening and closing to the piece.

And then that same person may edit the piece and do the voice-over narration,

As television news moves to IP (Internet protocol) as a point-to-point medium this "all-in-one" individual may send the story from the field directly to the studio or "cloud," (remote depository), to be used as needed. All that's required is an Internet connection -- and, of course, a person who is very good at multitasking.

This has led to the term, video journalist (VJ), a single field reporter who does it all.

It's not easy, but it saves hiring extra people. Thus, it's more important than ever to understand the entire production and news process. 

Citizen Journalists

Dramatic changes in the nature of video news have recently taken place.

Whereas news video used to be filtered through the editors of major news organizations, because of social media and the preponderance of personal cameras,  news events today are often covered by a multiple citizens (citizen journalists) and disseminated in advance of the mainstream media.

The major news media used to typically support law enforcement's version of events but the public now may be presented with conflicting versions of events.  This has been the case in some civil rights and "black lives matter" events.

Some police personnel have objected to their actions being filmed, and citizen journalists have been illegally manhandled and arrested for trying to document police actions.

At the same time, the video accounts of citizen journalists can be misleading, inadvertently or intentionally showing consequences and not precipitating events.

 The problems and advantages of citizen journalists are clearly (and somewhat disturbingly) documented in the Netflix Truth and Power video on citizen journalists.

Suppressing Stories

In doing a TV documentary the writer had his own experience with this. (See Murder and A Police Cover-up.)

This recently has been taken a step further when some municipalities have enacted laws to make it make it illegal to film public police actions (although except in specific circumstances that action is, itself, illegal).

Reporter's Checklist

Feeling the rush to get a story, it's sometimes tempting to assume facts or use information from questionable sources.

However, errors in stories not only damage a station's credibility but they can derail a reporter's professional future. Here are five points to keep in mind when writing news stories.

1. Question those who claim to be a witness to an event and confirm that they really were in a position to see what happened. See the blog entry, Yellow square "When Everybody Gets It Wrong."

2. Use a second source to double-check information that seems surprising or may be in doubt -- especially if it could put any person or agency in a bad light.

3. Double-check all names, titles, and places, and, when necessary, write out the pronunciation of names phonetically.

4. Do the math on numbers. If a telephone number or address is involved, make sure they are accurate by double checking.

5. During the editing of interviews make sure that sound bites accurately reflect what the person being interviewed meant.

One of the reasons that news is mistrusted and influential people are reluctant to give interview is because facts have been reported wrong or distorted.

The Freedom of Information Act (FOA)

To help address this issue The Freedom of Information Act (FOA) was originally passed to allow citizens and reporters access to government documents.

However, not only is the process of obtaining documents through FOA fraught with red tape and delays, but key information is routinely blacked out (redacted). In 2008 two-thirds of FOA requests were simply refused. No explanation or justification is required.

One recent request resulted in a 57 page reply but with more than 98 percent of it blacked out, leaving not much more than the title page.

Although the law stipulates that the government must reply to a FOA request within a set period of time, in practice the law is often ignored. In fact, it can be years before a reply is received.

Since the FOA law has no "teeth" in it, there is little that can be done.

Despite these problems, some major stories have resulted from FOA documents.

  Among journalists murder is the
leading cause of work-related death.


At Times, A Dangerous Profession

Since 1992, 1,179 journalists have been killed around the world.

Although you might assume that most were killed while covering wars, you will note from the list below that most were murdered because they were covering political stories.

4% Business
20% Corruption
16% Crime
11% Culture
21% Human Rights
46% Politics
2% Sports
38% War

In addition to those killed, many more were imprisoned or threatened with prison.

Laura LoganThose who feel that covering wars from the battlefield is a man's job need to consider yellow
                  intidator the story of Lara Logan.

She is considered one of today's most successful foreign correspondents, having won numerous prestigious awards.

The file,   Are You Paranoid Yet?, covers two of the most recent attempts to stop U.S. Investigative reporters from doing their jobs -- not in some dangerous foreign country without the rule of law, but in the United States.

After computers and telephones of major news centers, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Fox News and the Associated Press were hacked, reportedly by a branch of the U.S. government to find out who their sources were, journalists have suggested somewhat drastic procedures designed to protect themselves and thwart hacking attempts. 

>>Suffice it to say, investigating and breaking important stories often carries a degree of professional and personal risk. At the same time, this is the way awards are won and professional careers are advanced — and, far more importantly, wrongs are rectified and needed social change is instituted.

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