Telecom students got a special treat last week when local TV news reporters gave presentations in their classroom. All three guest speakers are area anchor/reporters: Anita Blanton of WAVY-TV 10/WVBT-TV FOX 43, Kurt Williams of WTKR NewsChannel 3, and Janet Roach of WVEC-TV Channel 13.
Each speaker visited a different class: two classes of juniors (Television I students) and one class of seniors (Television II students).
Anita Blanton spoke to TV I students about what makes a good journalist, and emphasized that it's not all about being on TV.
"First, you are a journalist," she said.
Blanton told the students about her strict upbringing, during which watching television was mostly prohibited. Her military/minister father did not allow her to watch the popular shows, she said, "but CNN was allowed!"
"I knew all the anchors," she quipped.
Blanton emphasized the importance of writing and said that English was always her best subject. She recommended that TV students learn all the different skills involved in TV production, not just on-camera reporting. The way to do that is to start out in a small market where the reporter does everything: writing, reporting, editing and producing. If nothing else, she said, it allows you to determine what you do not want to do for a career.
Blanton also advised doing internships and externships whenever possible. And she told the students not to expect a big paycheck when working in TV until you have a lot of experience and break into a big market.
Lastly, she mentioned that TV reporters have to produce for three screens now: TV, computer, and phone.
Kurt Williams of WTKR NewsChannel 3 spoke to the TV II class. He facilitated a hands-on "live broadcast" with the students using a camera, monitor and microphone. The students had a lot of fun with the apartment fire scenario and the challenge of quickly gathering and remembering information. Students played the roles of the reporter, camera operator, witnesses, fire chief and even the "news music."
Williams was impressed with the team, particularly Woodside student Alexis Bell, who had to remember a lot of details and then report them on camera without getting flustered. The details of the fire were sketchy and had to be improvised, which is where the students' humor and creativity came into play.
Williams' advice to the students? Hone your writing and grammar skills, get the answers people want, and report it in an understandable way. He told them they had a great head start with the equipment they use at Telecom, and to continue in college by joining the TV, radio, or newspaper team there.
Another key piece of advice was to be a good listener. Williams said people think TV reporters have to be good speakers, and while that's true, it is even more important they listen to get the story right.
The final news speaker was WVEC-TV Channel 13's Janet Roach, who spoke to the other class of TV I students. One student asked her what the most interesting story she ever covered was.
"It would have to be 9/11," she said, referring to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. She was sent to cover the Pentagon crash site.
She worked for a Baltimore station at the time, and remembered driving to Washington, D.C. with her cameraman and seeing everyone else fleeing the city on the opposite side of the expressway. She and her cameraman were moving quickly while the road leading out of the city was congested with traffic.
It was a highly stressful situation, and interviewing people awaiting word about their family members inside the Pentagon was very emotional, she said.
Roach recommended doing internships, and said that it is not necessary to be a journalism major. She said that diversity is important in a newsroom, so sometimes another major is preferable to create a staff with different backgrounds, insights and knowledge.
Political Science, she noted, is a great major for journalists because so much news is politics and policy, and journalists need to have that background.
A student asked how a reporter hides his or her own bias and opinion when reporting. Roach responded that a reporter must be "fair and balanced" when reporting. She said sometimes it's as calculated as making sure you say the same number of facts for each side, so that both sides of the argument are evenly supported.
Like the other reporters, Roach stressed the importance of good writing skills and being able to put the pieces of a story together quickly upon arriving on the scene.
As an example, she gave some quick facts of a made-up story and had the students act as the reporter at the scene. The students had a very short time to memorize the facts and then relay the information to viewers.
Roach said she loves her job because it is always interesting and she gets to "dip into" other people's lives and learn about many different topics. Another thing she loves is when her news story helps someone.
She talked about how her station helped a citizen get Medicare to cover his wife's medical treatment that she received on a docked cruise ship. Medicare had refused to pay the medical bills, but because the news station pursued and uncovered the facts, they eventually did.
Roach also spoke of a news story about a woman who had been scammed out of $1,000 in rent money and was left with no place to go. After the story ran on the news, an anonymous benefactor called the station and sent the woman a check for that amount.
The students enjoyed meeting these news professionals and hearing about their backgrounds and how they pursued their broadcasting careers. The real-life advice they received is invaluable to the students and will no doubt help them on their paths to success.
The speaker visits were coordinated by Telecom's TV Production Instructor Carl Daniels, Jr., who worked as a Video News Editor at a local news station before joining Telecom.
TV news anchor/reporters visit Telecom classes: