From Classroom to Newsroom: Managing your news day

If you’ve ever wondered if you have what it takes to succeed in a local news environment, you’re about to read some useful advice.  Lillian Askins is a reporter for WAAY-TV in Huntsville, Ala.  Here she shares a great step-by-step guide to help student journalists test out their real-time skills.

Askins says these are tips you can “practice now, so you feel more confident on your first days of work.”


Step 1.

After you have made it through the gauntlet of checking out a camera, start a timer on your phone. Try to shoot all your interviews and b-roll in 45 minutes max, then immediately go to the lab and upload all your footage.

Step 2.

After your footage is on your computer, listen to your interviews.  Pull your favorite sound down to your timeline.

These clips of your best sound should range between 5-12 seconds. (No 20+seconds SOTS……ever.)  If you have a fabulous LONG sot- break it up. Then type out your sound bites. I color code different people in a Word doc, just to help pull the story together faster.

Step 3.

After you have typed out all your sound, you have the bones of your story down on paper. The hard part is almost over. Now all you have to do is connect everything together with your track (voice-over).

Start by writing an anchor intro FIRST. Then weave your sound bites together with simple sentences that help advance the story. And don’t forget nat sound.

(I usually like to start with an establishing intro sentence— a little nat pop—another sentence- then a great sot. You will develop your own style over time.)

Step 4.

Print your script and track your story.

Girls: Put away your cute little baby voice when you track.
Boys: Don’t let the Southern frat star pop out.

You will NEVER get a job if your voice sounds like you are just a 21-year-old college kid. Believe me. That is the reason so many people do not get hired.

Save your sound on a thumb drive and get back to your computer before someone else tries to get on it! RUN!!! Don’t lose your momentum!

Step 5.

Now all the hard logistical parts are over!  Stop and start your clock again. You now have 45 minutes to edit your story together.

Look at your script and simply lay down all your sound. Then you will know the total run time. If it is over 1:30- trim it down… cut something… please. You may bore everyone to tears if your story is over 1:30- AND it will only make you spend more time in the freezing cold editing lab.

Watch your timer. Make FAST decisions. Don’t waste time watching parts you’ve completed or are proud of over and over. Keep moving.  Try as hard as you can to finish as fast as you can without making errors.

Step 6.

YOU’RE DONE! Check the clock. Write down (or remember) the time and next time beat your total time by 10 minutes.

“Here’s an extra tip,” says Askins.  “When writing your script, don’t bother putting it in all capital letters. This will save you time on your Web story.”

Of course, there will be days when you get the opportunity to take your time to truly craft a good story, but more often than not, local news reporters are under the gun and the ability to put together a story quickly will make you a real asset to your newsroom.