Sunday, October 25, 2009

KTUU Hiring Middle School Students to Interview our Legislators?

If that's the case, I can see how this happened.

as others have observed, this was pathetic (see update):

Update - 8:00 p.m: Commenters are observing that the young reporter may have been doing a standard audio level check in the way she had either been trained to do one, or as she had learned some of her colleagues had done them.

Essentially, they contend the reporter was merely having Sen. Murkowski say words that would both identify the Senator for archive purposes and fulfill the audio check function. I had thought this practice had disappeared along with a lot of other pre-digital setup procedures. I may have been wrong.

Read through the comments to get some opinions on this.


Chris B said...

That's called SOP in the news business, not only to get proper mic levels, but also for ID purposes later. When the tape gets back to the station, people other than the photog or the reporter may handle that tape, for example the editor, production coordinator, even the audio op, Technical Director or Director may have a need in the production process to look at that tape.

It's also done for archival purposes.

For radio purposes, it's absolutely essential to do this.

However, I wouldn't expect Zaki to know this, in fact I'd be surprised if the guy has ever stepped foot inside of a real news room.

Dennis Zaki said...

To Chris B, aka Johnny,
It is not SOP these days in Alaska, maybe it was 20 years ago. The radio reporters in this state never do that. I know, I'm there at every presser. If you were ever a reporter, you'd know that.

Anonymous said...

If the reporter was a middle school student, then I think she did a very professional job. I hope she isn't hearing all this flak about what she did. It would certainly put a damper on any plans she may have for her future as a reporter.

Eileen said...

At this point, I'd like ANY Alaskan reporter to be brave and frank enough to ask -those in the know- in this state about Sarah Palin's Babygate-the political hoax of this century.
My two elementary students have followed this story one year and know she conned a town,her staff, a legislature,a state, a nation and some members of her family. We know the photographic and factual evidence.
Jeez,deja vu, I came of age during Watergate and know how that turned my civic idealistic pride into cynical doubt about our elected officials. Where are our home grown investigative reporters who have a lasting interest/stake in Alaska and aren't posted here until they get their training wheels off and then move elsewhere for a job?

Ron said...

As a former television news photographer, reporter, and photojournalist, I interviewed my state's governor and US senators, as well as mayors and other officials who were all well-known to me.

Most of the time when I was doing a one-on-one interview, where I have individually "miced" (fitted a microphone on) the individual, I went through the same routine, for two reasons:

1. I set and checked the audio levels while the name and title were being spoken and the name spelled.

2. For any number of reasons, I might be handing off this tape to others and this is an additional safeguard that a name "key," the graphic identifier that appears onscreen while the interviewee is speaking, has the proper spelling and identifies his or her title as he or she prefers it.

This was standard procedure on hundreds of interviews I conducted, no matter how well I knew the interviewee.

Yes, it's been about six years since the last story I taped, but that is not "20 years," and in my opinion, still constitutes good practice.

While earlier comments refer to radio practice, radio doesn't use on-air "keys." To have a key misspelled or to have the interview subject's job descriptor even marginally inaccurate would quickly undermine one's journalistic credibility.

For example, city hall was my regular beat, but I still would have the mayor ID himself on tape. If I became ill, or got called to another story, I knew whoever handled the tape would have the necessary information on tape.

There really is no need to ridicule the reporter, photographer, or producer -- any of which might have actually conducted the interview.

KaJo said...

It occurs to me, a person who's never been involved in any part of the journalistic process, that asking those particular ID questions of such a well-known Alaska personality as Lisa Murkowski was poorly advised at best, and exactly as it appeared at worst.

Hasn't the phrase "testing, testing" been used since the advent of audio recording to test the mics and volume levels?

Also, if one is archiving a video news clip, it stands to reason the ID would be done via TEXT, not audio, since they are on 2 different tracks (aren't they? I'm admittedly no expert).

And oh, by the way, Chris B, it's helpful that you point out how absolutely essential it is to ID the interviewee for radio purposes, but that's another topic for another discussion. This was clearly a video recording.

Philip Munger said...


The state of the art regarding "level checks" and such has changed. A lot.

I'm not sure if KTUU's audio needed to be or was adjusted during the segment posted here. If that WAS the case, then this post is needlessly accusatory.

Apparently, though, the reporter was quite new, and needed the requested information.

Chris B said...

Johnny ?

Sorry bud wrong guy, it's gray and cloudy in Anchorage today.

Not to mention the CG and/or graphics person who would need to know the proper spelling of the name of the person interviewed.

KTUU also has a fairly high turnover rate, so it wouldn't be surprising to see a reporter who's new to Alaska, who might not know who all of the players are yet.

As you can see here, here, here, here and here getting the subject to state his or her name is the first thing that you should do after hitting the record button, basic stuff dude.

Ron said...

I sat down with US Senator Slade Gorton for an interview, and did a stand-up interview with US Senator Patty Murray similar to the one posted here.

I knew who both were.

I still had them say and spell their names, and neither gave the slightest indication they thought anything odd about the practice. Neither seemed to feel they were so self-important they should somehow be treated differently from other interview subjects.

It's different if they are standing at a podium with multiple mics, or I am walking alongside asking questions using a shotgun or stick mic, but here Sen. Murkowski hands back "your equipment." She is apparently wearing a mic, and as I did with Sen. Murray, I would ask the same identifier questions. The only difference would be, I generally did it as one request and not two separate ones as was done here.

I used, what was at that time, state-of-the art Sony BetaCam SP professional gear. I only used the camera's auto-level capabilities in breaking news situations. Otherwise - setting, monitoring, and riding audio levels manually generally produces better audio quality. This is NOT a matter of adjusting audio in post-production, but getting the best audio quality on the source tape (now generally replaced by various digital media.)

Many people set audio on "auto" and let it go at that; many people never wear an earpiece and monitor the audio they are recording. I've seen and heard the occasional bad results from both practices.

Audio aside, there is still the matter of having critical information on the tape. I always had in my mind that if I keeled over before the tape got back to the station, somebody else could take it and run with it.

Finally, people in television news are only rarely homegrown, and almost everybody has to be "new" in a market at some time.

None of this is to suggest that journalism in Alaska is robust. I almost never watch local news anymore because economics has been squeezing veteran journalists out of most stations and replacing them with fresh-out-of-college tyros who haven't honed their skills in small markets. And the results show.

I just think that there is probably better evidence for poor journalism in Alaska than heaping ridicule on someone for what has been standard practice elsewhere.

p.s. I never used or heard "testing, testing" used to set a level in a professional setting. "Testing" may tell you that a microphone is working but if you are recording a vocal track and want to set the recording level, you want someone speaking in their normal manner.

I hope this isn't too pedantic. I am merely trying to paint an accurate picture of behind-the-scenes practice and the purposes behind that practice, and possibly spare somebody unknown to me some undeserved scorn.

Anonymous said...

Well it was at AFN and most reporters totally make hash out of the first peoples names. May be the reporter was tryin to get SOMETHING right with names at AFN...

Bill S. said...

The risible quality of the news performers (few if any are journalists) on local TV is because their only goal is to make their way out of the smaller TV markets and move into larger ones as quickly as possible.

Our tiny Anchorage market is but a stepping stone in their career, so don’t be surprised if they nothing about the state. They aren’t from here and plan to be gone as quickly as possible.

In this case, the performer was an idiot. A sound check is typically handled in one of two ways when the person is well-known:

1. You'd say 'Senator Murkowski, would you mind saying and spelling your name just in case a new guy's editing tonight';


2. 'I need some sound for levels. Can you please tell me what you had for breakfast/how you got here today?'

Anonymous said...

Bens Olympic windfall, Teds Elmendorf giveaway, Marks real estate riches, Bills whoring etc

ok now i get it, after 6 years here people really are idiots just never saw it in AK MSM so vividly

this is the validation i needed to get the hell out of here