Posted: October 2nd, 2009 | Author: Brian Mortensen | Filed under: Industry, KOMU, NCAA football | Tags: brian mortensen, fnf, gold star, hostage situation, jim riek, KOMU, live truck, producing | No Comments »
Well, I’m now a sports reporter/producer at KOMU and despite it being MUCH less stressful than news, I am still at the station almost every day. I work live truck for the Monday/Wednesday morning show, and for the 5/6 on Tuesdays. It’s been a lot less stressful this semester working live truck, too. The early morning hours are tough, but it’s an easy show to work because with so many hits, it’s easy to rearrange things if we have trouble with the truck. It’s also a solid way to pick up hours, even if it does come at a time I should be sleeping. For the most part, I’ve had good reporters too, so it’s been fun.
I experienced probably the wildest story I’ve probably ever been a part of on Wednesday morning. I woke up somewhat early at 2:15am (usually wake at 2:30 to get to the station at 3am) and Matt Jeffries, the morning student producer, called me to tell me to come in “early” because of a breaking news situation in Columbia. Up off Stadium Blvd, the Columbia Police Department were staking out a couple of people holed up in an apartment. These people apparently SHOT AT A COP CAR, then peeled out in their high-performance Dodge Stratus, crashing through their apartment complex’s gate and hiding in their apartment. The suspects refused to come out of the apartment, so the cops called in some serious reinforcement – State troopers, SWAT TEAM (!!), and a few other imposing vehicles to handle the threat of these 3 whacked out dudes. So I showed up with the truck and Chance Seales was already there. He shot some video already, and I fed it back through the truck, which I thought was fun. We basically set up our shot just alongside the driveway into and out of the complex, so we could see cop cars coming in and out of the area. We had plenty of nats too, with “flashbangs” aka stun grenades going off (which we thought was gunfire because it was so loud). Chance did a great job with his hits, and I was pleased with my camera work. Eventually the cops got the dudes to come out of the apartment by blowing down its windows. This was a really awesome live shot experience all-around, so I’m glad it went so well. On a side note, KMIZ showed up half an hour after we did, and their reporter was far too chummy with Jessie Haden, CPD’s “Public Information Officer”. I would expect nothing less from them. Here’s the link to our story.
Working in sports has been awesome. I’ve shot every Mizzou football game so far (minus Nevada, since that was on the road) and I’ve done FNF every Friday night. I FINALLY broke my Gold Star duck with a win last weekend for my Boonville/Hannibal highlight. Jim Riek totally got me by surprise, and I went nuts when he said we got the Gold. I had a lot of help from the guy who went with me, Caleb Barron – he deserves a lot of credit. I’m psyched to shoot Jefferson City’s homecoming game tonight. Another great part of this game is the chance to visit Kate & Ally’s Pizza in Jeff. City - probably the best pizza you can get in Mid-Missouri! I’ve also been mildly surprised at how easy producing sports has been. Yeah, it can be a little “crazy” but I’m confident in my abilities, so I don’t stress out about getting video transferred, edited, or graphics created. Of course, Jim’s sports class is awesome too, so overall it’s been a pretty good semester so far! Hope it stays as good! Here’s the link to my Gold Star video (it’s the first one in the vid.)
Posted: July 25th, 2009 | Author: Brian Mortensen | Filed under: Industry, KOMU | Tags: brian mortensen, live truck, safety | No Comments »
Let me preface this post by mentioning I have never singled anyone out for criticism via the internets or complained about anyone at KOMU. To do so would be unprofessional, rude, and immature. But my experience today left me so irked I have to put it in writing to gather others’ thoughts on it.
I picked up Matt Tarnawa’s 5/6/10 Live truck shift as I figured I could use some extra money, and I had nothing going on tonight. I arrived at the station and was told immediately we would be going live from Stadium Blvd. on TOP OF THE LIVE TRUCK to demonstrate the traffic for a story about possible expansion of the road. I thought it sounded like a cool idea and I was certain we could make it work visually. I went out to Stadium, parked in the lot next to the McDonalds, and began to set up. After tossing a few things on top of the truck, I realized we would have very little space to safely work with. I tried to set up the tripod, but that left roughly a FOOT for me to move from the front of the truck (closest to the mast) to the back of the truck, with the larger platform area where I intended on having the reporter stand. I took the tripod down and figured with the space we had, the safest thing to do would be to shoot off the shoulder.
Now, I was fully aware whenever I shoot off the shoulder, especially in hot weather like it was today, I get Parkinson’s-like symptoms and don’t hold the camera too steady. But that seemed like a fair trade-off. (While some might disagree) I’m not an idiot, and given the responsibility of getting the job done SAFELY, I would much rather have a semi-shaky shot for the 15-20 seconds before/after the PKG or Vo/sot than:
1) fall off the top of the truck because I lose my balance attempting to connect/disconnect/move cables because the tripod is in the way
2) see my reporter fall off the truck because she doesn’t have enough room to move around.
3) Lean back on the mast and cause it to drop down, losing the shot.
4) Assume other risks for the sake of A SMOOTH/SEXY live shot.
I’m sorry, but I’m not paid enough or insured enough to risk my health and safety (and that of the reporter) over something I consider quite silly.
Here’s a picture I snapped with my Blackberry prior to the hits. You can see I have the camera set down on top of the A/C unit. Behind the A/C, and in front of the mast is roughly 1.5-2 feet of space. IN NO WAY is that enough room for a tripod. Now, look to the edges, where the width of platform is about a foot. To have the tripod on the truck would require me to constantly maneuver around the top of the truck while walking on that foot-wide platform. Sound silly? You can see where I’m coming from now.
Now, with that written, the director of the 5 and 6 wanted me to call her after the 5 to discuss this. She INSISTED I use the tripod, saying (in a very condescending/rude/demeaning tone) “OH NO, DON’T SAY YOU DON’T HAVE ENOUGH SPACE, I’VE DONE IT BEFORE” to which I stated I did not feel comfortable using the tripod because I didn’t have enough room. To be fair, she said the shot needed more light, and I completely agreed after seeing how it looked, so I changed a few things for the 6 hit. I did not use the tripod for the 6 and I feel it came out a little better than the 5 knowing I really had to go steady.
I really have a problem with this kind of attitude from the director. I COMPLETELY understand the need for good-quality shots, don’t get me wrong. And there’s something to be said for suggesting I use the tripod, but then understanding my decision to go with what I considered the safest shot. But by assuming we’re invincible, capable of doing anything in small spaces, and otherwise demanding we take on more risks than normal is what leads to accidents – often injurious or fatal. If it makes me look bad for choosing the safe route, so be it. I’m sorry the shot was “too shaky”, but I’d rather that be the case than anyone even come close to getting hurt. If my KOMU “reputation” is harmed for it, so be it. I’ll take my health and safety 1st over putting myself into a dangerous situation.
Posted: July 6th, 2009 | Author: Brian Mortensen | Filed under: KOMU | Tags: brian mortensen, jefferson city, live truck, sedalia | No Comments »
Well, I got back to the grind after a nice battery recharging in Hawaii. I went right to work on Wednesday and came in with some interesting ideas – including Marshall’s airport renovation plans, and the School of the Osage graduate who is now joining the astronaut program with NASA. None of them panned out, so I started working on the “suspicious fires” release we received from the Jefferson City police department. It seemed like a pretty interesting story and I got the sense it would have some decent visuals. So, we called the contact listed on the press release and hit the road to Jeff. City. I had my trusty intern/shadow Coleman with me, and once we got to Jeff. City, we drove around to try and find some of these “suspicious fire” sites located mainly on the east side of the city. While we didn’t find anything, we got the sense of the neighborhood where some of these fires had happened. We stopped at the Fire Department’s administrative office to try and find out a little more information. A secretary gave me the number of someone who knew more about it, and after speaking with him on the phone, we found out some of the basics on where the fires were happening. Turned out there had been a fire behind the Gerbes Super Store over the weekend – someone started a fire inside of a dumpster behind the store, rendering the dumpster almost completely destroyed and also damaging a few wooden pallets. I had Coleman shoot an off-the-shoulder standup with me showing the damage to the dumpster. I liked what we had and I was happy to let him shoot so he learns how to use the cameras. After the standup, we went to the Jefferson City Police station downtown and spoke with Captain Doug Shoemaker, who gave us the “official” soundbite. He told us about the house that had been hit by a fire, which I did not know of – so after talking to him, we hightailed it to the house to shoot some video. I was shocked at how much damage had been done, yet Shoemaker said the fire was not intentionally set to burn down the house – only that some pyromaniac was messing around on the foreclosed property and the fire spread onto the house. After that, I went to pick up my pizza from Kate & Ally’s, and we hit the road back to Columbia. Unfortunately, this is when my day started to derail. Hungry for some of the best pizza in Mid-Missouri, I ate a slice while driving. Not being careful enough, sauce dripped down from the pizza onto my tie, completely ruining it. We got back to the station and I didn’t have any trouble cutting a mini-package for the 6. Meredith and I agreed it would be good to go live at 6, so I left the station at 5 assuming I’d have plenty of time to run home and grab a new tie, then get to Jefferson City by about 5:40-5:45. Unfortunately, it didn’t go that way. I got stuck in traffic on Highway 163 (my mistake in going that way instead of Grindstone to 63) and then on the Whitton Expressway, so I didn’t make it to the house until about 5:55. I scrambled to the setup, began to mic/IFB myself up, and RIGHT as I held up a piece of paper to white balance, EVERYTHING shut off. Kyle Seever, the truck operator, did everything he could to revive the truck, but we were royally screwed – no generator = no live shot. So, I was naturally pissed that 1) I didn’t give myself enough time to get to Jeff. City, and 2) that fate/karma would have it that the generator shut down after arriving late to a live shot. I really got a shitstorm when I got back to the station, and understandably so – I deserved every bit of criticism and such for ruining the A block of the show. But otherwise it was a fun/interesting story that was overshadowed by my bad luck/planning.
Since I was in Hawaii for what would have been my Monday dayside shift, I came in to cover Brandon Spiegel’s Thursday nightside. Unfortunately, all the stories I had were total flops, and otherwise the day was completely dead, so I left with nothing to show for the day. It wasn’t too big of a deal to me because I had agreed to work on the 4th of July, Saturday, and had a story lined up in Sedalia about the town’s revived parade. So, I came in early and hit the road to Sedalia. I had heard about this from a woman I met there when I was there for the stolen donation jar story. She gave me the name and number of a guy who had supposedly revived the Sedalia 4th of July parade when for years the town did not have one, for unknown reasons. So, I went to Sedalia and got the obligatory parade video, trying to move around as much as possible without getting the camera too wet from a surprise rainstorm. There was some cool stuff – like motorcycles, classic cars, and war veterans. Then, I interviewed the 2 guys who had a big part in the parade’s return, and got their story. It seemed pretty interesting, and a good “return to tradition” type of story. I shot my standup in the park where free BBQ and community games were going on. It definitely seemed like a legit 4th of July event – people came with their kids, parents, aunts/uncles, etc. to fish, play volleyball, etc. It was pretty cool to see several different generations of people on display. I also interviewed a woman unrelated to the organizers for a good “resident” soundbite. Overall I was very happy with the video I had, and I felt I’d have plenty of information to write whatever I needed. When I got back to the station, I went on-set for the 6, and cut a vo/sot for the 10. Definitely enjoyed this story and I felt it was a success! The on-set came in the C block of the 6, and I’m not sure when the vo/sot aired.
So, done with b3 reporting shifts! Now, I have to do my HFR and a paper with an interview of someone from a different ethnicity in a different TV market.
Posted: June 6th, 2009 | Author: Brian Mortensen | Filed under: Industry, KOMU | Tags: brian mortensen, KOMU, live shots, live truck, news reporting | No Comments »
In our B3 meeting/lecture/roundtable yesterday (I call it that because it’s technically a lecture, but it’s so informal that it feels more like a meeting/roundtable) we discussed and viewed good/bad/ugly live shots. I may be on my own in this, but I think “going live for the sake of going live” is a good thing. Having reported in live shots, and set up live shots as the truck operator, I think it provides an important link in a newscast. Yeah, it might be completely worthless standing in the dark as a “floating head”, but to me, that means you need to be more creative. Show me something worth flipping to from the studio – even if it’s a sign or some sort of “scenic” backdrop (i.e. field, stadium, building, traffic). It can sometimes appear cheesy, but I like the aspect of “Hey, we ARE out in the community paying attention to things that are going on.” As a reporter, I enjoy them because it gives me a lot of face time and a chance to show either my personality, or show something related to the story in more detail than I would be able to in the studio. Does the fact I enjoy it for face time detract from the journalistic quality? Perhaps.
I can see the argument both ways. With our training, I feel we’re pretty apt to not let our personalities overshadow a story. The challenge comes for inexperienced live reporters who get nervous and stick strictly to a script, or get nervous from “YOU’RE ON LIVE TV. GO!!!” For me, that nervousness doesn’t happen. Yes, the adrenalin kicks in, but I love that.
I attribute the fun of it to a line I heard several years ago (circa 2005) from Mike Quick, the high school sports producer, reporter, and anchor from MSG Network in New York. He taught the “advanced” section of the “Bruce Beck and Ian Eagle Sports Broadcasting Camp” in NJ. To this day, there are VERY few people who scare the living bejeezus out of me, and he is one of them. He’s probably 6’5″, 250 pounds, and as intense as Tom Coughlin. Anyway, we were doing on-camera exercises as a group. One person messed up, and Quick had him do it again. His advice? He spoke slowly, staring each one of us in the eye: “Calm down. It’s just TV. You’re not saving anybody’s life here. You’re not a surgeon, a doctor, a soldier, or a cop. It’s JUST TV.”
And that’s how I look at it. Live shots help me, as a reporter, keep perspective on our jobs.
Posted: May 28th, 2009 | Author: Brian Mortensen | Filed under: Industry, KOMU | Tags: brian mortensen, KOMU, live shot, live truck, news reporting, rummage sale | No Comments »
I had a few interesting story ideas, but we couldn’t find a way to spin them into a story, so I began looking at something Jen suggested, which was a story on how a Boonville health clinic received an $80,000 grant from the Missouri Foundation for Health while its doctor was supposedly on probation with the State Health board (I could not confirm this – we received this in a tip from a viewer, so I had no way of verifying it in time to turn the story in a day). The doctor also received notoriety in October 2008 throughout Mid-MO for losing her license to prescribe controlled substances like Oxycodone. So naturally, it brings up questions for us to see a doctor with this kind of a record receiving grant money. A call to the Missouri Foundation for Health resulted in me leaving a long voicemail for their spokesperson, and a few hours later receiving a long voicemail explaining that the organization is “investigating” how the grant was given to the doctor’s clinic (Dancing Horizons) while issuing a “no comment” on the other aspects of the story. Jen and I agreed it would be better to do this story as an HFR, since it’s clearly interesting but it needs more time to seek out. There’s also no true “today” angle to it since the clinic received the grant in early May. So, the best we could find was the Rummage sale coming up on Saturday.
I went out to shoot some video and interview people there. I found several people who could speak on camera and they said some good stuff – worthy of making a package out of it. Upon returning to KOMU, the producers and I discussed going live at 5 and 6 – which sounded cool to me, so I was all for it. I cut a SOT for the 5 and 6, scripted a reader, and headed up to Memorial Stadium for the live shot. Since I’d already done a live shot before (speeding ticket story), it didn’t feel too wild or crazy. I think my 6 shot went better than the 5 because I had it planned out better. Instead of grabbing something next to me to show on-camera, I simply held what I considered a good pair of shoes and showed how much they were for sale when the shot came to me. I was glad that we had SOMETHING to show – so our live shot was not worthless. I’d say I learned on-the-fly that keeping it simple for a live shot, and being able to show SOMETHING, are really important to a successful shot.
Upon getting back to the station I cut a package, which was pretty easy. It was shorter than the 1:10 I was given (about :53), but I think it’s always easier for the anchors and producers to finish light than finish heavy. Plus, sports or weather always want extra time, so for a pretty weak story I was happy to have squeezed this much out of it. It felt very applicable to how Jack Nicholson quotes John Lennon in The Departed, “I’m an artist [or journalist, in my case]. You give me a f!@#$%^ tuba [pronounced 'toober'], I’ll getcha somethin’ out of it.”
The 5 and 6 versions aired in the A block, with a live headline for each at the beginning of the show. The package for the 10 was in the B block.
I really need to find some good story ideas for next week.
Posted: January 27th, 2009 | Author: Brian Mortensen | Filed under: Industry, KOMU | Tags: brian mortensen, KOMU, live truck, news reporting | No Comments »
I knew this shift would be interesting with snow expected in Mid-Missouri – it was only fitting that my guides for this shadow shift were assigned a winter-weather live shot at one of Columbia’s busiest roadway intersections. Kyle Seever was the driver and overall “live truck operator” while Candice Crawford reported.
Setting up a live shot doesn’t seem to be very difficult; just somewhat time consuming and very step-intensive. In other words, miss a connection or plugging in a particular cable, and an entire newscast (or at the very least, a particular live shot) can be ruined. Seever and I arrived about an hour and a half before the 5pm show to the scene of the live shot, set to be the intersection of Providence Rd. and Stadium Blvd. – all 7 or 8 lanes of its beauty.
Before leaving KOMU, Seever made sure that we had extra batteries for the camera in case the truck’s generator failed. We ensured that there was a tripod in the back of the truck and a tool kit with all mic extensions and wires. Upon arriving at Providence & Stadium, our first task was to raise the mast of the live truck – the DirecTV-sized dish capable of sending microwave signals to KOMU’s studio in an instant. Seever noted that it is important to make sure the mast is raised to its maximum height of roughly 7 sets, and directed my attention to the large “DO NOT PARK UNDER A POWER LINE – YOU CAN BE KILLED!” warnings. Trees are also a risky nearby object – avoid them. From there, we can start the generator and begin setting up the camera, tripod, and mic/IFB for the reporter. As the weather was the focus of our story, we made sure that the tripod and extra light kits we brought were safely secured to the ground with sand bags from the back of the truck.
While I’d love to continue on in-depth, it’s 11:44pm and I have an 8:00am class – I’ll keep it brief for the sake of staying awake through Broadcast 2 Lab at 1pm.
Seever pointed out that an IFB is an “interruptible feedback” device. It allows the reporter to talk to producers and the control room, and also to stay on-pace with the newscast’s upcoming cues. He advised that reporters MUST bring their scripts, weather gear, and, when necessary, a separate IFB as sometimes reporters find it icky to share an IFB among many people. Seever said that reporters can best help live truck operators by showing up on time – at least 15 minutes prior to a show starting. He also said that specific directions on where to bring the truck are important – in other words, not just “downtown Columbia” or “along Highway 63″ – he said directions like “8th and Cherry” or “Northbound 63 and Broadway” are vital to proper setup. Lastly, he said the most common problem facing live reporters include: overt nervousness and looking at scripts (one should know their topic well enough to not memorize a set script) and being unfamiliar with IFB sounds (as one can hear producers, anchors, and themselves speaking on delay) and becoming confused.