BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — January 23 through 27 is National News Literacy Week, a time where we highlight the importance of the knowledge, tools, and elements that go into creating a news story before it is presented to the public.
Everything that viewers see day-to-day happens in the studio, from weather reports to breaking news, but a lot of the magic actually starts in the newsroom.
The day begins with what we call an editorial meeting, which is where the entire news team, including producers, managers, reporters, and others, comes together to lay out the game plan for the day.
Multimedia Journalists (MMJs) pitch story ideas for management to analyze, critique, and really see the why behind the story idea. 23ABC Executive Producer Kennedy Thomas is one of the people who oversees the progress of a story from start to finish.
"First off, I am looking for relevance to the community. Why do I need to know this? Are you my top story for the day? Why is it a top story? Is this the most important thing I need to see tonight? That's the first judgement: Is it important? Are we making a difference to our community? Is the story that we are doing, is it just information or is it, 'Here's some information and here's what to do about it,'" said Thomas.
Thomas says another part of the approval process includes identifying sources. Sources are the people we interview for the story in order to verify the information we share with the public and make sure the news is credible.
"You need people looking over what you are doing ho have experience, who have that knowledge, because it's not just about you educating the public. We're educating reporters, we're training them to move on to their future," said Thomas.
After discussing the story elements and getting the green light from directors and producers, MMJs begin the process of contacting their sources and setting up interviews. Once the time and place are set, reporters pack up their gear and head out to the shoot.
Reporters are often paired with photojournalists who help shoot the interviews and other elements you see on the screen, including the extra "filler" video reporters play while they're giving more context to the story, called B-roll. Reporters will usually also take that time to shoot what they call "standups," the intros and outros you see framing the story.
All of this work is done before heading back to the news station to start the second part of the process; writing, editing, and another round of review, critique, and approval from managers and producers.
"With any form of professional writing, not just journalism, it's always important to get another pair of eyes on something. I'm going to catch things that the reporter is going to miss. If we have the opportunity to even have other people look at it, because I miss stuff too. Professional writing in general, you need to do that," said Thomas.
Throughout the script editing process, Thomas shares certain things that he looks for to either add to or remove from scripts before approving them for the next step in production.
“My first run through, I’m going through 'Does this make sense grammatically? Is it clear and concise? Is it using a more conversational tone?' Because we are television we are not a newspaper. It’s important that the information that is being delivered is easily understandable quickly by the viewers," said Thomas. "It’s a lot of slight tweaks to make things simpler.”
Once the script is approved by a manager, the reporter then heads to the tracking booth, a room specifically for audio recording voiceovers and script reads.
Once the elements are created, the editing process begins. The video, audio, interviews, standups, and B-roll are arranged with the help of computer programs into individual packages. Those packages are then assembled into the show you see on the air by producers and editors, who add things like transitional graphics and any information that needs to be included on the screen, such as names or locations.
None of this would be possible without a second eye from management going over everything start to finish, from story pitches to sources to scripts. Getting approval for these things is what sets 23ABC and other "mainstream" news outlets from citizen journalists.
This vetting process also reinforces the importance of credible journalism. The purpose of the news is to give you information you can use to make decisions about your life. It has to be accurate, it has to be complete, and it has to be timely.
To learn more about ethical journalism and what it is we strive to do every day for the communities we serve, visit the Society of Professional Journalists' webpage. You are also invited to read the Journalism Ethics Guidelines as issued by 23ABC's parent company Scripps, which are essentially our rules.