Friday, November 27, 2020

The Life of a Reporter, From a Former Reporter

I've never been more thankful to have left the on-air world of television than I am right now. Yeah, this year so far has been beyond awful for people across the world; Kobe died, the wildfires, a possible world war in January and now the COVID-19 pandemic. Hatred of the media has always existed and has been amplified moreso in the last 5-10 years. However, it's now reached levels of horrendous and atrocious behavior by people to members of the media.

As someone who spent eight years being a television anchor/reporter, I think I've seen and heard about every insult that can be thrown my way. I've had my life threatened. Someone's wished for me to be raped. I've had people try and start a physical altercation with me while I'm doing my job. I've had my voicemail and inbox flooded with criticism from the public. Now, I'm seeing fellow colleagues have their safety be put in physical danger. And can I please just say something? Shut your ignorant and hateful mouth up.

Let me break down what the job of a television reporter is, because I can guarantee you that your idea is beyond outdated. It starts with simply finding a story idea. Sometimes, there are great days where there are countless things happening. Other times, there are days where the most exciting thing happening is a church planting flowers (yeah, I was at a television station that ran a story about a church planting about news judgment).

Speaking of, news judgment is what decides what is worthy of getting coverage and going on the air. 95 percent of the time, that reporter's own news judgment is not what determines if they can follow through with a story idea they pitched. It comes from the news director. Now, the news director is the boss of the newsroom. They hire the personnel in a newsroom, they determine what runs in a show, they are the top tier of daily news production. What they say goes. So, even though a reporter may believe that, for sake of example, someone refusing someone business is a great story, there is a chance the news director may not agree. That's all dependent on that news director's news judgment.

Let's say the news director agrees. Now, the reporter has to play phone tag and shoot emails back and forth with people to finally get at least 2 interviews set up. These sources could respond back immediately, or they're busy and don't respond right away (which I'm not bashing. You all have your own lives and jobs, too). It can take hours sometimes for sources to get back to a reporter. Let's say they get back to them at 1:30 p.m. and say yes. The first show that this story needs to be in is for the 5 p.m. show. The reporter then needs to drive (by themself in a majority of markets) to meet the sources, conduct the interviews, shoot b-roll and drive back. If this interview is in town, all of that should take about an hour if that. If it's out of town, well then, add on travel time. I was at a station where unless I was in the county of the station, it was an average of an hour and 15 minute drive, one way. So, factor that in there.

It's now 2:45. The reporter is back at the station. They have to ingest all their footage, listen to their sources, cut the sound that they think tells the best story and then write a script. That normally takes about 45 minutes, barring any technological problems like their software crashing. So now, it's 3:30. This script now needs to get approved by one of the managers in charge. This could take as quick as 5-10 minutes or it could take 2 hours. Off of my experience, it takes about 45 minutes. Now it's 4:15. They have to very quickly voice their script and edit their story along with insert graphics and get the video to master control. That takes about 35-45 minutes. So it is now 4:50...this reporter has been going 100 miles an hour to turn a story for one show. Also, this person needs to "front" their story, also known as being either in studio tossing to their story or being on location, live. If they're live, they have to get on location and have their shot set up 10-15 minutes before they're supposed to go on air. Also, just add in the fact that this reporter needs to have makeup and hair done and looking perfect before going on air (yes, men wear makeup, too. Lights are bright, and you don't want to look shiny).

But wait, they need to churn a different version of their story for the 6 p.m. and the 10 p.m. show. When that reporter gets back to the newsroom, they then have to shorten it for the late shows, get a web article written, have that get proofread by the digital supervisor, upload their aired story onto the web, and then post that on social media and hope and pray they have enough of a following to get clicks.

That back in 2000? That did not exist. What that reporter did in one day and does EVERY SINGLE DAY THEY WORK was about five people's jobs. Maybe even six. There are no camera operators anymore in a majority of the country. There are no editors to help edit reporters' stories anymore. Social media wasn't even a thing. News websites weren't prevalent or even existed to the degree they're at now. It is now a full one-man job to be a reporter; you have to wear five different hats and be willing to deal with any changes.

During this time, there was no time to take a lunch break, probably only snuck in either fast food if they had that extra 5 minutes or a granola bar that sits in the bottom of their drawer or bag. They're having their producers asking for updates. These reporters also need to update their social media everywhere they go. The news director may also have the reporter go cover another "short, quick story" (like a grand opening for a local business) while they're out.

So, people who think they can do a reporter's job, please tell me if that's what you thought their job was. They don't just read. The only people that just read are the TOP SHOT ANCHORS at the massive markets. Even those anchors were a reporter at some point, but a lot of them were not reporters during the late 2000s and on because they busted their ass to become an anchor.

I'm so sick and tired of hearing from people who are not in the media world hate and bash on something they have no actual concept of. It's like if I went into a courtroom and just started bashing the judge or attorneys, because I don't like what they're saying. That is what you do on Facebook or Twitter when you bash a reporter. Unless you, as a viewer, see an error and want to offer a correction, have a question or even just want to give a compliment, you can keep your "Fake News" or "the media is a joke" comments to yourself. Guess what? That rude comment means you're listening and watching regardless.

"Well, I'm watching to point out Fake News." I call bull. If you really thought there was "fake news," YOU WOULDN'T WATCH OR READ THE NEWS. But because you don't want to be uninformed about your world and society and things that are happening, you turn to the media. If anything, we in media are the voice of the people. We are the voice of the community. You want to know how we find story ideas? The community wants to have their voice heard, and they reach out to a news outlet. If you don't want news, then don't reach out and don't watch. It's that simple.

"Karli, only some outlets are fake news. The rest are credible." That is up to your personal judgment of what you enjoy to watch or read or follow. I'm not knocking you on what you enjoy. But let me remind you that the facts they're reporting are facts. If you don't like those facts, that's fine, but that doesn't mean it's fake news. CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and those cable shows are now just opinion networks that take news and have it fit into their opinions. THAT is not news reporting. That is watching talking heads. There's a damn difference.

Now, this is coming from someone who spent 4 years in sports only and then 8 years in total doing news and sports. I have done every job, minus a general manager, in a newsroom that you can think of. I've been every cog in that wheel of a newsroom. I have a grasp of what's needed to get done in a timely and factual manner.

In February of 2020, I left being a reporter/anchor because of the toll the job took on me. I was stuck between trying to please my managers and doing what's right for the community. There were a lot of times, in my experience 95% of the time, that those two never worked together. If I did what my managers wanted, I would get berated by the community. If I did what the community wanted, I would get berated by my bosses. There was no win-win situation. Imagine what that can do to a person who's barely making ends meet and has other factors contributing to the stress of life. That can take a massive hit on someone's mental and physical health.

So, the next time you want to bash the media, I want you to have a full understanding of what goes down in a newsroom. I want you to know what that reporter's day was like. I want you to know that we are not doing this for money, seeing that the average starting salary in a mid-major market for reporters is a whopping $30,000 and they MAY break into $40,000 after doing 4-5 years of work. We don't do this to just have our face on television or our name in the paper/online (most of us, anyway. There are some "journalists" out there who are self-centered). We don't do this job for clout (you can get clout and make way more money doing something less stressful. That's just a fact).

We do this to tell the stories of the community. We do this to be the voice of the public. We do this to be the representative of the public. We do this to make someone's day. We do this to shed light on an issue or event that's happening. We do this to let you, the same person that is bashing the media, know what's going on in the world.

So the next time you want to bash the media or a reporter in any way, whether it be on social media, through an email, over the phone or in person, just ask yourself one question: how would you feel if someone came into your place of work and said the following:

"You're just a blonde bitch who doesn't know jack shit. You're fake news. I hope someone comes and rapes you, because you deserve it because of the shit job you're doing."

Yeah, that's an actual message I received from a viewer who did not like that I did not show their child in a highlight. That wasn't even a news piece. Try going into work the same way ever again after hearing that.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Why Sports Matter: A Kobe Bryant Tribute

I sit here writing this at 1:45 in the morning when I should be packing up my apartment for my next big move. It's been more than 24 hours since Kobe's tragic passing. It still feels unreal to me that a legend, icon and genuine human being who had such a high standing morally and ethically is gone. I'm still crying over this tragedy.

I unfortunately was never able to witness Kobe in person. I watched games constantly though as a kid. I'll never forget watching his final game when I was a senior in college, at Pawpurrs in Athens, Ohio. I cried when I realized that we would never see Kobe in a Lakers uniform again.

But it's what he did in his short retirement that does more. That impacts more. That is what he should be remembered for more than his stat line.

I got on YouTube and started watching Kobe on talk shows after his retirement; Kimmel, Fallon, Ellen etc. You could tell how passionate he was about his family, his daughters and his next step. Many of these talk shows would ask him basketball related questions, because how can you not? It's Kobe. However, it's his answers about the small details of the sport of basketball that really have me reflecting on the game.

I started dribbling a basketball when I was just 4 years old. It was a pretty instant attraction for me. I would spend time in my alley, shooting hoops with the guys on my block. I asked my dad to get us a hoop so I could shoot at the house. I asked my parents to help me better my game with camps and travel teams. I spent countless hours on the court, trying to find the jump shot I could never perfect.

I stopped playing when I was in high school for a combination of reasons. I had a back injury, some concussions and I had a coach who made me stop loving the game. So I found my love for writing and storytelling and wanting to highlight athletes and sports. It was through my newfound love of sports journalism that I found my love for the game again, but it wasn't for my initial reasons of love for basketball.

It was for something new. Something transcendent.

Basketball is one of the few sports that is a team sport and an individual sport at the same time. In football, you need all 11 guys to be at the right spot to get things right. However, in basketball, you need a full team to show teamwork and selflessness to get the ball to the right spot, the right guy, the right shooter.

And that right guy needs to be in the right physical, but more importantly, mental state to be great. That's what Kobe embodied. His accolades alone are immense. However, there are many people that have achieved something more or damn near close to it. It's his mental state that he had on the court that made him special. He had the right mind set. The Mamba Mentality.

That's something that you can only experience in basketball. Basketball is a sport that tests your mental strength more than anything else. You can miss one shot and be cold all night because of your mind being hung up on missing one shot. Or you can make one shot and go off for 40+ points because you got the confidence on that first field goal.

That's if you let that happen.

Then there's the defensive competitiveness that tests you mentally. That's what made me fall back in love with the game. I was never the biggest scorer. That was not my strength. However, my defense was what I would pride my game on. I was ferocious, tenacious, sometimes dirty, to stop someone from beating me. Those times I would get beat would force me even more to stop them the next time around.

I'm now on the sidelines as a professional, shooting or reporting on games and I would get all types of hype for a steal instead of a bucket. I remember what that feeling was like when I played. It's a subtle flex that can give you confidence. Or when I would see a block. There is no better feeling than seeing someone come at you with full confidence, wanting to get that two or three points, and you come out with the absolute stop, bringing that person to the floor and getting possession back.

It's a constant mental battle that only you can win. You can be hot all night and then get absolutely bodied. And you still have to find the inner strength to get down the court, forget what just happened and hit the shot. That's confidence that no person can teach you. No coach can help you with. No teammate can challenge you with. It's your own battle that you need to control, which takes an incredible amount of mental strength.

That growing confidence is not cockiness. It's not arrogance. It's the constant pursuit of wanting to get better, something that Kobe taught every time he stepped on the hardwood. Something that you can only find in the sport of basketball. I played other sports growing up, but nothing hit home for me like the court did.

Basketball saved my life. That sport, that discipline, that constant desire to grow, to better myself, to be a better teammate, everything that that sport encompasses. It saved my life. It was one of the few things that gave me confidence, because I saw the kind of confidence Kobe had on the hardwood. I wanted to emmulate that on and off the court. I try my best to do that now with my own personal life.

That is why sports matter. That is why I get beyond angry when I hear the statement, "Sports don't matter. They're just entertainment. Athletes are too glorified now. Just dribble. Just catch. Just throw. Just hit the ball."


The reason Kobe's loss is larger than many is because of the way he used a sport to teach a lesson. The way he used a jump shot to explain confidence. The way he used being blocked to explain getting up after a failure. The way he used an assist to show how to lift other people up. It was something so simple that taught absolute life lessons that if a parent, teacher, adult, family member, anyone further along in their age said, you would brush it off.

Thank you Kobe.

Thank you for showing that sports do matter. Thank you for showing what the sport of basketball can do for someone. Thank you for being a voice for the downtrodden. Thank you for being a pillar of hope for the city of LA. Thank you for your writings and Academy Award winning short film that just hits differently now. Thank you for impacting my generation to where we would yell "Kobe" after any shot. Thank you for being an inspiration to a little six year old Chicago girl who tried to hit a fader on the right wing. Thank you for the Mamba Mentality.

But most importantly, thank you for being an absolute hero for all people, across the world. Your legacy and legend will never be forgotten.

Because you never forget the teacher of life lessons.

RIP #24.