The idea was to spend four days practicing with the camera and editing software to get up to speed for a Monday, June 9th start date. But sitting in the morning meeting today, I re-discovered one of the tenets of local television news: be prepared for anything.
Instead of get up to speed, it was get out the door to track down a story.
In the end this story fell through, but I was reminded of how simple the formula is for making TV; it really isn’t rocket science. The way you make TV is to find people and talk to them. Finding people isn’t always easy. Sometimes they come to you served on a platter in the form of a press conference, but other times you have to hunt for them, using the internet and guile and persistence.
In this case I tried to track down someone who had recently moved from Hawaii to the Bay Area, but whose moving company had “lost” some of her possessions. Someone new to the area is a little difficult to track, because there’s no current address or phone number. But still, there are options, none of which are all that complicated:
1. Go to the police department to get the missing/stolen property report. First clerk: “call the media line.” Wait two hours, go back, and the second clerk was much more helpful. She searched the report database, but still, no luck.
2. Call a bunch of Hawaii-to-mainland moving companies, both in the Bay Area and Honolulu. This didn’t turn up much, but I did learn it can take anywhere from two to five weeks to move from Hawaii to California, and it’s best to put all your stuff in a single container – don’t share it with another mover. That’s how stuff gets “lost.”
3. See if any of her relatives live in the Bay Area. Here the station assignment desk had some luck with internet and database searches – two siblings, with phone numbers and addresses. No answers on the phones. No answer at a knock on the brother’s apartment door.
On to the sister’s house – no answer to a knock on the door, but there was a car in the neighbor’s driveway. This guy turned out to be really friendly, and told me my potential interview had moved away. Darn. BUT (and there’s often a “but” if you keep asking), the current occupants were good friends with the people who’d moved out and he’d be happy to pass along my phone number.
Because there was still time in the day, back to the first house, and this time someone answered, but not the guy I was looking for – he’d moved away, too.
After about 6 hours of driving and calling and internet searching and cajoling and knocking the doors of people I didn’t know – nothing. But that’s the way you do it – and, so often, it works.
1. Embrace the unpredictability of TV news. That’s the way it is, so roll with it. Don’t try to organize it or limit it or change it. You can’t. Decide you enjoy it.
2. Don’t give up. Finding elements to your story is just a matter of effort; a little more difficult than searching for the next coffee shop on Google maps or asking the person next to you on the bus where’s a good place to eat, but not a whole lot different.