1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

The viewer doesn’t care.
— Simon Perez, Syracuse University

Sometimes story ideas come through. The way you planned it is the way it happens. Sometimes story ideas don’t come through. And then they don’t again and again and again and again. As you might have guessed from the headline of this blog entry, I attempted to do six stories today. There’s a lot of effort and frustration that goes into that, but as my students have heard me say a million times, “the viewer doesn’t care.”

map of six places.jpg

Starting from San Francisco:

Story 1: An Oakland City Councilor is pushing to close down a street that has become a homeless encampment near a Home Depot. This story had already been done by the nightside team a few weeks ago, but the dayside team had forgotten. No need for me to repeat a story done so recently.

Story 2: A baggage equipment malfunction at SFO left a lot of upset passengers without their toiletries. After I arrived at the airport, we realized the problem had been fixed.

Story 3: A suspicious package at the Facebook mail facility caused several buildings to be evacuated. On the way there, we figured the story would be well over and old news by 5 p.m., so we moved on to something else.

Story 4: Several new laws went into effect in California today, including one that required a background check to buy ammunition. Not much luck finding a cooperative gun store owner in the Bay Area, so on to the next idea.

Story 5: Another law that went into effect in California today raised the minimum wage in several cities across the Bay Area. On this one I made some progress, actually conducting an interview with an economics professor at San Jose State University. As soon as I’d finished the interview, I’d planned to head to one of the communities that was seeing an increase (Milpitas, just to the north), but before I could start the car, the station called and said the Facebook suspicious package story was looking pretty good now.

Story 6: Facebook suspicious package.

Usually, it’s at this point in the blog where I write the three key elements I look for in a story (so what, real people, show me don’t tell me). But today, because I had about an hour to get ready for the first of three live shots (5 p.m., 6 p.m., 7 p.m.), there was no time to figure out those elements. I had to go with the video the helicopter and the videographer who arrived before me had shot and the information provided by the parsimonious (with details) public information officer. There was no time for anything else.

When you’re faced with a situation like this, the goal is to be informative and presentable. It’s essential to remember the viewers don’t care about all the troubles the reporter has gone through (six stories!!!!) during the day. The viewers want news, and they want it from you - that’s why they’re watching your channel.

Hank Plante.

Hank Plante.

It’s also important to remember that your chance to inform comes at the end of all that mayhem. I recall this perspective given to me by longtime KPIX reporter Hank Plante, who told me this is a business where you must look and do your best not at the beginning of the day when you’re fresh, but at the end of the day when you may be exhausted, frustrated and at your wit’s end. True. And you must do your best, because the viewer doesn’t care.


  1. The viewer doesn’t care.