The New York ‘Mess’ and Pregnancies on the Volleyball Court

As a journalist who is learning how to become a better broadcast journalist and looking for new and creative ways to tell a story, not only with words, but with pictures, I am constantly looking at various pieces of journalism in different mediums. It’s interesting how one story that seems as though as it only has one or maybe two sides, can be told so many different ways. But to me, it’s even more fascinating when I watch one news outlet report different stories and they have the ability to humanize each story for the viewer. It makes the viewer feel as though they not only understand the situation at hand, but also can relate to it. A perfect example of this is ESPN’s Outside the Lines (OTL).

OTL is not the typical ESPN show with highlight reels and debates over the best NFL quarterback, but rather, it is trueOutside the Lines sports   journalism. It takes the hottest stories in sports AND smaller local sports related stories and reports on them, going beyond the surface.

Recently, they just aired two stories that I found very interesting in how they went about reporting them and here are my thoughts on them as pieces of broadcast journalism.

The first piece from OTL that I looked at was ‘High School Pregnancy.

Visually:

The story had a lot of possible visuals and utilized them all so that the shots didn’t get redundant or repetitive. The shots of the mother and daughter at volleyball games, as well as the coach and other players, correlated well with the writing. Anything you heard the reporter say,  you saw on the screen. But, what made the story visually sound was the shots in the hallway of the girl in school, her playing the harp, and the checkups at the doctor’s office. The story could have just been on the sports aspect, but Paula Lavigne, the reporter, really let the viewer get to know the girl. Some of the shots were very powerful and each one had a purpose, but I did have a few visual problems with her story.

The first was a shaky shot at the very beginning of the story. As the girl was playing the harp, the camera rocked back and forth. It wasn’t part of the mother’s handheld camera footage, nor was it of the volleyball match, so there was no need for the camera to be moving. This might be a stylistic approach taken by the photographer, which is possible because throughout the story there are lots of unnecessary pans (ie. the volleyball games and the lawyer in her office) and camera movements, but even so, I am not a fan.

The second thing was when the girl and her mother were sitting on the rocks. It is a great shot, no doubt. But, there was no way that shot wasn’t staged.

Another thing, is that there are a few jump cuts throughout the story and I feel as though that should be something that is caught if you are working professionally. An example of one that occurs is when the lawyer is on the screen from 8:16 – 8:25. Watch her hands. Obviously, this is very minute, but this just shows, you can never have too many cutaways.

The final part of her story that I visually was puzzled by was the stand-up. I did not quite understand what she was doing with it. The information was fine, but she stood on the field of the school for no apparent reason. She didn’t show or demonstrate anything. I understand that she wanted to stand on the school grounds and make her point, but it was unnecessary. It was boring and I felt took away from the story because it didn’t say anything that needed her on the screen. Also, the other thing that bugged me were here hands. they closed her off to the viewer and made her look more staged than she should have been

Journalistically:

As a piece of sports journalism I thought it was a phenomenal piece. It took a small local story in Fort Worth, Texas and made people care. It went beyond the on-the-court battle; it went beyond the court room battle; it went beyond the battle with the school and department of education; it took the viewers into their home and into the doctor’s office. It made the story make sense. It answered all the questions viewers may have had.

The story had a beginning, middle, and end. It tied up loose ends and explained where the story now is going. It covered personal feelings, thoughts, and emotions of different characters involved. It had interviews from all the people someone would want to hear from: the girl, her mother, the doctor, the girl’s friends, as well as an attorney. And even when people wouldn’t comment, the reporter made sure to include that in the story such as the coach of the volleyball team.

The second piece from OTL I looked at was ‘Mets Mess.’

This piece was very different from the first one because this was a more main stream story that many people don’t quite understand the intricacies of. The story isn’t a very visual story and the main characters were not going to be available to talk to, so the reporter had to think creatively about how to show and tell the story.

Visually:

From a visual stand point, there was not much to the story, but it did not become boring or repetitive. The graphics that were used to show the various documents and many interviews took the place of the video that was needed annd allowed for file video of Bernie Madoff and the Wilpons to be heavily used.

Journalistically:

This story made a very complex situation, less complex. It did not make the viewer think it was a simple situation, but rather allowed the viewer to get some sense of the situation. It went through court documents and memos that most would not either take the time to do or understand, and made it easier to comprehend.

I thought what made this the best story I have seen on the situation anywhere is the interviews that were conducted to get this story. Obviously the Wilpon, the Katz, or Madoff, families are not going to discuss the situation, so the interviews that were done were extremely strategic in making the story great.

1. Larry King – He gave the viewers an insight to someone who is very close with Jeff Wilpon, who also invested with Madoff.

2. Michael Cramer (The professor) – He gave the viewers an understanding of what it means to own a piece of the Mets. The fact that they are trying to sell only a portion of the team, is not easy to understand, that it actually means very little.

3. Judith Welling and DeWitt Baker – They humanized the story for viewers. It gave an ‘everyday’ person account of what it was like to lose money with Madoff and their reactions to the current situation.

4. Jerry Reisman – He gave the viewers an outlook on what this situation means legally for the Mets owners. He is valuable because he already has experience dealing with victims of Madoff’s ponzi scheme, so there is a sense of expertise and credibility with him.

Overall, these two stories show that no matter the story, visually they must be sound and journalistic-ly must be solid. Both stories showed that even if you can’t talk to the exact people you want, the show must still go on. There is a story that still needs to be told, but it just might have to be told from a different perspective.

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