Sunday, June 09, 2002


Reporting live isn't always lively reporting

        I am reporting live from the newsroom, just like TV reporters do so often on the late local TV news.

        I'm telling you that I'm reporting live from the newsroom, hoping to create a false sense of immediacy for my story.

        And I want to show you that it's no great technological achievement to report live from the newsroom. On TV, that means a reporter is down the hall from the TV studio where the anchors are sitting — or perhaps in a corner of the same room.

        A few steps away from me, here in the newsroom, are four TV monitors on which co-workers watch TV journalists reporting live from their newsrooms every night.

        On Channel 19's 10 p.m. news two weeks ago, the words “LIVE coverage” appeared on the screen when Chris Hawes appeared live from the newsroom, a few steps away from anchors Tricia Macke and Jack Atherton. her LIVE report consisted of introducing a story, taped during daylight hours, on the arrest of two men charged with robbery.

        Moments ago, I was standing in front of this very building, a 25-story downtown office tower, thinking about all the times I've seen TV reporters standing late at night in front of buildings where news had occurred earlier that day.

        • Two weeks ago at 11 p.m., Channel 12's Frank Graff stood outside a closed Edgewood Fifth Third Bank that had been robbed more than a year earlier, to tell us that the bank robber had died on Interstate 275 the previous night.

        • Channel 5's Todd Dykes stood in front of Cincinnati City Hall after midnight — thanks to a late NBA playoff game on NBC two weeks ago — to report that former Cincinnati police officer Robert Jorg had sued city and county officials in federal court.

Far from news

        To be fair, not always do TV reporters stand in front of buildings where news has happened. Sometimes they stand in front of buildings miles away from where news happened.

        • Channel 9's Shawn Ley reported a story about a Hamilton store busted for selling what police called “crack pipes” by standing on Fifth Street in downtown Cincinnati, outside Channel 9's newsroom, about 25 miles away from the store. (Would they report a Cincinnati story from downtown Hamilton?)

        • Channel 9's Andrea Canning reported the suspension of a Dayton Catholic priest in late May while standing in front of St. Peter in Chains Cathedral in downtown Cincinnati — two blocks from the TV station, and about 50 miles south of the priest's church.

        But, hey, Channel 12 once sent a reporter to Covington's Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption for a story about “the miracle of Fatima” in 1997. If you were introducing a TV story about Portugal, would you go to Kentucky?

Not fooling anyone

        Earlier today, here in the newsroom, I spoke to a TV news expert by using the telephone right here at my desk. He says viewers aren't fooled.

        “Viewers notice when you do gratuitous live shots,” says Carl Gottlieb, deputy director of Columbia University's Project for Excellence in Journalism in Washington, D.C.

        “Relying on "cosmetic lives' really hurts your effort to impress viewers. Viewers do notice, and it doesn't help. It's an impression that sets in over time.”

        The Project for Excellence in Journalism studies top newscasts from 20 cities each year. Maybe it should look at Cincinnati.

        “Reporting live, from where news happened hours before, is a very small-market practice. You don't see it happening in larger markets,” says Mr. Gottlieb, former vice president for news at Fox's WTTG-TV in Washington, D.C. “I'm surprised this is happening in a city your market size (No. 32). It was such a good news town.”

Good to be live

        Mr. Gottlieb says there is nothing wrong with going live.

        “Live techniques and live coverage can be a big, effective tool in covering the news,” he says. A smart TV news operation reports live on severe weather, fires, breaking news — and even fun things, like a big rock concert, he says.

        “Live technology is wonderful,” he says. “It's the one thing TV does that you (newspaper) guys can't do. It's bringing news home live to people.”

        Mr. Gottlieb urges news directors and producers to think about the best ways to present a story visually, instead of resorting to a TV cliche.

        “We all know what the outside of a hospital looks like,” he says.

        Not far from me, here live in the newsroom, Enquirer reporters are writing stories that will become the basis for many TV (and radio) reports the day they're published. Some probably will be reported by reporters reporting live in the newsroom or outside a building.

        That's it from here. Live in the newsroom, this is John Kiesewetter reporting.
        Contact John Kiesewetter by phone: 768-8519; e-mail:


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