By Payam Agha-Ghassem
Broadcast journalists no longer have the luxury of focusing on one set of skills because news stations now require reporters to do everything from the writing to photography, veteran radio reporter Robert Lang said last week.
“You’re doing the whole thing,” Lang said in a speech to journalism students at Towson University. “Most stations often have reporters shooting their own video, editing their own packages, doing narration and doing standup. They have photographers functioning as reporters and reporters functioning as photographers.”
Lang, who has worked in the television and radio news industry for 28 years,is coming up on his 10th year as a reporter for WBAL Radio in Baltimore.
Stations like WBAL rely on reporters to do their own reporting, shooting and editing, he said. Producing a news package used to be a four-man job. It’s a cost-saving move, Lang said.
“If you have limited resources like just six reporters and six photographers, rather than having them work in teams, give everybody a camera and you now have 12 crew members going out and you can cover more news for less money,” Lang said.
Lang spoke to 30 journalism students Thursday at Towson as part of TUjday 2014, the university’s annual celebration of journalism and new media. Lang talked about trends in broadcast journalism and his experiences in the field.
Lang concedes that not having a second pair of eyes to help when putting together a news package could affect the quality of the story. However, he argues that having more people being able to cover more news events is beneficial.
In his speech, Lang also stressed the importance of keeping a simple writing structure when writing an audio story. He is given usually 30 or 45 seconds for each radio story during an hourly newscast.
“You don’t have a lot of time to tell a story in great detail,” Lang said. “What you are doing is you are flushing out the most important facts and giving it a certain sense of immediacy.”
What makes radio different from television or print is that a radio reporter must write to the ear. He said people listening to the radio have no visuals to go by, so keeping the story conversational is key.
“You’re writing for perhaps the worst receptor of information of all of our five senses, which is your ear,” Lang said. “Think about what you’re doing at the same time when you’re listening to the radio. Are you focused solely on what you’re listening to? You’re probably doing other things.”
Radio stories must be able to take the listener into the scene of a story, Lang said. This is especially true when doing a feature story on the radio.
Lang played an example of one of his radio stories that covered the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. It was a celebration held at Gwynn Oak Park in Baltimore County. The piece contained various background sounds, also known as natural sound.
“When you do a feature like that, you get a chance to work with the various sound elements that are around you,” Lang said. “The goal is to take people to the park, take people to your story.”
Rebecca Nappi, a Towson junior studying journalism, said she was glad she woke up at 8 a.m. to attend the speech.
“I found the speech very informative,” Nappi said. “I liked how he talked about how journalists are taking on the role of photographer, videographer and reporter. It was really eye-opening into how we have to be the ‘everything’ journalist now.”