This is a Q&A with KAIT news director Josh White. KAIT is the NBC/ABC in Jonesboro, Arkansas which is market 181.
Q: What was your first job in the business?
A: I was an intern at WLEX-TV in Lexington, KY. My main thing was to put countdowns on tapes they’d be using for that days sportscast. I also rode along as they shot VO’s and VOSOT’s, and shot a little along the way. The first paying gig – was a PT sports photographer at WKYT-TV in Lexington, KY thanks for the recommendation of those at WLEX. I shot mainly on Friday nights and weekends because of my college schedule.
Q: When did you know you wanted to be a news director?
A: At first, I wanted to be a chief photog in my career – that’s all I wanted. Once I did that, I then thought – hey I think I could make better decisions that such-n-such – and the dream was born. I sat in on all the morning and afternoon meetings I could, studied why they made the decisions they did, and just became a sponge for how to try & run a shop. I’ve had some great teachers along the way, and some pretty bad ones…which also taught me a lot as well. If they were bad, then I learned what not to do, how not to say something, how not to treat people & stored it in my head.
Q: What is your biggest daily challenge?
A: My biggest challenge honestly is keeping an eye on the product. So many times, there are other things that pull ND’s away from the product to the point where they have no idea what went in the shows. I won’t lie, there are days like that and those are insanely frustrating. That’s where having a strong AND (assistant News Director) comes into the mix – otherwise it goes downhill pretty quick. The challenge is not to get so involved in the meetings, the projects, the consoling of some of the team members, that you lose focus of what is our product doing – are they following strategic planning, are they writing tight, are they showcasing, does the product look good (Being a former photog, that will always stay close) are we doing what we’re supposed to be doing & how can we make it better in the next newscast. Armchair quarterbacking is a pain, but also a necessity in this business. If we can’t look back on our product and find a way to do it better, or cleaner, or faster – then you’re not being truthful to yourself or to your team.
Q: What is the one thing you wish members of your staff understood about your job?
The overall picture. Far too often we all get caught up in, “My story, my issue, my thing,” is the most important thing, and it should be your top priority. I refer to the newsroom & the relationship of the AND & ND as this – it’s all a big playpen. The AND is atop the tower watching over the kids, making sure they’re playing fair, not playing rough, making sure we don’t get sued, tending to “Little Johnny,” who got hurt on the “monkey bars,” and making sure everyone is doing what they need to do inside the playpen. The ND’s job is to watch over the AND, and then look for areas where we can expand the playpen. Where can we branch out “Little Susie,” because she’s getting good & needs to expand a bit more on what she can do – how do we get “Little Johnny,” to do the same, when can I introduce the “new toy,” into the playpen without utter chaos, when and how can I introduce the new person into the mix, and make sure they’re all playing nice together, etc. When the AND has to get into the playpen and write web copy, or write a story, or help ‘Little Johnny,” showcase his story properly, he has to get into the playpen – which then means the ND has to step down, and watch over – then no one is looking for the expansion, growing, and excelling. In a nutshell – the overall picture of where we’re going, why we’re going, and the excitement/scary part of the trip.
Q:What thing/things make you ignore a reel immediately?
This is market specific, but for me – agent. I’m market 181 – if you have an agent, I’m more than likely not interested. Overall though – me seeing standups that don’t show me you know how to shoot. It’s the way we’re going, and as a former photog – it’s frightening to see, but at the same time – I certainly see why and embrace it. If I see a standup with tons of movements, and can tell you’re simply “revoicing” someone else’s work – we’re done. If I see someone standing there – do I want movement yes, but it makes me watch a little longer to see if they shot it themselves. Now – is “One Man Banding,” the death of TV – no. Not by a long shot. Those telling you it is, aren’t being honest with themselves, and are most likely frightened of losing their jobs, or “remember a time when….” Here’s the question – can you have quantity and quality? Yes. Easily, yes. You simply have to have a good teacher. These MMJ’s – if you get the ones with the right attitude – can shoot their asses off and turn dang good stories. The key is teaching, and attitude. If you have those two – you’ll have a rising star in no time.
Q: What one thing can make you continue watching a reel?
A: A great mixture of “I shot it,” and I can do an interactive standup with help.” Mix those two & you have me for a minute or two longer.
Q: How many newscasts do you watch a day?
A: I try for all. Most days I make it, others I don’t. We go on at 4:30a-7a, 11a, 5p, 6p, and a 10p. My alarm is usually set for 4:30a to try & at least turn on the TV to semi-watch and wake up. From there it’s just like our viewers – I watch, and I listen as I work to get the kids ready for school, breakfast, and our own selves ready for work. From there, I’m at work and watch the 11a, 5p, and 6p. I try to make sure I look over the shows, watch the “playpen” and making sure we’re doing what we need to do, and that my AND is watching over the “playpen.” The 10p we’re usually in bed watching…taking mental notes, reacting both positive and negatively to what we’re seeing, and paying close attention to what my wife is doing & saying. God love her, she still watches TV like a normal person, and doesn’t watch all the newscasts. The 10p is usually her “catchup,” newscast and she’ll make recommendations, or note something that caught her eye, etc. It’s kind of perfect, because she’s in the demo that we really want to reach, she’s a “normal,” viewer, and she reacts to things like most viewers would.