Podcast Suggestions

By: Mandy Mitchell

Since “The ‘A’ block” has added a podcast element, I wanted to recommend some other podcasts you may like. As journalists most of us are very curious and looking to learn. These podcasts include great storytelling, interviewing and information you can apply to what you do daily.


This American Life

This is probably my favorite (It’s really a radio show, but I will call it a podcast). Basically the host, Ira Glass, takes one subject over the course of an hour and tells different stories about that subject. One of my favorite episodes was when they sent a reporter to a random diner in Chicago for an entire day and just told the story of what they saw -Proof that everyone has a story. “This American Life” also did award-winning work with this must listen story about a Chicago high school.

What will you learn?

  • Fabulous storytelling techniques.
  • It’s not all about a perfect on-air voice. Glass isn’t shy about telling people he doesn’t have the best radio voice, but he has become a force in the industry. Why? He’s very very good.


Serial is from the creators of “This American Life”. It is one story told weekly. In the first season, reporter Sarah Koenig, dug in to an old murder case in Baltimore. In the second season she detailed the Bowe Bergdahl case. If you only have a little time, start with season one as it’s much better.

What will you learn?

  • The process of digging in to a story. Koenig talks through the questions she had and where she went to find the answers. It’s a very useful way to learn what questions you should be asking and how to work around a problem.
  • How many layers a story can have. Both seasons can be told in a neat and tidy 1:30 local news PKG, but she stretches them out for weeks. You would be surprised how many layers your daily stories have.
  •  Always ask for an interview. She interviews someone from the Taliban for season two. That’s a pretty good get. I could see talking myself out of trying that one. Why not ask?

Planet Money

This is a shorter podcast for those of you who want something to kill the time on a 15-minute commute. It’s about the economy, but it’s also a great way to learn general things about current events and topics you may not know a lot about.

What will you learn?

  • You’ll get story ideas. I can’t tell you how many times I have listened to this podcast and thought of a way to localize the story. A recent episode detailed the “smart gun” and the company that tried to build one. Another episode focused on gym memberships and how gyms really make money. Need a sweeps piece idea? Listen to “Planet Money” for a while. You’ll find one.

If you want to listen to these podcasts, you can go to their websites, or you can download the podcast app on i-Tunes. As for the “A- block podcast”, it will be released on a random basis for now. I hope to have a new one up next week!

The “A” Block Podcast: Episode 1

Here it is ….The first episode of “The ‘A’ Block” Podcast!

In this episode, I discuss producing with WRAL producers Miranda Dotson and Stephanie Beck.

Miranda is the 4pm producer at Raleigh’s NBC affiliate and has won multiple Emmys.  She recently earned her Master’s Degree from the University of North Carolina.

Stephanie produces the 6pm newscast and has been at the station for 19 years. She has also won multiple Emmys and has a Murrow award.

Respecting the elements

Adam Pinsker is a multimedia reporter at WFTX in Ft. Myers, Florida. He was previously a reporter with KTUU in Anchorage, Alaska, and a Sports and news reporter with WACH-TV in Columbia S.C.

Chances are, no matter where you’re working these days, you’re going to battle the elements. Rain, snow, heat and cold.  

Preparation is always key when braving the elements. I can remember a couple years ago suffering from minor frostbite after taking my gloves off for only seconds while out in the field.

It never hurts to have extras of everything. Rain boots, rain jackets, pants and hats. Keep them in your car, you never know when you’ll need them. If you’re in a cold climate climate stash plenty of hand warmers, gloves and parkas.  

I always keep these items in the car, because I’ve found that sometimes you’re sent to a scene and you think it will be a quick vo/sot but you end up being there for hours.
Especially important in warmer climate: extra clothes! Ever go out to a scene and come back drenched in rain or sweat, then end up wearing the same clothes on the air?

Keep an extra shirt or blouse in your car…  Bug spray and sun block as well. And in northern climates, an extra jacket. We all know how quickly temperatures can plummet.

Lastly…water and non perishables. There is nothing worse than being hungry in the field before a live shot. Trail mix, and even apples keep up well in vehicles without refridgeration. Of course, you can always bring a cooler.

It may seem like you’re packing for a road trip, but the hassle is well worth it.  

Embrace the shake

By: Mandy Mitchell

In this TED Talk artist Phil Hansen talks about developing a tremor in his hand when he was in art school. He could no longer produce the kind of art he wanted so he quit. That’s when he got some advice from a doctor to “embrace the shake.” It’s advice that lead to a fantastic career creating things he never would have imagined if not for that setback.

(I encourage you to take the 10 minutes to watch. It is well worth your time)

Now what does this have to do with TV news you ask? It’s really about learning to work within our limitations and truly embrace the challenges we face every day in this business.

It’s the old “work with what you have and don’t worry about what you don’t” philosophy.

Let’s say you have a passion for long-form reporting. You daydream about the chance to do a 60 minutes level story and think about what it would be like to really let your reporting breathe. Only problem is, you work for a station that will not allow you to do a PKG longer than 1:15.

Embrace that challenge!

This is a chance to become a more concise writer. This forces you to choose your words and soundbites carefully. Maybe you can learn to use NAT sound to help you tell a better story quickly. If you learn to do this, and truly embrace this, you will be a much better reporter whenever you do get the chance to work for 60 Minutes!

You are a producer at a small market station. You have 1 live truck and it’s broken 3 days a week. The challenge is to find ways to be creative with the resources you DO have. It’s like Hansen with his hamburger grease (seriously, you need to watch the TED talk!)

What can you really do without live reporters?

Become the master of great tease writing. Work with your reporters/Photographers/MMJs to find great SOT teases. Scour the national feeds for interesting soundbites and great video.

Don’t complain about the lack of resources. Lean in to the challenge.

You’re an MMJ. How can you possibly shoot creative stand-ups? That’s your “shake.”

Force yourself to think of new ways to be creative. Can you shoot your stand-up using two shots? Can you put your camera at a weird angle. How can you use your surroundings?

We all get caught up in complaining about what our stations don’t have. We all think about how much better we could be with better equipment or better co-workers or better management or more time. This is a chance to change your thinking.

If Phil Hansen can create art with food he spit out, we can make good TV with what we have!


Hello from Houston! 

Just a quick update. The blog will be back to normal with two posts a week on Monday April 11th. I’ve been covering the NCAA tournament this month and I’m currently at the Final Four in Houston. Fun for coverage, but didn’t leave much time for the blog. Talk to you next week!