Words Mean Things



A few months after college, Stephanie Beck started as a part-time videotape editor at WRAL-TV in Raleigh, NC. In the nearly 19 years since, she has edited every newscast, produced every newscast, produced half-hour specials and special event coverage, won 2 Emmys and a Murrow, and earned her Master’s degree along the way. She now produces the 6pm newscast at WRAL and On the Record, the weekly public affairs broadcast. In her free time, she is a competitive West Coast Swing dancer, blogs food competitions and freelances as a writing coach.

The “A” Block brought you a list of 10 phrases and cliches to avoid in your writing. One of the items on that list led me to crawl upon my own personal soapbox, which can be summarized in three words:

Words mean things.

This is a phrase my friends and co-workers will hear me say often. Some of them have even adopted it themselves. We use it most when we read an article or hear something on TV – and not necessarily the news, either – where someone has blatantly used the wrong word. They don’t mean to do it, and you don’t either. However, it happens, and when it does, it waters down your writing and your audience’s understanding of what you want to say.

At times, using the wrong word can change the meaning of a news story entirely. I’ll leave it to one of the many other bloggers out there to help you learn the difference between lie and lay, or effect and affect. Here is a list of words that are so commonly misused that many writers don’t even realize their true meaning.

Electrocuted: The dictionary definition of “electrocute” includes death. If the victim did not die, they “received a shock.”

Totally Destroyed: Redundant! The dictionary definition of “destroy” is to damage something beyond repair, so to completely damage something beyond repair is rather repetitive.

Decimate: While we’re talking about destroying things, “decimate” is not synonymous with devastation. “Decimate” means to damage a part of something, not the whole thing.

Strangle to death: By definition, “to strangle” means to cause death by cutting off air flow. Do you really want to say “He caused his death to death”?

Nauseous: This one is almost always used incorrectly. People use it in everyday language to mean “to feel sick.” Actually, it is used to describe something that causes nausea. (Pro tip – make sure not to confuse it with “noxious”, which means “harmful”)

Migrant/refugee: I had to include one pairing on this list, because it’s timely and I’m hearing it almost every day somewhere. No matter how much you need a synonym for “refugee”, “migrant” is not it! The difference between the two is choice. A refugee is someone forced to flee their country to escape persecution, war, or natural disaster. A migrant is a person who chooses to move to find work.  

In the wake of: This saying comes from the use of “wake” to specifically describe the path a boat cuts through water. Use “in the aftermath” instead. Regionally, some parts of the country also use it as a synonym for “instead of”. For that use, I recommend “in the stead of” or “in place of”.

Get: This is a verb that is overused to the point that it has nearly lost its meaning. Every time you use this word, there is probably another verb with more specific meaning that can both clarify your writing and save you time. A few examples:

        “Get milk at the store” – Buy milk at the store.

        “He didn’t get it” – He didn’t understand it.

        “She got sick on the trip” – She caught a cold.  

        “Get me that book” – Hand me that book.

            “He got the book from her.” – He received the book from her.

Big: This is also so overused it has little meaning. A few examples:

        “A big deal” – important, consequential

        “A big man” – he’s large… in what ways? Tall? Wide, solid? Imposing? Or perhaps you don’t mean his size at all, but his power. Is he a powerful man in his line of work? Is he a key player in something?

Pro tip – don’t forget – each of these synonyms carry not only their own meanings, but also their own connotations and mental baggage.

What are your pet peeves when it comes to misused words? Please share, so we can all learn something.

Working for “free” vs. Working for “Me”


By: Mandy Mitchell

One of the very first things I was told in my very first newsroom was this:

“Never ever ever work for free!”

The photog was telling me this over a Wendy’s lunch that I found rather magical as a 16-year old intern out with a an actual TV news crew. We were covering a story about an endangered bird that had been shot. We had just come back from seeing the dead bird and getting the interviews and had just enough time to sit down for an “real lunch.”

He went on to explain that his “hours” were 9-6:30 and he planned to be out the door at 6:30 every day or they would be “paying him” for every minute he stayed. He then told me how he rarely answered his pager (this was 1998) because those who answer “get taken advantage of more often.”

I get this line of thinking. I really do. This is a tough business and we don’t make a lot of money and we keep getting asked to do more with less. Sometimes you have to draw a line. You also have to have a life outside the newsroom. You don’t want to constantly be worried you will get the call to breaking news on your days off. I get it.

But I don’t subscribe to this philosophy completely. I think there are times where you can benefit from working for free.

Let me give you an example from my own career. I produced a documentary on my own time last year. I didn’t get time to work on it during “work hours.” I was called “nuts” by a few co-workers who claimed I was giving my station content and getting nothing in return. They were right if you are thinking about this strictly based on dollars earned for hours worked. But value isn’t always about how many dollars you make.

I can remember having a conversation with a network reporter a few years back. He asked me what the longest story I ever told was. I answered, as most of you would, “Uh…I don’t know 2 and a half, 3 minutes. You know, sweeps pkg length.” He then told me I should find a way to do something longer. So I did.

I may not have made a dime producing that documentary, but I can now tell anyone who asks, the longest story I have ever told is 24 minutes. There is tremendous value in that.

Sometimes you have to look at the big picture and what will be best for YOU down the line. If you have an idea for a great investigative story, but no one will give you the time during your shift, do it on your own time! You can then put it on your resume reel and eventually you will get a better job that pays more and you may get that job because you took the time to do that story.

I know there will be TV news veterans shaking their fists at this post. I am not recommending doing regular everyday work for free. What I am saying is sometimes it’s worth putting in the extra time…your time… for something special.

You have to think of payment as something more than just money.

A personal story: Part 2

This is Part 2 of Larry’s journey from Raleigh to Philadelphia. If you missed part 1, you can read it here.

Cue the theme song from “The Jeffersons” – because we’re moving on up. In my last post, I told you about some initial bullet points… namely why I left a perfectly comfortable position in a great (winning) newsroom in market #24 for another position in market #4 where it’s a dog fight. While I doubt my family will be living in a deluxe apartment in the sky, this is certainly the big leagues and I’ve got my turn at bat. As it stands right now, the excitement still hasn’t hit me. Namely because to me, this is just another pragmatic step toward getting where I’d like to be in life. Plus I’m just not a terribly excitable person in the first place. I offered up a “Part 2” on switching markets because there were some items that have really caught me off guard through this whole process. Some of it has to do with sheer market size. Other aspects are because I’ve never left the company that got me started in this business.

  1. The paperwork. Although technically it’s not paper (it’s mostly digital)… I do have to fill out a lot of forms. They’re not all just for one company. There is SAG-AFTRA, moving company documents, exit reviews, 401k transfer information, and the list goes on. Keep in mind, I still haven’t arrived at my new station which will probably require tax documents and much more. Given that I have a baby at home an a fluctuating schedule, it’s been tough to get it done. I finally had to stay up through some late nights (when everyone is finally asleep) to get everything done. Keep in mind, I’m a producer… this is the pretty “straight forward” rendition. I hate to see how much more could be involved when lawyers and agents get involved on the talent side!
  2. The size of the city. I still remember driving out from the airport when I went to Philadelphia for my interview. As we turned the curve from parking, and the skyline began to unveil itself, I specifically remember my first thought: That’s Huge!

I said that… out loud… word for word. Keep in mind, I’m honestly just a country boy from North Carolina. I don’t have a habit of visiting major cities. And despite all the research I did in getting familiar with the place, I still was just not mentally oriented for how big that place is. I had to pass the Comcast Center on the way to my hotel, and I’m pretty sure my eyes were the size of saucers. There may have also been some expletives involved. Again, I’m familiar with the streets. I looked everything up on Google Maps and had an idea of the placement of everything. But it is STILL not like physically standing next to one of the tallest buildings in the country… and just looking up.


  1. The union. Having to be a part of SAG-AFTRA was not surprising to me. I was told about it up front. The wide gamut that union covers, however, was incredible. From the amount of pay, to the use of cameras, and even the number of people that can write for a newscast. It’s ALL in the collective bargaining agreement. For my new newsroom, the union also serves as the clearing house for benefits (health insurance, 401k, etc). This is completely new to me, as my current benefits come directly from the company. The rules and regulations governing my relationship with my new company is mind boggling. Oh by the way… being in that union costs. As such,what will also be surprising to me is if I don’t get premiere client services.


  1. Finding a place to live. As I’ve noted before, I’m a country boy. Raleigh-Durham is the biggest city I’ve ever lived in. And as you can imagine, finding a place to live a similar lifestyle in Philly is difficult. Just the average style of a home in the city and its suburbs is completely different from what my wife and I are used to. There are a LOT of people per square mile in that city. And every one of them seem to be right on top of each other. Literally, everything is either on top of something else or squeezed in somewhere. I personally have resolved that I will end up making a pretty decent haul into work to make my wife comfortable and to live in an area that has enough space. And if you’re wondering, no… I don’t plan on using public transportation right now. Maybe that will change once I get in the city. Maybe the city of Brotherly Love will rub off on me and I’ll love being around other people enough that I can live closer to the city, and not mind being so close to other people.

This is in no way a comprehensive list of everything that has popped out at me thus far. Note these are all things the I knew about before hand and they STILL caught me a little off guard. These technically were not surprises. I only offer this as a point of reference for people who may experience a move in the future. Some of this may not be mutually exclusive to moving into a large market. Obviously, none of these items have been deal breakers, they are simply points I thought would be most interesting to share.


A personal story: Moving to a new market

We like to share personal stories here on The “A” Block to give you a chance to learn from others who are moving on and moving up! This one is from producer Larry McGill who is jumping from his current job at WRAL in Raleigh to Philadelphia. 

As I write this, I’m reflecting on a conversation I just had with my news director. After nearly 5 years in my newsroom, I informed him that I’ll be taking a new job in a new market. It was certainly not the tough conversation I anticipated. Actually, I’m not sure what I expected. But I do know for some reason, I wasn’t expecting the joyful reflection we shared before I had to hurry back out to finish a newscast.

I do feel I should explain my current position is in the newsroom where I first got into television news. From the moment I walked in the door as a production assistant, I said I wanted to become a producer. In a world where a lot of people say starting in a top 25 market – #24 to be exact – is nearly impossible, everyone in the building took a vested interest in making it happen. Now, I stand on the verge of making another major jump. This time, to market #4.

When I went to Philadelphia for my interviews with the management team, there was one main question that everyone asked: Why? You work at one of the best newsrooms in the country… WHY come here? WHY leave a comfortable position at a heritage station with winning ratings for a place where we’re in a dog fight with the another heritage station? The answer to that line of questioning is simple.

  1. The Person. I’ve known the news director for a few years now. While I’ve never been in his inner circle of colleagues, I did know he is held in very high regards. The more I asked what it is like to work for him, the more people confirmed how excellent he is at his job, and more importantly… growing talent. They also continued to confirm how great he is as a person. Had anyone else offered the job in a major market, chances are I would have rejected the proposition. Here is another kicker… all of May managers, despite not knowing him personally, know him by name and reputation. To me, that speaks volumes.
  2. The path and process. As I said before, my new news director has a reputation for growing talent. Not that my current one isn’t capable of doing so. The opportunity for me to move up simply is not there. That’s because one of the cons of being at a heritage winning station is that people don’t leave! That means staying at the bottom of a very large totem pole. I am lucky enough that the opportunity falling into my lap, gives me the chance to move into an entirely different echelon of journalism. Between the company, the market, and the personal network… it’s all a level that I thought was never possible in my career.
  3. The change. Philadelphia is a huge ass city. Even after doing my research, the sheer size of the city versus where I grew up and where I currently work is honestly a little overwhelming. The type of people there are different. The culture… different. The number of lifestyles…different. The pace of life… different. It’s being in these types of situations, the proverbial fish out of water, that rounds out a good journalist. And as someone with a medium as powerful as television, it be hooves me to experience a new place to round out my view of the world.

Admittedly, there are a few other items that led me to my decision to move. However, they’re all ancillary to these 3 main tenants just listed. The pay is better. The market is major. Even the newsroom is about to move into a sexy new building. There are even more opportunities to advance at my hobby of photography. But note that the things my decision really hinges on are far more pragmatic. I hope that if and when the time comes for you to pick up and move, you’re afforded the chance to be equally as pragmatic.

Dress for the job you want


By: Mandy Mitchell

You may have heard the saying “dress for the job you want not the job you have.”

This is about way more than the clothes you are wearing and is something you should be thinking about the second you walk into a new newsroom.

You may think you want to spend two years in your position and then move on, but I have met so many people who had that plan before spending a decade plus at the same station.

There are ALWAYS chances for advancement within your building and you should be planning for them now and not just when the job is open and posted.

I see this mistake often.

An anchor position opens and all of a sudden a reporter starts working a bit harder…dressing a bit sharper…complaining a bit less. He thinks it’s “his turn” at the anchor desk. Problem is, the news director sees him as a reporter and goes with an outside hire. Why? Because the reporter didn’t carry himself as the next anchor until that chair was open. You want to be an anchor? You should be volunteering for any anchor shift available. You should be acting the part from the way you dress to how you volunteer in the community to how you post on social media.

A prime newscast is now open for a producer. 6pm…Monday-Friday! All the producers want it. What have you done to make it yours before it’s open? Are you someone who volunteers to work an extra shift when someone calls out sick? Are you someone who has creative ideas? Or…are you someone who just does what you are told and “has been here a long time” and expects the next promotion?

Newsrooms are competitive and you have to be ready when a new situation comes up. You want to be the “no brainer” for management so they don’t have a chance to look at someone else, or outside of the newsroom.


Advice from those who have been there

By:Mandy Mitchell


I was covering a NASCAR race when I was in my second year in the business. I decided, like an idiot, that I needed a “nice” pair of shoes so I could look “the part” among the other professionals. I bought some shoes with a slight heel. I also bought a new top. At the end of the race I had a blister the size of mars and my shoes were torn to shreds. It turns out that wasn’t a good idea, and the “pros” I was hanging with, were all wearing tennis shoes. Lesson learned.

We all wish we could go back and tell our former selves something so we could avoid the blisters. I asked a handful of TV professionals the same question. “What are the 3 things you wish you knew when you got into the biz?” Here’s what they said:

Kelcey Carlson- KMSP Fox 9 Evening Anchor, Minneapolis, MN

  1. I wish someone would’ve told me early on to always thank people for their time,  write thank you notes, etc.
  2. I wish journalism school had better prepared me to help and be respectful of people in a grief stricken state.
  3. I wish I’d had better training in public records searches before I had my first job.
  4. #4( bonus) I wish I’d known that boxy pant suits for women were going to go out of style. I miss them! It’s too much pressure for a 41 yr. old women to wear these tight dresses.

Jenn Bates- KWCH Anchor, Wichita, KS (Former sports anchor)

  1. How much time it takes–not just work hours, but personal hours. In sports especially, I was always on my phone working contacts. It’s a non-stop job.
  2.  Speaking of non-stop, you always have to be ON, at or away from work. No matter where you go you always have to be a rep of your station and of yourself.
  3. You don’t need an agent early on!!! In your first couple of markets, if you go small, an agent is silly to have. You’ll spend a big % of your already minuscule income paying someone for something you can do yourself.

Marti Hause- MSNBC Producer

  1. Expect to work holidays. You will likely work on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and more.
  2. You will meet some of the best characters and friends (for me, a husband!) working in small market TV.
  3. Work on your storytelling above all else. TV may not be around forever. But if you can write & tell a story, there will be a job for you in whatever medium journalism uses next.
Matt Lincoln- WPEC Sports Director, West Palm Beach, FL
  1. I’m happy I went and got an on air job immediately, but young people can take behind-the-scenes gigs, work hard, work on their tape. In the meantime, either get promoted, or use those connections to get on air gigs pretty quickly. As long as they work hard
  2. Don’t get frustrated when you get no responses. It can have ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with how talented you are. NDs very rarely watch all tapes, and you may not fit what they are looking for. If your contacts in business think you’re good… Keep plugging.
  3. This is something that I’ve always known, but it gets clearer and clearer to me as long as I’m doing this…If you’re getting into this because ” you love sports” go do something else. You have to love the storytelling-broadcasting- writing side..

Angie Goff- Anchor NBC Washington, Washington, D.C

  1. Wear comfy shoes.
  2. Find mentors wherever you go- no matter how high.
  3. Accept that sometimes it’s just not your turn.

Stewart Moore- WESH Anchor, Orlando, FL

  1. Do not  get into the business unless you truly have a passion for news/sports and everything that goes with being in the media.
  2. I wish I knew about missing holidays… truly missing them. It wasn’t an issue when I worked in Columbia, SC (WIS) because I was home an hour after my shift.. but here, Christmas means working and spending the day/night alone. – you don’t want to be selfish and tell (in my case my wife) loved ones to skip going to their family just for you. My first Christmas in Orlando I was supposed to get off in time to go to a friends house; instead I spent the day on a triple murder investigation.
  3. I wish I knew that competition for a job doesn’t end once you’ve been hired. Everyone in the building wants to get to the top in the building and it’s like crabs in a barrel when you get close. Learn to not overshare and while we are in the business of telling stories, keep information about your job and prospects to yourself.

John Smist- WECT Sports Director, Wilmington, NC

  1. Never burn a bridge! It’s a very small business and it doesn’t take very long to get a reputation. Also, you never know when you might need something.
  2. Have fun, but always act like a professional. You are not in college anymore! Those people at the bar or, wherever you are, are your viewers.
  3. Don’t ever talk or ask others at the station how much they make. It doesn’t matter! And it only causes problems.
This post is originally from 2015

What’s next if you work in local sports?



By: Jeff Zell

Let’s start with these widely accepted statements: ESPN is failing. The sportscaster industry at every level is not growing. Salaries will not be going up. Advertisers will pay less and less for content that is over saturated.

So, what’s next?

And don’t tell me… ‘become a cashier at a local supermarket’ as one sportscaster in need of work posted on Medium. While the post was extremely bold for putting her life out there, the truth of the matter is that you need to pivot…or pivot harder.

My story: I was a local sportscaster at market 153, 101 and 22. It took 10 years to do all that. I covered college and pro teams from the adjacent market and ultimately as an in market guy.

I left my position at a local station in Charlotte after not being offered a chance to interview for a promotion. My soft landing spot was 4-5 days a week of freelance at a national website that could only guarantee five months of employment but had ‘likely more work in 2017’. I had been freelancing with them for 2 years prior and felt good about the situation.

But in January, that freelance budget dried up.

I was not worried. The writing on the wall for our industry had been there for a while and I was prepared. I had also been hustling since 2014 as an associate for a stock market research company part-time in the mornings. I fulfilled the task to complete my ordinary job duties but always thought…’there are areas where this business could be exploited for larger gain’. And my background as a sportscaster translated more often than not.

How did I gain an audience as a sportscaster on social media? I provided pertinent information for free but if you want to see the extra mile (or the exclusive story)– tune into the sportscast. For the stock market business, I quickly gained an audience by giving away some information — but always pointed out how our extra information (that you have to pay for) could make or save you a ton of money. Within the first six months, that has translated the company into instant revenues.

How about navigating breaking news through Twitter? What sources are reputable, what is true? How can you confirm this quick and get it to an audience that trusts you. The stock market is a fast-moving environment that sportscasting and my career in journalism properly prepared me for.

How about presenting facts with creativity? My favorite part of sportscasting was not telling the audience that the running back ran for 200 yards last Friday night. It was telling the back-story about how the RB promised a sick kid he would have a big game in his honor. Turning information into compelling videos or other formats has a large place in the business world.

Some of these ideas…along with interpersonal skills developed as a sportscaster made the stock market company jump at the opportunity to bring me on full-time when I weighed my options in the sub-optimal sports broadcasting environment. I now work from home, make nearly double my sportscasting salary and also get a different type of reward — a chance to be involved in every aspect of my son’s (and second one on way) life.

Sidenote: It’s funny how priorities change so quickly.

Certainly my story is unique and it would have been difficult to pursue a self-employed (I’m a 1099-employee) career without a wife with a great job that had insurance. But one thing to keep in mind — the sportscaster is the ultimate utility player. Often times, we are the department who was ‘forgotten’ and/or overlooked. We came up with the ideas for sports specials; we pitched the extended coverage; we came up with the plan to make high school sports coverage on Friday night better than the year before.There is a highly-desired market for the ‘go-getter’.

So how to get started? It’s about starting small and branching out over time. Don’t quit your job today cold turkey. But finding multiple avenues of income allowed me to take a risk. Honestly, you never know when your station could be the one that cans sports so having your hand in different pots is a must.

Personally, I enjoy the stock market — so navigating into this was easier than moving into a field that I despised. But, if sports is the one true love and you won’t be happy doing anything else, it may be time to take a chance on yourself.

Find an under-served niche market. Nope, I’m not talking about an NFL or College team. How about a teaming with a high school booster club or a little league association. People will pay up for a memory video of their son or daughter. Market yourself…utilize what you learned as a MMJ sportscaster and give it a chance. You will learn that a sportscaster’s energy make us incredible salespeople.

Keep an ear out for your career. When the national and regional sportscasting industry eventually does come back…it probably won’t be as full-time jobs but likely in small doses on a freelance basis. So starting a side-hustle will be critical to controlling your future.

And if not anything else…when your idea does turn the corner and begins to make profits — you will be the one that sees the monetary value of hard work first-hand.

My graduation speech

By: Mandy Mitchell

Since it is graduation season, I wanted to share with you some things I wish I knew while sitting in my chair at the University of Florida in 2003. Take this as a brief “commencement speech” for journalists if you will. I originally posted this last year at this time.

Ladies and gentlemen of the class of 2017….

You have likely spent your entire lives hearing about the “real world” and all that comes with that. I want to talk to you about what it means to step in to an actual TV newsroom for the first time.

For the first time in your 22 years, you won’t be working for grades. You may go days…months…a year without a manager telling you where you stand. It is up to you to do your own grading.

Seek constructive criticism from peers. Watch your stories and your newscasts after they have aired. Get better even if it feels like no one is watching and no one cares.

There is one person in your class who looks like the “sure bet.” She is the superstar student who is beautiful and has network hair. She will be working in pharmaceutical sales by 2020.

Meanwhile, there is a guy who was average at best. He spent more time drinking beer than paying attention to the news. He will be a top 25 anchor by 2020.

So much of this business is random and based on timing. Don’t get caught up in who is where and how fast they got there. I assure you, that stuff will not matter once you have spent a decade working in TV news. Learn to focus on your own journey and don’t keep score.

Your quality of life is far more important than what size market you are working in.

Don’t ever do work to win awards. Awards are nice, but they are not life-changing. Do work that makes you proud and makes a difference. If you do this, awards will follow.

The crap that happens in your first job will provide stories and funny moments for the rest of your career. Try not to let the lack of money and the awful gear get you down. You WILL laugh about it later and it will be a source of bonding with other journalists you will meet on your journey.

We have ALL been there.

No one owes you anything. This goes from the moment you enter the newsroom to the moment you leave. This is a business that literally starts over every single day. Don’t expect work you did yesterday to be remembered. What are you doing today?

Don’t be a jerk. Remember to smile often and don’t take yourself too seriously.

Good luck.

Don’t do the same boring graduation story

Guest Post

Shane Dorrill is the manager of broadcast media relations for The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, where he helps reporters with stories every day. Before joining the media relations staff, he served as a reporter, producer and news director for television and radio stations in the Birmingham, Alabama market. He also teaches broadcast news students in the Department of Journalism and Creative Media in UA’s College of Communication and Information Sciences. You can follow Shane on Twitter @sdorrill.


It happened as I was watching my local 6:00 news. The anchor began telling me about all the graduation ceremonies that are happening this month. I braced myself in my chair, because I knew what was coming next. I’ve seen the same story year after year.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with a good graduation story. However, the problem comes when reporters or producers decide to be lazy and do the same old, boring story that they’ve done in the past.

Being a former reporter, I know how the conversation in the morning meeting probably went: “Hey, I know, let’s do a story on graduation. Can we find some statistics on how many of these kids won’t have jobs when they finish school?” Sure enough, a simple Google search turned up a random website with the negative data they were looking for. All the reporter had to do was attribute the statistics to the website without giving any context to them and they had a story.

“It looks like a bleak future for those students graduating this month,” the anchor read in a solemn tone.

But is it true for your area? Are there really no jobs? Are the students graduating from your local high schools or colleges going to be destitute in a few months? Are they doomed to living at home in their parent’s basement?

A simple call to your local Chamber of Commerce or Industrial Development Authority may give you the answer. If the job market is weak in your area, it’s OK to tell your viewers. However, don’t leave it as a negative story. Find a way to talk about what is being done to change the job market. Interview someone from an organization that’s helping graduates get jobs, or find a student who already has a job waiting on them after graduation. Do more than just report negative statistics.

Better yet, get away from the job market story altogether this year. Find a way to focus on the positives of graduation. These students are commencing; in other words, they’re about to start something new. Find a student who has overcome major obstacles in life, yet still managed to succeed. Share their victories. Or, tell the story of a teacher who has given their entire career to helping students, but who will be retiring at the end of the school year, and commencing into a new chapter of their life.

Your local schools will thank you, and so will your viewers.

Get out the door

Amanda Lamb is a crime reporter for WRAL TV in Raleigh, North Carolina, who has been working in television for 26 years. She is also the author of eight books including true crimes and memoirs. To learn more about Amanda go to www.alambauthor.com or follow her on Twitter @alamb and Facebook, WRAL Amanda Lamb.


I can’t tell you how many times I am in the newsroom and I see a reporter in his or her cubicle glued to the computer screen. Many times, he or she is trying to find someone connected to a story we are trying to air that day. I can tell by the frazzled look on the reporter’s face that the reporter has not gotten results.

Sure, the internet has great resources to find people. Not only can you simply look up a phone number and address, but the number of public records that exist online these days is amazing to a journalist who grew up scouring phone books and consulting map books. Today, in under five minutes, I can usually find out where you live, what the heated square footage is of your house, how you vote and whether or not you’re in a relationship if you happen to have a social media profile that’s not set to private.

Don’t’ get me wrong, the internet provides great tools to learn more about a person in your story, but they are not a replacement for face-to-face interaction. For example, most of the time when we call someone and ask him or her to do an on-camera interview about a controversial story we are risking getting turned down. I would estimate you have a greater than fifty percent chance of getting rejected. And once they turn you down over the phone, you’re toast. You can’t in good faith knock on their door.

But, if you don’t call, and you just go, I believe you have a much better chance of getting the interview. This technique has worked for me so well over the years that my managers allow me to take risks, to drive a long distance for an interview that may not pan out. But many times it does pan out—the reason, because people trust you more in person. Over the phone you are a faceless, disembodied voice that is very easy to say no to.

Years ago, we went to small towns without a clue of where to find someone and simply went to the local general store and asked around.

“You all know Joe? Anyone know where he stays?”

Today, we have the added advantage of knowing in many cases exactly where to go, in addition to having the person’s number at our fingertips. I would urge young reporters when you have time to resist the urge to drop a dime, and instead, pay your potential interviewee a visit. You might be surprised by the results.

Read more from Amanda here

This post is originally from March 2016