News, Noise, and the Grey Noise Between

My blogging habits are strikingly similar to those I maintained in college. That is to say, sporadic at best and nonexistent at worst. I can’t entirely blame myself for that — I’m a writer by profession, so I’m less likely to do it in a recreational fashion.

I was reminded that today is the third anniversary of the taping of the first episode of NewsNight, the show Robert Bertha and I created for Point Park’s television station, U-View. The idea for the show was simultaneously too bold and not bold enough. We sought to create a show that 1) sought original reporting 2) offered students an area to practice their on- and off-air skills before their grade was on the line and 3) offered a different approach to student produced content than what was offered by the station at that time.

I say it was too bold mainly because of the timeline we were working with: we prepared for the launch of NewsNight for several months, worked on an 8 minute documentary-style piece for the last month of it and wanted to consistently do the show. We came on the scene not sure of our own voice, but confident in our ability to create something. Ultimately, reboot 1 saw the switch to a standard newscast format, something far more reasonable for a weekly or bi-weekly show. In hindsight, my only regret was that I didn’t keep pushing for that original-reporting emphasis. In context, it made a lot of sense why not.

A lot has happened since then: I managed the Point Park Globe, WPPJ Radio, produced two election night shows, and accepted a position as the dayside producer at Erie News Now.

Retrospect provides a colored lens, so I hesitate to look back and criticize myself any more than I do in the course of day-to-day life. I think there’s some truth to the adage that one must know the rules to break them, but I think there’s a certain power that controlled naiveté holds with it.

One of the challenges I give myself every day as a producer is asking myself how we can present news in a different manner than the day before. There is an inherent advantage to not being a native of our viewing area: I ask a lot of questions to get context, and I’m have no preconceived way of “how we’ve always done that.” Knowing the rules (perceived or not) means I have a starting point, but breaking them means building from that starting point.

As I look back at that first foray into news producing, I can’t help but admire the force with which sophomore year me attacked the concept. While I’ve learned tricks over the years to spice things up (varying visual and audible content, for one) I’m impressed by the enthusiasm and confidence we had that first attempt. There weren’t rules beyond the basic journalism ones.

Since I started my job in January, there’s been a lot of change: news directors, reporters, multimedia journalists, and of course change in our coverage area. One of our (now former) multimedia journalists was talking with me about news judgement the one day and quipped something to the effect of “Well, you’ve got to ask yourself, is it news, or is it noise?”

That struck a cord with me: in this age of misinformation, partisan “news” outlets, and a whirlwind of information being disseminated every second, the job of a journalist, producer, editor, director, or anyone on the production side of news for that matter is to cut through raw information to gather, organize, authenticate and report news to the public.

I’m not entirely sure what I’m getting at, beyond wanting to acknowledge that I admire the enthusiasm contained in that first NewsNight. Perhaps it’s that, and to remind myself the motivation is still the same.

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