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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

What's the Big Idea?

Covering the “big stories” of the day is always tricky, especially because it is usually breaking news. I was the lead producer on the day of the tragic Oregon shooting so I had the opportunity to experience this first hand.

            Deciding what elements to include is one of the most important aspects of covering a big story. In terms of the Oregon shooting, I knew I definitely wanted video of the scene to use in the VO. I also really wanted a sound-bite from someone at the location. Eventually we were able to get a sound-bite from a student who was there, as well as a worried mother. Obama also made a statement which we used. In this case, we had to rely primarily on CNN video since the shooting occurred in another state. This was obviously a huge story, that was breaking throughout the day and quite a bit of time in the show was dedicated to it. Not only did we cover the actual story, but more stories were able to be developed as a result of this story.

Another important aspect of working on big stories is thinking about what other stories will come about as a result of the original story. For example, after the Oregon shooting story, we moved into the statement from Obama and that helped to advance the story. Then we moved into a story about how the Department of Public Safety at USC is prepared to deal with a situation like that if it were to occur here. Thus the story about the Oregon shooting created a substantial amount of content for the newscast that day.

After deciding what elements you want to include and what stories are going to be done as a result of the big story, the team has to work together to execute that vision. In this situation, the other producers and I were able to work together to make it all happen. We also had reporters and anchors coming together to get all of the elements ready to go. It was important that we were all constantly communicating so we knew what was happening and how we were going to get things done.

In this particular case, we were focused on the 6pm newscast. I am looking forward to being able to cover more big stories during the 1 pm show and on the web in the future.

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