Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Low Point in Alaska Journalism

Yesterday there was a news conference with Lisa Murkowski. The brains and brawn behind the Alaska Report attended and made this tape of a local Anchorage TV journalist who asked Lisa Murkowski to "Please state and spell your name." Then, "And for the record, your title."

I understand that many Americans cannot name their representatives or senators, but a journalist?! This is pathetic.

Dennis writes that Sen. Murkowski smiled when she saw him cracking up. Watch and listen for yourself. This is a sad day in Alaska journalism.


  1. Sometimes that kind of thing is a sound check, not really a requirement of the journalism itself.

  2. To be fair, as a former television news photographer, reporter, and photojournalist, I interviewed my state's governor and US senators, as well as mayors and other officials who were well-known to me.

    I am sure there were many times when I was doing a one-on-one interview, where I have individually "miced" (fitted a microphone on) the individual, and I went through the same routine, for two reasons:

    1. I set and checked the audio levels while the name and title were being spoken and the name spelled.

    2. For any number of reasons, I might be handing off this tape to others and this is an additional safeguard that a name "key," the graphic identifier that appears onscreen while they are speaking, has the proper spelling and identifies his or her title as he or she prefers it.

    This was standard procedure on most of the hundreds of interviews I conducted, no matter how well I knew the interviewee.

  3. If I were the editor having to work with this pathetic journalist, I would be grateful for this little piece of information.

    Particularly if I were handling numerous tapes of different sound sources.

    I doubt that Dennis Zaki has ever worked a day in a real news room.

  4. From the beginning I've acknowledged that I'm not a trained journalist, so the information from John, Anon, and Chris is enlightening. It may well be that in 'real' journalism school you get taught to do this. Perhaps I was a bit harsh on her if that's what she was trained to do.

    This may well be nice, even useful for your internal editing, but from an outsider perspective, it seems to me pretty tacky to ask the US Senator to help write your notes for you, so to speak. It's different if you're getting an unknown person on the street.

  5. This was shot AFTER the mic check. SOP is to be ready before the senator gets there, not wasting her time. A real reporter, or one that was one before, would know that.

  6. Not only for editing, for chyron, graphics and archiving purposes as well.

    KTUU has a large news and operations department, when producing the amount of live news programming that they do, it's absolutely essential that attention to detail be observed when handling so much visual and audio information.

    With that said, KTUU has pretty much switched over to a tapeless system, at least internally, so once the bite is ingested into the system, the point becomes moot.

    Chances are however that tape will get archived, usually by an intern or production assistant who just very well might not know who Lisa Murkowski is.

    These attacks on the KTUU reporter are absurd.

  7. I am the "anonymous" former television journalist above, and I posted a comment on the Progressive Alaska Web site that elaborates a little more fully and won't repeat it here. I've recorded President Clinton and presidential candidate George W. Bush where audio is taken from a "mult" box (one audio source feeding multiple recording sources) or where my microphone has been one of several at a podium in a secret-service controlled environment, and yes, audio levels are preliminarily set and checked beforehand and refined when the actual speaker starts. But when I place a microphone on a subject, as I did with both US Senators Gorton and Murray, and as appears to have been done here, then I would ask the same identifier questions for the reasons I indicated above and elaborate on over at Progressive Alaska. As indicated in that post, my state's US Senators readily accepted and expected what was common practice.

    I'm not casting any aspersions at Dennis Zaki, but neither do I believe the unknown individual singled out here is deserving of any particular scorn for this reason.

    And, Steve, as far as 'trained journalist' goes, my training included the week-long 1997 National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) Television NewsVideo Workshop, taught by some of the country's best television news photographers,reporters, editors, and producers including a number of NPPA Television News Photographers of the Year. As Walter Brennan was wont to say in one of his television roles: "No brag. Just fact."

    Yes, I am six years "out of the loop," but had 10 years television news experience
    during which I was variously a graphics operator, editor, photographer, reporter, assignment editor, and producer.

    I'm not trying to defend local news in Alaska, and have little use for local news anymore in my own market; I'd just look for other reasons to cast stones, and I see this as much ado about what should be nothing.

  8. I'm really surprised there are so many people that refuse to believe that KTUU would have a reporter that doesn't know who our senator is. The reporter did a mic check before the presser, so the apologists can forget that meme. The station's news director called me to say that she has only been here in Alaska two weeks. I posted the video to show how far KTUU has fallen. At least they came. KTVA and KIMO had 24 hours notice and never showed.

  9. I noticed a number of folks coming to this post today. Not sure if it's just to see Murkowski or to focus on this issue of journalistic protocol.

    In any case, I'd like to add that after my three months in Juneau blogging the legislature, I must say I did use this technique of asking the subjects to say and spell their names and tell who they are. It was very helpful. But that was mostly for people other than legislators.

    I did come down way too hard originally - sorry - though I think Sen. Murkowski shouldn't have to spell her name every time a reporter makes a tape. Thanks for all the journalists who chimed in and set the record straight.


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