There are three phases of television news. You cover it, produce it and broadcast it. Or in the esoteric industrial vernacular you assimilate, manipulate and disseminate. The first task is to be aware of the news and to gather the necessary elements – information, audio and video components – to create a report. When you have all of the elements, you write a script, select the sound bites and cover shots, and then edit them together into a package. Then the report needs to be broadcast in a format that provides context for the viewer to understand and to value what is being reported.
It is very important that these three tasks – coverage, production and broadcast – all be performed and in order. When some news outlets – particularly the all-news cable networks – go live to cover a press conference or controlled photo op that has been packaged into a pseudo news event, they are ignoring the critical role of journalism – to make sure that what goes out on the public airways is thoughtfully considered and judiciously presented. Too often, the public is fed propaganda in the guise of a news event when with a little delay and some editing, an event could be reported in effective journalistic fashion.
Don't Mess with the Press outlines the purpose and challenges of each of the three phases of television news. There is also a fourth section on news management, which focuses on marketing quality television news. Because television is where the vast majority of Americans gets all of their news, it is vital to the well-being of the community – local and national – that a news operation be focused not only on garnering top ratings, but that it do so by informing their audience fully and accurately. Finally, the Appendix includes an alternative approach to network news coverage, some clues on finding work in television news, and the author's experience. There is also an extensive glossary of television news terms which may help to clarify some points raised in the text.
On line at dontmesspress.com are discussion points and practices for each chapter, as well as sample formats. You will also find there FAQs and an errata section, and you are invited to contribute to each as appropriate.