||Kamyar Razavi |
||Broadcast Media in Canada & |
Ph. D. Candidate of Simon Fraser University
"Connecting news to the world
A Tsinghua alum looks at TV journalism through a different lens.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Port-au-Prince, Haiti. 17:30.
The AP wire flashes on my screen. Earthquake. Haiti. It’s big, but you can never tell just by the number. Right away, I open up my Outlook, look up the link to the US Geological Survey’s earthquake page in ‘contacts’. This is major; thousands could be dead, and with a sizeable Haitian population in Montreal, there are strong Canadian ties to the story. We need to move people; find a crew, find a plane, find somewhere to feed tape from. Get on the air. ASAP.
Then there was the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan. December 27, 2007. Rawalpindi. Why do I always remember the dates? The week between Christmas and New Year. Skeletal staff. Then the blast goes off, she is killed, and we’re moving in the big guns. It means lots of late-night calls; texts; whatever it takes to move the video, secure the interviews, book the feeds, and put the show together. Bring on the long distance bills and the overtime. All hands on deck.
It’s a cliché, but it’s true; television is a team effort. You can’t do it alone. It’s a team sport. There’s no other way to go about it. And at ‘Global National,’ the flagship newscast of the Global Television Network where I work – it means coordination and cooperation with our bureaus all across Canada; around the world; and our team of producers, reporters, camera operators, editors and technical staff. And, of course, all to a tight 5:15PM deadline.
Friday, March 1st, 2013
Who would have thought the US State Department would put out an interim report on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline on a Friday afternoon – the same day that a series of budget cutbacks known as the ‘sequester’ kick in? Then again, why wouldn’t they? Perfect way to bury a story that puts wind in the sails of a highly contentious project. A tried and tested technique. Two hours to show, and we get a 2-thousand word report to sift through and analyse. This is news; and somehow we have to make all those complex research points make sense in two minutes of TV. No problem – right?!
Make it click without the viewer doing the same: the perennial challenge of the television journalist. My philosophy: go big, or go home. Feel ‘presidential.’ And drive it home with pictures and a good yarn. The last thing you want is a story that is ‘picture poor.’
I love weather stories.
We fly with the punches when we have to; we throw the kitchen sink at the big stories. No matter how big, no matter where in the world, when news breaks, we’re on it. If it impacts Canadians, even better. Every day is different; you multi-task; you move video from far-flung places, people to far-flung places. For someone not unfamiliar with self-doubt – at least there’s one thing I can be sure about. This is what I love, it is what I live for. The unexpected.
The detractors say, ‘oh, news is all about sensationalism,’ or ‘why don’t you ever report happy news?’ Well, we do those lighter stories too, but news is inherently about conflict and tension, and even a ‘good news story’ has some grit – raw emotion, suspense of some sort. The first thing journalism schools should teach students is, ‘what is news’? Just like on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. You’ll get a lot of answers, but you’ll always find: a good news story has a tension track.
Now, we – and I mean, news organizations in general - don’t cover as much foreign news as before, and this is a sticking point for me as well. But there’s one thing about the business that hasn’t changed: television news is about great stories, and we tell great stories. Picture-driven stories. Ones that matter to people; in our case, a sizeable Canadian audience every night at dinnertime.
TV is writing to pictures, in a way that’s easy for everyone to understand. You can’t flip back on television and re-read a sentence. It comes across as seamless, but it’s often incredibly difficult to execute. It isn’t academic, but neither is it supposed to be. It’s supposed to be compelling – and contextual.
That need – and I think it is a need – to put things into context is where academic insight comes in. I spent one year at Tsinghua University’s School of Public Policy & Management, and another working on my thesis back in Canada. Glad to have had a chance to break away – and come to China as a student. See the world from the other side of the proverbial coin. Cross that bridge between journalism and academia. We journalists can learn a lot from scholars. And vice versa.
A good news story, after all, has to have that context – and a compelling reporter is one who knows his or her story, be it China, India, South Africa. Of course, a good student needs to ask the right questions - just as any journalist would. Needs to write tight sentences – even though they may be academic in nature.
I am proud to have had the opportunity to dabble my feet in the academic waters - outside of Canada. And to have seen how the world works from a completely different perspective than the one I’m used to. More than academic knowledge, my experience at Tsinghua University was a life lesson, one that governs my everyday line of thought, not to mention how I go about looking at a story. It’s all about considering different perspectives.
The perceptions I get; the questions I ask; the way I write broadcast copy. It all matters, and it all boils down to how you, as a journalist, contextualize a complex story. This is what we try to do at Global National, and I credit my ability to ask the right questions to my experience traveling the world and living abroad and getting a sense of the big picture. Without that, none of the pieces would fall into place."
By Kamyar Razavi