I walked into work last Monday morning not expecting to hit the road for three days.
I had, of course, already heard about Louisville men’s basketball player Kevin Ware. I had seen the gruesome clip in which he snapped his tibia during Sunday night’s NCAA Tournament game. I also knew he was a local athlete for us at WXIA-TV in Atlanta; Ware went to high school in Conyers, Ga., roughly 30 minutes east, and I knew we would be covering his recovery over the next few days.
I just did not think we would travel to do it.
Yet as soon as I sat down at my desk Monday, my producers greeted me with the proposition of flying to Indianapolis, where Ware had just undergone surgery. By 3 PM photographer Steven Boissy and I had checked in at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport; by 6 PM we had touched down in Indy. I spent the next three days reporting live from the hospital in Indianapolis and the campus of Louisville; we flew back to Atlanta Thursday morning, 12 hours after Ware himself had done so (he joined his fellow Cardinals for the Final Four in Atlanta this past weekend).
I had not road-tripped like that for a story in quite some time. I found myself both surprised and impressed with how the process had changed — mainly, how it had shrunk.
Like everything else in TV news coverage these days, the on-the-road live shot can now be a much physically smaller affair. We did not need to rent a live truck in our various Midwestern cities; instead, Steven brought one of our station’s TVU packs, which use 3G and 4G networks to essentially send a super-crisp Skype shot wherever we desire.
Steven fit the pack and all of its cables in one checked bag … along with all of his clothes.
The equipment allowed us to mobilize in a way we previously could not. We did not have to rely on anyone else to transmit our live shots; we simply parked our rental car, set up the TVU, and powered up. Similarly, when I finished editing a story, I simply exported it onto a memory card and gave it to Steven, who fed it back to the station through his camera.
Speaking of editing, that was just one way I personally represented the tightening of the road-trip process this past week.
As I have said before, I am a backpack journalist, meaning I shoot and edit my own stories. Those skills put me at a distinct advantage on road trips, and they certainly helped on this one. For the price of one checked bag, I brought my own camera equipment; this enabled us to be in two places at once, a vital edge when working a developing story. Two examples:
- Tuesday afternoon, while Steven staked out a Louisville men’s basketball practice with his gear, I took mine to campus to get students’ reactions.
- When Louisville held a Wednesday press conference with Ware, his mother, and head coach Rick Pitino, I shot close-ups, cut-aways, entrances into rooms, and reversal shots of myself asking questions while Steven recorded the event from a more traditional spot.
And throughout it all, we basically worked out of a rented Mazda 3. I edited my stories, using the same laptop I use in Atlanta, from the passenger seat.
I considered the whole thing a victory for storytelling. Local TV stations, always mindful of their budgets, can now move much more quickly and travel much further to cover stories like this one. Travel is still expensive, for sure, thanks to on-the-spot plane tickets, rental cars and hotels, and reporting on the road is still a grueling, challenging endeavor. But new advances have made travel far more financially viable — and, beyond that, far more productive.
Take a look below at some of our work:
Tuesday: Ware leaves hospital, returns to Louisville
Wednesday: Ware speaks to the media, prepares to go to Atlanta