Challenging. Adrenaline-pumping. Riveting. Exhausting.
These words barely begin to describe working at a local TV station during a story so large it compels round-the-clock coverage.
We experienced it in Atlanta last winter during “Snowmageddon”, where a few inches of snow-turned-ice led to massive back-ups on the highways and left people stuck in their cars for hours.
Local TV journalists in Buffalo went through it last month, when the region was pelted with a different kind of snowstorm.
A seven-foot kind of snowstorm.
The historic snowfall — even by Buffalo standards — created massive issues across the region, and the NBC affiliate, WGRZ-TV, replaced its regular programming with non-stop news coverage. Anchors, reporters, producers, photographers, and staffers across the board worked extra-long shifts — outdoors, too, for the crews in the field.
Situations like these stretch a newsroom to its thinnest.
In this case, half of the WGRZ newsroom could not even get there.
So says longtime reporter Claudine Ewing: “Anybody who lived in the Southtowns could not get in; they just could not get out of their homes. One of our photographers live in Hamburg, and the snow was so high, he couldn’t open the door.”
Ewing is my guest on this episode of the Telling The Story podcast.
For nearly four years, I worked with Ewing at Channel 2 in Buffalo, and I always admired the area’s resilience in the face of brutal weather. The stereotypes about Buffalo’s climate are not entirely true; the region has beautiful summers and lovely fall foliage in early October. But, I must admit, Buffalo winters are no joke, and I remember my disbelief last month upon learning of a snowstorm somehow too powerful for Western New York.
That said, when I tuned into WGRZ’s live-stream online, I admired the composure and straightforwardness of the anchors and reporters, including my former co-worker Ewing.
If you listen to her words, regarding both the historic snowstorm and her general advice for journalists, you will hear a recurring theme: being connected to the community. In order to truly reach your audience, you have to get to know them. Ewing is a native Western New Yorker who now works in the region, but she continues to develop her contacts and get a feel for the people who value her as a media voice.
Matt Pearl is the author of the Telling the Story blog and podcast. Feel free to comment below or e-mail Matt at email@example.com.