Writing in Stereo

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WiS II Lesson Six - the Off-Campus Phoner

August 31st, 2010

The school-local angle brings the relevance of a national, state or city-wide news story home to campus listeners.  When we ask our own school authorities just what those news items mean to us, we make our listeners realize the significance of decisions others make far away.  But we are a real radio station with real radio news gathering capabilities.  We can ask anyone almost anywhere what these stories mean to us.  Sometimes we talk to the story's original source or some other source off campus.workbook.gif

An off-campus source might actually be an easier assignment than one on-campus.  Here's why.  We call teachers, counselors and administrators all the time.  They're very busy people.  Teachers are usually teaching.  Counselors often have students in their offices.  Administrators are ... well, doing whatever it is administrators do.  Here a call from a high school radio station news reporter is not much of a novelty.  So most of our reporters can tell you getting hold of a credible source here on campus can be difficult.

Off-campus sources, particularly those whose job it is to deal with district, city, state or even national aspects of the issue at hand, may put media calls on a very high priority.  And, believe me, they don't get calls from high school TV or radio news reporters every day!  Some are just delighted to give our listeners an earful.  As detailed in an earlier chapter, we had a student reporter email the original source on a national story, a man in South Carolina.  The student emailed our phone number and the correct time our Advanced class meets.  The next day that student got a call from South Carolina!

The point is this: don't be afraid to call or contact a long shot.  You might get a pleasant surprise.  Of course, you don't have to call the original source on a national or state story.  You might just call someone in the school district's central offices.  The district's communications (public relations/media) offices handle media inquiries for most departments.  You might call them, or you could take advantage of your insider status and call the department directly.  I sure would.

Any local business or government agency is  fair game for a phoner.  If the story is state or local, you can very easily call the local office of the state agency or the local source of the story.  Get the school angle straight from the horse's mouth.  Impress your friends.

Teaching suggestion: Telephone interviews broadcast on television are not as common today as they once were. You're more likely to see fuzzy Skype images. But even national broadcast news organizations still have the occasional phone/slide voicer. It's an established tool, so you can teach it to your video production students and use it on the air-frequently, if you like. Remember: get the information to the viewer by whatever convenient method is at hand.