From the kitchen table to the TV screen: working from home as a TV journalist

From the kitchen table to the TV screen: working from home as a TV journalist
Posted at 10:23 PM, Mar 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-21 00:23:06-04

BOISE — This week I've swapped the classic 6 On Your Side studio set for the painting that hangs above my kitchen table. I'm reporting all stories for the newscasts right at home.

In an effort to pull back the curtain and show our viewers exactly what's been happening with COVID-19, I want to walk you what working from home as TV journalist really looks like.

In reality, working from home as a TV journalist is not all that different from the field.

Sure, I have to use my kitchen table as an editing bay and a flashlight as a studio light, but my job meant to be remote. I report on stories in Boise, Kuna, Fruitland, and even Oregon if it calls for it. I have a work laptop with editing software, so I knew that wouldn't be an issue. My station is located in Nampa, though I don't always report from there.

What I didn't expect is how independent and flexible you have to be when working from home.

There's not the luxury of having a chief photographer or an engineer nearby; I have to be all of those things for myself.

Here is the plan I set for myself:

  1. Email/call all sources early to set up interviews
  2. Screen-record all Skype/FaceTime interviews so I can use my camera to capture different angles
  3. Voice my news stories with my camera's microphone
  4. Send scripts over the news server remotely
  5. Make sure all video is sent to the news station at least an hour ahead of the show

What I didn't account for in my plan were the inevitable technical difficulties. Here's how my week played out:

Early on, one of my first FaceTime interviews crashed my computer.

I tried to screen-record the interview so I could use my camera to get different angles and shots, just as I had planned. After four crashes, three reboots, and a long sigh, I moved forward.

I decided to shoot my interview on the phone, and put my lav mic close by to pick up the sound. Not ideal, but nor is working entirely from home. In the end, I had a usable interview, which is truly all that matters. The FaceTime debacle is just one example of how I had to be flexible to get the story done. For my future interviews, I made sure to have my phone ready, just in case of another computer crash.

The rest of my storytelling process was not exactly smooth sailing, either.

I had to get creative for voicing my stories. There's no sound booth to block out my neighbor's music, the Canadian geese, or the cars zooming by. Ultimately I decided on throwing a blanket on top of myself and my microphone to block out the echo.

I never realized how much I loved that recording booth at the station until I was crammed under the blanket, trying not to breathe too loudly into the microphone. Again, in the end, it all ended up fine.

As I've already said, I'm used to working remotely. I once edited a package crammed in the backseat of a station car because I didn't have time to drive back to Nampa from Fruitland before the 5 pm newscast. I've had to get creative when the teleprompter cut out, and I was reporting live in the studio. However, on my second day working remotely, I forgot to disconnect from my home WiFi, which ended up causing my video to take 45 minutes to transfer, not the typical 3-5 minutes.

In the end, it got to the studio a few minutes before that 5 pm newscast aired.

My biggest takeaway from the week is how thankful I am to be living in the instant messaging era. I cannot stress how much easier the transition to working from home is since I can still stay connected to my news staff.

My news director and manager provide their edits and news judgment almost instantly with a Slack message. The chief photographer and engineer might not be at my house with me, but they're just a phone call away. I messaged many members of my staff (many of whom were also working at home) throughout the day when I needed help. They helped me get video I previously shot that was saved on the work computers. They also helped when I panic texted, "why does my microphone sound like it's underwater?!?!?!?"

Each and every time I reached out about a problem, I got a response and a solution to my problem.

To sum this up, I want the viewers to know that working from home does not mean any of us reporters have time to slack off. I also want viewers to know that I am the most determined I've ever been to bring you honest and accurate news. It can be complicated, confusing, and even harder to share stories from the comfort of your home.

Our commitment to our viewers is that we will keep pushing on. I've worked from home one full week now, and I am proud of the stories I've put out. Let me know if you have a story you think needs to be told, and I'd love to set up a Skype interview.