WASHINGTON- (WUSA9) Last week was one of the most productive weeks I've had at WUSA9. I truly felt like this was my actual job and the phrase "hands-on experience," couldn't have been more true.
On Thursday, the government reopened and there were so many stories going on about the shutdown coming to a cease. I went out with a WUSA9 photographer, Danielle, to cover a story on the DC Food Trucks and how they have been affected by the shut down. Danielle often does the "one-man-band" job. She goes out and gets the story on her own. I was lucky enough to go out as an intern with her, which eventually allowed me the opportunity to basically be the "reporter" who would normally go out with her.
The whole idea of going out on a story alone, with all that equipment, is not an easy job. Any multimedia journalist will tell you that. Besides lugging the camera equipment, one also has to worry about getting people to actually talk to them. Here was our situation: the government just reopened, people were still getting into the groove of things, we were doing interviews during lunch time, and people weren't in all the best mood. So, all in all, it was a bit of a challenge. By the end of the day we spoke to several food truck owners and a handful of passionate furloughed workers who wanted to voice their concern about their livelihoods.
I really appreciated Danielle helping me put together my news package back at the station. I was able to record a voice over for the b-roll and put together the whole story. I was so excited!
On Friday...well, before I get into Friday, I just want to let you know going into work everyday is like a mystery flavored lollipop...that's such a corny comparison, but I can't really think of how to describe it right now. Anyway, you really never know what you are going to get! Every day is a surprise. I can hope that it'll be an awesome story and I can go out with a reporter, but sometimes things just don't work out that way. Back to Friday.
On Friday, I got in early because I wanted to try and go out with reporter Surae Chinn on whatever story she was doing. I saw Surae and told her and all was going well. Then, another intern had to go on the story, so I wasn't able to ride with them. Surae told me the news, and I asked her what story she was going on anyway.
"We're covering the trial of a former McLean teacher who molested several of his girl students 40 years ago," Surae tried to continue to explain the story but before she could I cut her off. "I'm going."
I asked her for the address and said I'd follow along. She was happy I could do that and gave me all the information. I was so excited. I'm very passionate about stories relating to sexual abuse because I believe it is something that should be addressed more in society and combated aggressively.
I have never been to a court sentencing and I really did not know what to expect. Soon enough, I realized I was in a live episode of Law and Order: SVU. There I was watching women in their 50s confront their abuser from 40 years prior. I felt as if the women were 12-year-olds and 13-year-olds again in grown women bodies. They spoke to their abuser in front of his family, their families, reporters, and the judge. They cried and yelled at him. The quietest of the woman yelled at the molester saying, "Why won't you look at me Mr. Kloman? Why!" He still kept his head down and hands on top of each other on the table.
I couldn't help but tear up at the women reliving the horror stories. I kept reminding myself that I would have to hear these stories and worse for years to come. I don't know if it is better to grow desensitized to these stories in order to do "the job," or if it is better to feel the overwhelming feelings of the victims and connect with their story in order to tell a thorough story. I'd say the latter.
Every victim that came up to confront their abuser captivated my attention and when Kloman's kids and wife came to his defense, crying, pleading to the judge for mercy and a light sentence, it was really hard to watch. The emotions that filled the room were indescribable. Several people in the court room were holding up photographs of the victims at the age of when they were abused. The vintage styled photographs of little girls who were now grown women telling us about their darkest secrets was an experience I could never forget.
Christopher Kloman, the former teacher who abused these students was sentenced to 43 years of prison. He is 74-years-old, so it was basically a life sentence. After the trial, the victims did a press conference speaking out on their experience and feelings.
The moments after the trial is where "journalism mode" kicks in. Time to get stand-ups/live shots, press conference footage and make sure all the facts are correct. The sentencing ended minutes before 5 P.M. and Surae did a live shot for the 5 o'clock show. We got more footage and later she did a live shot for the 6 o'clock show too. Afterwards, I was able to get my stand-up done too!
It's crazy to me because the whole news package has to be a minute and a half, but there is no way to truly tell the story of what happened during that sentencing in that short amount of time. There was so much we had to leave out in the story and so many powerful lessons. But, that is what news is, it's quick. People get informed, you tell the important facts and move on to the next story. There is always something going on and always a story to tell. One of the things I love so much is being there for the whole story and using the inspiration and passion I felt during the story experience to reiterate the main facts for the viewers. The challenge is giving them the same feelings I felt at the scene and making sure my story was able to leave the viewer with something, whether a valuable lesson or a conversation for dinner that night.
Talk to you all soon!