I decided to set up an informational interview with the main news anchor and news director at 13-WHAM, the station I grew up watching in Rochester.
Don Alhart has been at 13-WHAM for over 40 years, and I thought who better to give me some insight and advice about the broadcast industry.
I went into the station at 9 p.m., so I would have the chance to talk with Don and also watch the 10 p.m. newscast.
The interview started with me telling Don about myself and my goals. Then he told me about his start in the industry. Interestingly, his passion for the industry had more to do with the broadcast side than the journalism side, and started with pretend radio broadcasts in one of his childhood classes.
We also discussed how much the industry has changed since he started in 1966. He recalled waiting in line to use the pay phone to call the station after an interview, coming back and reviewing the film to decide what to put on the air.
We also talked about how today we live in a time of immediacy. Sometimes immediacy trumps accuracy to viewers. Don said he finds viewers would rather know the news as the station finds out, even if it’s not complete information and sometimes not completely accurate.
This shift is a difficult one, and only intensified by the push for breaking news via social media. The demand for immediacy forces journalism to be more accountable.
Our discussion about social media and the industry transitioned well into a discussion about my interests in the industry. Don asked what kind of positions I was looking for and applying to. I have seen a lot of job posting for producing positions that specifically involve posting to the web and managing social media.
After our discussion, I went into the control room with one of the 10 p.m. producers, Nathan, and observed how they run their shows. I was able to see the similarities and differences between the producing processes at Channel 13 and Channel 2 in Buffalo. First, Channel 13 does a 1-hour broadcast at 10, whereas Channel 2 does a half-hour broadcast. I discussed how they made that recent transition to a longer show with Nathan. Channel 13 also recently started using a touch screen storyteller for some of their segments. This allows viewers to submit comments to their stories which are then shown on the air.
After watching most of the newscast, I had a discussion with Don about the show and gave him my resume to receive his feedback and suggestions.
Overall, my visit to 13-WHAM was informative, interesting and beneficial to my future career. I received some great insight and advice from Don and also got to see how they put their show together.