Week 14: First pitch; Laura Caso brings it to life

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Over the weekend I had noticed some new data reported on in The New York Times involving 83 million eviction records. While housing policy is not my strong suit, what stood out to me was that four cities in Hampton Roads (Norfolk, Chesapeake, Hampton and Newport News) were in the top 10 in the country for eviction rates. That seemed like a story to me. I did some background research, then emailed my supervisor Mike Akin, the assignment desk manager, along with Andy Fox, a veteran WAVY reporter.

When I got into the office on Monday, I found that Mike had already put my emailed pitch in the budget, and Andy encouraged me to pitch the story at the morning news meeting. While I was definitely a bit nervous, the pitch went well, and we decided to pick up the story. That was only the beginning of the learning experience, however.

I found out quickly that I had neglected to heed the sign in the newsroom: idea à work à pitch. While the pitch was certainly reflective of a salient local news story, the time constraints of television news and the speed with which stories need to be turned generally require an interview to be planned ahead of time; or, at the very least, a reporter should have a basic road map of how the story will be turned in just a few hours with the 4 pm show banging down the door.

The story was assigned to WAVY anchor/reporter Laura Caso, who began by trying to find someone who had been evicted and would be willing to talk on camera about their experience. That came with the help of Union Mission Ministries in Norfolk, where we spoke with a staff member and then met Jesse Perkins. Jesse had been evicted after health problems caused him to become unemployed, and he was kind enough to share his story with us to give a human face to this new, striking data.

On the way over, Laura had gotten in touch with an attorney who was willing to give us some background, expert perspective on the current landlord-tenant laws in Virginia. That allowed us to provide a neutral point-of-view, which is always important, but especially in a politically charged environment.

Afterwards, I wrote a script for a package and Laura was kind enough to go over it with me. That kind of help is invaluable, especially for a CNU student like me trying to break into the industry without the benefit of a formal journalism school.

The rest of the week, I helped out Jane Alvarez-Wertz WAVY’s managing editor of digital content, with a blog migration. WAVY’s website publishing software had just switched from WordPress, an outside vendor, to Lakana, which is owned by Nexstar, our parent company. While the reasons for the move are noble (saving money, primarily), there are always going to be problems when launching a new website.

In other news, I found out this week that the Virginia Association of Broadcasters had approved my summer internship at WAVY, meaning I have the privilege of coming back for eight weeks in the summer for a paid, 40-hour-a-week immersive experience! Needless to say, I’m extremely excited and I can’t wait to continue my development toward becoming a reporter.

See Laura Caso’s full report on evictions here.

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