News Leadership 3.0

July 10, 2008

A “newspaper” wins an Emmy

Star-Telegram sports program
receives television honors


I recently learned that the Fort Worth Star-Telegram had won a regional Emmy this year from the Lone Star Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, for its High School Huddle football program on www.star-telegram.com. The program is part of www.dfwvarsity.com,  Fort Worth’s mega site for high school sports described here. The Emmy-winning show sounded like a great example of a traditional print newsroom learning new skills and applying them to news and information of high interest to the community. Kathy Vetter, Deputy Managing Editor/Multimedia, discusses the show in this guest post:

By Kathy Vetter

Our High School Huddle program originated exactly where it should have - in the Sports department. Our newspaper editor responsible for high school sports floated the idea of a weekly video program, and we then called in our video experts and started talking about who could host the show. We ended up shooting a 12- to 15-minute program every week for 16 weeks. Most of it was shot in segments in our newsroom studio, with the graphics, photos, video clips and music bed added in post-production by our video editor.

We used one main host and rotated in the two expert writers each week, from a pool of about four. These experts cover high schools for the newspaper. The host covered high schools for us for several years, but is now a Cowboys writer. When the playoffs started, we simply went with a host and co-host.

We shot the show using three cameras and a video switcher to output a single video feed. We used an audio board to mix the audio from the three mics. We scripted the show each weekend and gathered the photos and video clips of games on Monday. We occasionally went into the field on Mondays to get fresh video. We shot the show Tuesday morning, imported the file into Final Cut Pro, and had the show edited and ready to post by very early Wednesday morning.

We shot at least one video game of the week each Friday night, usually narrated in person by the same reporter who hosted High School Huddle. Those were edited and posted by early Saturday morning. We then used that video, either from the current week or the archives, to provide the game clips for the Huddle. We set up an online poll that allowed readers to choose the game of the week from the four our staff had selected. That was the game that we shot video of. The poll received around 50,000 votes each week.

Staffing-wise, the director did most of the research and wrote the script (mostly info on cue cards), the high school sports editor helped pick the games we would discuss, the three reporters came in on Tuesday to do the show, and the video editor did the live switching and ran the audio board, then did the editing and graphics work. We got help from the photo desk in finding the necessary photos and running the cameras in the studio, and the high school sports staff helped with research.

The High School Huddle and games of the week are by far our most popular videos. For the five-month period beginning in September 2007 and ending at the end of January 2008, our High School Huddle of Nov. 6 was our highest-rated program, with 214,777 page views. The following week’s Huddle was No. 2, with 191,774. We easily topped a million page views for all HSH and game of the week videos during that time period. And a local car dealership bought a sponsorship for the videos.

The best advice is that this is worth doing. Even if you don’t do a studio show, find a way to take out a camera and shoot a game of the week. Ours were nothing fancy - a little game action, some time with the band and cheerleaders, some standups by our host - but they quickly became viral and they solidified our reputation as the media company that cares about something that’s very important in our community.

Here is a link to High School Huddle.

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Exploring innovation, transformation and leadership in a new ecosystem of news, by journalist and change advocate Michele McLellan.

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