Celebrating my 4 year KSLA anniversary

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Four years ago, I walked through the doors of KSLA as a wide eyed newbie reporter, fresh off my first ever job in the business. I remember being surprised at how much of a learning curve there was of jumping from market 137 to 82. I even wrote a whole blog post about it.

But after a couple of months, working in a faster paced environment with more demands became the norm for me and all was well. I made great friends here in Shreveport and watched those friends move on to bigger markets or other opportunities in the business. Instead of leaving after two years, I was given new ways and opportunities to grow as a journalist here so I resigned a one year contract in 2015 and another one in 2016.

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One of my first live shots at KSLA circa 2013.

I started off in 2013 as the weekend reporter and eventually became the Sunday morning fill-in anchor. After a while in 2014, I was given the opportunity to take on the Bossier beat (the only beat reporter on staff), then later that year was officially given the Sunday morning anchor position and regular weekend evening fill-in position. But the best opportunity of all came last June in 2016 as I signed a new contract as the station’s first lead full time investigator in more than a decade. I was given the responsibility and honor of helping to launch our I-Team. I was ecstatic to spearhead that project. I’m all about trail blazing! After all, in college when I saw the school didn’t have a TV station or video news program, I did not hesitate to make CNU TV a reality, of course with the help of some great friends.

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I-Team Office

Fastforward from thinking about college back to 2016, I picked out an equipment storage room and decided it would be the new I-Team office. Management was supportive and helped me turn what used to be a “special projects” edit bay several decades ago – turned closet – back into an edit bay/office. I’ve also had the opportunity to be a sort of “team leader” and serve as a resource for the other I-Team members and a liaison between the team and management. I welcome the opportunity to request public records on their behalf and pull court documents to become a more experienced investigative reporter.

I’ve always considered being an investigative reporter as my dream job. I’m excited that I’ve had some time to do it. It is always great to work for an employer that allows you to continually be challenged and takes you up on your ideas. It’s been a great 4 years!

Teaching the next generation of journalists

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I had the opportunity to teach a workshop at a local college.

I had an amazing opportunity to teach a workshop a couple weeks ago at Wiley College in Marshall, Texas. The Department of Mass Communications presented a Media Day called, “It takes a community: Preparing Tomorrow’s Professionals Today”. The topic I was given was “What is Multi-Media Journalism Anyway?”.

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Students listening to my presentation.

I was told I needed to fill three 50 minute back-to-back sessions. I was nervous at first because I’ve never taught a class and was a little uneasy about filling the time. But after the event organizer assured me the students would fill most of that time with questions, I felt ready to take on the challenge.

Being a multi-media journalist has taken on a whole new meaning within the past few years and I wanted to get that point across. My idea to do that was to do what I know how to do best: produce a video. I invited all of our MMJ’s to participate in the video. I interviewed each of  the willing volunteers about what it is like to be an MMJ each day. I then shot a few stand ups to bridge together the interviews.

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KSLA’s Nick Lawton helped me teach the workshop.

Our main anchor Domonique Benn was also invited to be a speaker but  her topic was different,  her workshop was called: “So, you want to become a television reporter?”

I invited a few of our MMJ’s to come along for the workshop, but the only person available to attend was Nick Lawton. Thanks Nick for waking up early on your day off to help me out and help out the future journalists!

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I showed an 8 minute video to each session.

At the workshop, I showed the video then elaborated about what being an MMJ is really like. Nick was a great help to emphasize the points I was trying to get across, which was basically, be prepared to do it all! Surprisingly, a lot of students had no idea that being an MMJ meant you didn’t have a photographer or editor. During all three sessions, we got some great questions from the students. The questions were very thoughtful which gave me a feeling that the students were truly interested in pursuing a broadcast journalism career.

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Wiley College gave me a certificate of appreciation for teaching the workshop.

As someone who graduated from a school without a broadcast journalism concentration, I felt for the students who didn’t know simple things that other J-School programs might teach, like creating a resume tape, looking at market sizes when applying, etc. I made sure to touch each topic that I wish I had learned in school and instead learned through my internship. It felt great being able to give back to the next generation of journalists and  I definitely have a new respect for teachers.

Check out the video I made for the students:

My 3 year KSLA Anniversary

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Time sure does fly! I have now worked at KSLA News 12 for three years. When I got here, I was unmarried, 24 years old, and had didn’t have fur-children. But a lot can happen in 3 years! Now I’m 27, married, and have two rescue dogs! I’ve extended my contract twice now, the first time to match up with my husband’s and then the second time for an extra year. I’ve learned a lot in the past three years! One of the perks of staying so long in one place is being able to follow stories all the way through. Whether it is a construction project or a court case, it’s interesting to see the story from the beginning to the end.

It has also been interesting to have a front-row seat to the revolving door of TV news. I’ve seen a lot of people come and go over the past few years here! It’s hard to say goodbye to people who have become dear friends, but the silver lining is the new people who fill their shoes are just as nice and provide the opportunity to make more friends.

I’m not sure what the future holds, but I’ve had a great time living and working in the ArkLaTex.

Passing along life experiences

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I recently got a really neat invitation from a reporter in Portland, Oregon to participate in a Asian American Journalists Association google hangout session. The topic of the google hangout was “Dating in the News Industry”.

That reporter, Mega Sugianto explained to me she is the Asian American Small Market Broadcast Journalists (AASMBJ) co-chair and once a month they host google hangouts that touch on topics that matter to young journalists. Since February is known for Valentine’s Day, she thought reaching out to a married couple in the industry would be fun, to show case a couple who made dating in the TV industry work.

I loved the idea! I wish I had a google hangout support group back in 2011 when I first got into the business.  My husband Clay was on board too, so we scheduled the hangout for February 5, coincidentally also my 27th birthday.

I’m not sure how many people watched, but it was really fun remembering our experiences about how we first met, got engaged, and married all while working at the same stations in North Louisiana .

The tricky question came when we were asked to give advice about how to get jobs together moving forward. You see, we kind of feel like we got lucky to get jobs at the same station after our first market. We don’t exactly know how to do it again, we are just crossing our fingers lightning will strike a third time and we’ll get lucky again.

Overall it is fun to pass along our life experiences with AAJA! So many news veterans helped me with words of advice during my internships so now I hope I can pay it forward.

On the topic of passing it forward, I got an invitation from a college in East Texas to speak to journalism students about the realities of the news industry after college. I’m so excited to pass on my knowledge to young students so they know what they are getting themselves into!

I’m embedding the video of our google hangout below, in case you are interested in watching (forgive the screen shot, not the best): 

 

 

Career 2016 Resolutions

2993_770673776398823_8905304414468438070_nI feel like as a society, we have a lot of the same personal resolutions: save money, eat healthier, work out more, be happier, etc.

So instead of sharing my generic but actually very sincere personal resolutions for the new year, I’m going to share my career resolutions for this year.

1.) Be a better writer: When I first got into the business, I ordered a bunch of books off of Amazon about how to be a better broadcast journalism writer. I would read the books in my spare time, soaked them up, and applied the teachings in my everyday job. I was so hungry to learn! Probably because I graduated with a generic Communication Studies degree instead of  a Broadcast Journalism degree, so I felt I needed to catch up with my colleagues. But fast forward four years later, I find that I haven’t really been continuing my education when it comes to my script writing. I feel I write good scripts, but as with anything, I know they can be better. This year I vow to devote energy and time into improving my writing skills.

2.) Investigate more: I got into this business to be the next Bob Woodward or Carl Bernstein. I feel so inspired when I hear instances where investigative journalists really made a difference and truly served as the 4th estate. I have not been able to be an investigative reporter full time yet, but I always find myself searching the court systems in my free time and reading through meeting minutes constantly. If I have a free second in my day while trying to turn a daily story, I’ll quickly write up a Freedom of Information Act request (FOIA) and email it out, in hopes that the results could give insight into a future story. But 65% of the time, I feel overwhelmed with my daily workload and don’t think I have time to look a little deeper. This year, even if I am overloaded with my daily duties, I want to make it a goal to constantly be working on investigative stories. After all, doing investigative work is the reason I got into this business in the first place.

3.) Be more creative: As a one man band, meaning I shoot my own video, I don’t feel like the expectations are very high for what the video quality looks like when it comes to MMJs. But, videography and journalism are both of my passions and this year I hope to remember that. In my internships, I gravitated more toward shadowing the photojournalists because I’ve always had a love for videography. I studied the photogs and constantly asked them questions during my internships, I wanted to be as much of a creative shooter as they were! Four years later, I don’t feel like I’m thinking out of the box and being as creative as I could be. Don’t get me wrong though, I still value my video skills, I make sure there are no jump cuts, flash frames, improperly framed interviews, I white balance, and makes sure each frame is in focus, but still I feel like I could do more. I just need to strive to step outside of the box and be a little more creative with my shooting and standups.

4.) Timing: I’ve gotten into the habit of consistently turning daily stories that are 1:40-1:45, which is acceptable in my market. However, I want to strive to turn tighter stories that are 1:30 or less. Even though I feel day turns are the bare bones of the story, I try to take solace in knowing that I can beef up my web story with extra quotes and other exclusive content. After all, most people who consume news these days are #digitalfirst. However, I do want to make sure I note that stories that are not daily turns do deserve more time. Investigative reports, for example, should be given the time it needs to be able to give everybody in the story a fair shake.

5.) Live life outside of work: This one is almost a hybrid of personal and career goal, but I always want to be able to live a balanced life. I learned this from a friend I interned with that went on to be a digital content producer. She was always determined to have a balanced life, meaning her life wouldn’t always be consumed with work. Life shouldn’t be 100% work, any manager who thinks that should know the employee who does devote life to work is one dimensional. Having hobbies and interests outside of work is what makes a journalist a “real person”, it makes them more in touch with the community they are living in. This year, I want to connect with my community more and strive to live a more balanced life.

I’ve been in the business for 4 years!

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I started this blog 4 years ago as I was waiting to move to my first tv news job. I was so excited about getting in to the business and couldn’t wait to start. There were some veterans in the business who told me it would only take a few years to get jaded and my journalism idealism would fly out the window. I can proudly say after 4 years of being a broadcast journalist, I am not jaded and still as enthusiastic as ever about making a difference in my community through journalism. Though with that being said, I had my low moments, especially when I found myself covering stories I felt didn’t matter. But I’ve found with the right leadership, I am able to cover stories that inspire me. I got into this business to hold those in power accountable and watch where public dollars are going. I strongly believe the best function journalism serves is being the fourth estate. With that being said, I’ve been doing a lot of investigative work lately and I hope to continue doing so and keeping strong on the government beat! It’s been a great 4 years, here is to 4 more!

A much needed trip to Virginia

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The state of Louisiana has become my beloved adoptive home, but Virginia will always have my heart. I was born in Fairfax, Virginia and lived there for five years until my dad’s job took us to Puerto Rico for a few years. After a fun few years in PR, we eventually came back to Northern Virginia where I attended elementary, middle and high school and even went to college just two hours south east in the Hampton Roads region. My siblings have since moved away from Virginia, but my parents still live there. Usually I get to go home to visit them at least twice a year, but because of our wedding last year, I was only able to make it home once in 2014. So when I got a save the date in the mail from a high school best friend late last year, I was ecstatic to not only see my long time friend marry the love of her life, but also to have a reason to go home this spring!

At National Harbor in Baltimore, Maryland.

At National Harbor in Baltimore, Maryland.

My husband Clay and I were very fortunate to be able to spend a whole week in Virginia last week! Since we had so much time, I decided to take Clay on a whirlwind tour of my home state. It’s funny how you don’t realize how amazing your home state is until you move away. We flew into Baltimore and on our way into Virginia, we stopped at the National Harbor. The National Harbor is the best! It is a work-live-play place with cute restaurants and shops. It’s a relatively new addition, so it’s not something I was able to enjoy while I was growing up in the area. Even more recently, the National Harbor developers added an upscale ferris wheel, so I knew we had to experience that. It wasn’t your run of the mill ferris wheel, each car was enclosed by glass and climate controlled, it was a lot of fun to see a birds eye view of Washington D.C. and National Harbor.

My brother did some genealogy and found that Pocahontas is my dad's 10th great grandmother.

My brother did some genealogy and found that Pocahontas is my dad’s 10th great grandmother.

The very next morning we along with my parents and little brother woke up early and left for the Hampton Roads region of Virginia. We stopped by Jamestown first, where the earliest colonists (after the lost colony of Roanoke) showed up in 1607. Growing up, I only had ever visited “the settlement” area of Jamestown which is a complete replica of where the colonist lived and the boats they arrived on. This time around we had the opportunity to visit Historic Jamestowne, which is the archeological dig site of the original fort. It was an amazing experience! There are two museums that surround the dig area, even a cafe, where they offer Jamestown themed food. My brother who was visiting from college even informed us that after doing some genealogy, he found out Pocahontas was our 11th great-grandmother. So that was a fun fact to keep in mind as we toured the area and imagined what the first settlers saw when they first arrived.

We loved Colonial Williamsburg!

We loved Colonial Williamsburg!

Our next stop was Colonial Williamsburg, where we planned to eat dinner at a historic tavern. However, when we arrived we found out there was a 1.5 hour wait, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. We had extra time to walk the historic streets and we even got to watch impromptu live theater of actors playing colonists during the time period in the middle of the streets. They even had an actor playing George Washington ride up on a horse, along with a militia who shot off canons. It was so much fun! I’m a huge history nerd and loved soaking up every moment of being surrounded by so much history. The historic tavern was also fun and worth the wait.

The cold weather didn't stop me from touching the ocean!

The cold weather didn’t stop me from touching the ocean!

After Williamsburg, we headed to Virginia Beach where we had reservations to stay on the beach. Unfortunately, while we were at dinner, a cold front came through turning the 65 degree day into a 40 degree day. The weather wasn’t how we imagined it would be, but we made do by finding fun things to do inside.

Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Once we made it back up to Northern Virginia, Clay and I decided to go to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center Air and Space Museum near Dulles Airport. The museum is a fairly new museum compared to the other Smithsonians, construction for it was completed in late 2010, so I had never been there before. It was an amazing experience! There are 170 aircraft on display, some with huge historical significance like the Enola Gay or the Discovery space shuttle, and other aircraft so quirky you didn’t even know existed, like a floating platform or a small plane that could be converted into a car. The museum even has an observation tower that gives you a 360 degree birds eye view of the Washington Dulles airport, with planes regularly taking off and landing.  I would definitely recommend going if you are ever in the area.

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The cherry blossoms are gorgeous!

The next few days after that, we spent catching up with friends in Arlington, visiting old town Alexandria, visiting family in Fairfax, and going to a wedding in Leesburg. One of the highlights of our vacation was our trip to see the cherry blossoms in Washington D.C. I’ve gone to see them a couple of times before, but seeing them again, especially with someone who had never experienced the blossoms, was a lot of fun. We went on a Monday, so it wasn’t very crowded and it was a very good experience.

There is still so much more I need to show Clay, I’m already making a list of what to show him for our next trip to my home state.

My two year KSLA anniversary

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My two year KSLA News 12 anniversary.

 

I’ve officially worked at KSLA News 12 for two years! The time has absolutely flown by!

I’ve realized that ever since getting in this business, time flies so fast when you are working against a daily deadline. I have friends/relatives who have desk jobs (not in this business) and they say sometimes they’ll find themselves staring at the clock, willing it to speed up so they can go home. To me, that is such a crazy concept because typically when I glance at the clock, I’m wishing it would slow down at work.

I’m convinced that because we are working against the clock, it makes the days absolutely fly by! I always wish I have an extra hour or two to make my story as brilliant as it can be.

I’ve found when the days are zipping on by, so are the weeks, and I’ve found with such a fast paced work environment, each year speeds by too. That’s why I think it is so crazy that I’ve been at KSLA for two years already. I was almost startled when I saw my picture on our electronic bulletin board with the words, “Happy Anniversary” above my face.

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Our electronic bulletin boards line our hallways.

 

It’s unnerving to know how fast life is zipping on by. I’ve now lived in Louisiana nearly 4 years, but it feels like just yesterday that I loaded up my car with any belongings that could fit and drove 1000 miles to my first job in North East Louisiana. Despite, the revolving door of people at both my first and current job, it still feels like I just got here!

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Upgrades in technology have been a big plus within the past two years!

Shreveport-Bossier City almost immediately felt like home when I moved here and it still does. At my previous job, the city I lived in was so small, I felt so fish out of water there, but coming here was like a sigh of relief. Don’t get me wrong, my first city was a great experience! It’s definitely always a growing experience to step out of your comfort zone, I’m just saying Shreveport-Bossier City is much more my speed.

I have a few more months until I have to decide whether to move away or stay, but even still, thinking about it makes me feel nostalgic. This area will always hold a very special place in my heart, it is the city where I was living when Clay and I got engaged and married. It’s also the place where we adopted our two rescue puppies, who have really become like our children (yes we are those people). I’ve also learned so much career wise and have really grown as a journalist. I’ve really enjoyed getting to produce and anchor a weekly show, especially with my husband. It’s fun to be able to wear so many hats and have several different responsibilities at one job, it keeps life interesting. Even though it has been a good two years, it hasn’t always been easy, but the bad coupled with the good experiences have only made me a better journalist and person.

I’m interested to see what will happen within the next few months!

 

Working with my husband

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People ask me all of the time what it is like working with my husband, especially anchoring a show with him. I love it! I think it is amazing that I get to hang out with him at work and at home. It’s neat that we share every aspect of our lives together and truthfully we don’t really know life with each other any other way. That’s because we met on the job at our last station and the three-week gap when we didn’t work with each other while I was here at KSLA and Clay was still at our last station, it was really strange.

Of course people at work love to tease us about being married, anytime someone calls me “Ms. Shirley” they look at Clay and say “Oops! I meant Mrs. Ostarly!”

Our latest “normal” schedule is actually exactly the same Sunday-Thursday, but we’ve been filling in for other people a lot lately. When we have opposite schedules at work, it feels like we haven’t seen each other in ages. But when we do have our normal schedule together, it is really fun to carpool to work and on Sundays, anchor the morning show together.

People have told us we are really lucky to be able to work at the same station and same market together, we do feel very fortunate. We are hoping to continue this trend in the future, hoping lightening will strike a third time. However, if we do end up at different stations in the future, that is something we’ll be okay with too, as long as we are in the same city!

Sunday AM anchoring 03-08-15 from Victoria Shirley Productions on Vimeo.