By LU NAN
I did my job shadowing at KPAX-TV, which is Missoula’s CBS affiliate. I observed the production of two shows: KAJ news at 5:30pm and KPAX news at 5:30pm. The former usually is taped at 4 p.m. and the latter is a live news show at 5:30pm. Both of them have the live sports news.
My host reporter, University of Montana graduate Brin Merkley, covers the crime beat, among other things. She goes regularly to the police station and the court to learn about the cases that interest her. She studies online records for stories about felonies, which are the most serious crimes. She told me that you don’t need to care about lesser crimes called misdemeanors unless they are “super unusual.” She said she watches for stories about drugs, especially if they are related to methamphetamine, which is a very dangerous and addictive substance.
She and I went to the police station and met Sgt. Travis Welsh, the public information officer. She asked for details about a about stolen vehicle, a burglary, a theft and other cases that interested her. Most of them were not very newsworthy. Then we visited the sheriff’s office in the court house to look at public records about two cases. One was about a German exchange student who was shot and killed this spring as he trespassed on private property. The other was about a former University of Montana basketball player who has been accused of illegally selling more than 1,000 pills of Adderall, a prescription drug.
What impressed me most were the efforts Brin made to build good relationships with the law enforcement agencies. “I have to meet them every day, and I treat them as my old friends, not only for the information but also for their kindness to me,” she said.
We went back to the TV station and she reported her findings to executive producer Melissa Rafferty, who is in charge of deciding which stories to run and editing the reporters’ work. Melissa told Brin to write the story about the basketball player, and I helped her to find some video clips of him from the KPAX video database. I was surprised to learn that all of the station’s videos are kept forever on different hard drives.
I also stayed in the studio to watch Brin broadcast the KAJ news. It was her first practice to be an anchor on KPAX, and she really did a good job! After the show, she was so diligent and replayed the tape to correct her tone and pronunciation. She told me that she was so excited because she is getting closer to her dream.