Stepping out of the comfort zone

broadcast outtakes

Last week, I had a huge undertaking ahead of me. I had what’s called a package due for my broadcast journalism class. The package had to be a two-minute story that tackled a national issue at a local level. I changed my topic to the recent LAX airport shooting at the last minute. I was nervous and stressed. I’d only edited a couple of very rudimentary videos for homework, and I had no interviews lined up. (The airport police spokeswoman just about snorted when I asked for an on-camera interview. Needless to say, they’d been bombarded with media requests and weren’t anxious to help out a student with her homework.)

So I hustled. I ran out to LAX with John to get some b-roll footage and travelers’ reactions to heightened security. One very nice woman I interviewed turned out to be an actress. A man I spoke with made the dubious claim that he intended to become President of the United States. Sometimes cameras attract people like that. Often, they repel people, too.

Broadcast has been one of the biggest sources of my anxiety since starting school. Not only do we have to write the script and conduct the interviews, we have to shoot all the footage and edit the videos, too. That lovely collage of outtakes you see above? That was me trying to come up with a reporter stand-up that would be used in the script I hadn’t even written yet. I did 20-plus takes. I didn’t use any of ’em.

But it all started coming together when I did a little searching for one of the shooting victims, a high school teacher named Brian Ludmer, online. I contacted him, and a day or two later, he responded that he’d be happy to do an interview, and sorry it’d taken him so long to get back to me. (Seriously, the guy was just shot in the leg and undergoing multiple surgeries but apologizing to me for not responding immediately.) Suddenly, the gravity of this story hit me. I wanted to do it justice to honor this kind teacher, the other survivors, and the one man who was killed.

I was nervous going to the hospital. I felt awkward about shoving a camera in the face of someone confined to a hospital bed—someone I’d never even met. But once I had my shot set up, we pretended the camera wasn’t there and just talked. The next day, I went to the public memorial service for TSA agent Gerardo Hernandez, who was killed in the shooting. He had a wife and two kids. He would’ve turned 40 last week. I got teary-eyed when the chorus sang “I Believe I Can Fly.” If journalists are supposed to keep their emotions in check and be stone-faced in emotional moments like that, I don’t want to be a journalist.

After hours of editing and one sleepless night, I’d produced a story I was proud of. It’s not perfect. I’ve identified all its flaws, trust me. But it’s my first real try and success at a broadcast piece that pushed me way out of my comfort zone and showed me I was more capable than I’d originally thought:

Will I enter into a broadcast journalism career once I graduate? I’m not ruling anything out this early on, but let’s just say I’d rather stay on the print/digital side of things. Still, now that I’ve accomplished this, I realize I might very well continue to surprise myself with what I’m capable of. And the more any of us step outside the confines of our comfort zones, the more likely we are to surprise ourselves.


Information about the memorial fund for Gerardo Hernandez can be found here.