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00:00:09From the Study and Teaching of Writing at
00:00:11The Ohio State University, this is Writers Talk.
00:00:13I'm Doug Dangler.
00:00:15Karen Kasler and Bill Cohen,
00:00:17from the Ohio Public Radio and Television
00:00:19State House News Bureau, are familiar voices on
00:00:22Ohio Public Television and Radio.
00:00:24They provide daily and weekly coverage of issues of statewide interest
00:00:28and issues surrounding state government to
00:00:30"educate, enlighten and empower" the citizens of Ohio.
00:00:35Welcome to Writers Talk, Karen and Bill.
00:00:38Well I'm pleased to have you on because I've listened to you
00:00:40for so many years reading copy on the air and wondering
00:00:46what goes into that. How do they create that?
00:00:49How long do they spend? What are their processes to come up with it?
00:00:52And so we can delve into that and you know,
00:00:55find out what makes you tick as writers
00:00:57and what ticks you off as writers. Things like that.
00:00:59Well, we sound like we are reading copy?
00:01:01I hope not. I hope we sound like we are actually
00:01:02having conversation with people, but of course we're reading copy.
00:01:05Right, right.
00:01:06But I didn't figure anybody talked that coherently for that long
00:01:10without it because I know I can't.
00:01:12For example, let me...
00:01:13You never met Bill Cohen.
00:01:14Bill Cohen is awesome.
00:01:15Alright, well we'll start with Bill Cohen.
00:01:17Bill Cohen, you have been reporting news for
00:01:18Ohio's public TV and radio stations for forty years now.
00:01:22And you're on the National Public Radio programs when Ohio
00:01:26receives national attention, as it does from time to time.
00:01:28And you're also on the weekly public TV show "State of Ohio."
00:01:32Karen's show.
00:01:35And Karen, in addition to that, you've got a background
00:01:38as the news director of WCBE radio.
00:01:40You worked at WBNS TV in Columbus, worked on radio in Cleveland
00:01:44and have returned to Columbus to cover some of Ohio's top issues.
00:01:49And you anchor the live coverage of the State Address
00:01:53and you've been interviewed by NPR, the BBC,
00:01:58and Brian Williams, so far.
00:02:00And PBS. I'd like to add PBS News Hour to that tally.
00:02:02Ok. Which one did you enjoy the most?
00:02:05Meeting Brian Williams was a huge thrill.
00:02:07I mean, even though I've been doing this for a long time,
00:02:10there's still that fan thing, you know.
00:02:12Meeting Brian Williams and being able
00:02:14to walk down the street with him was just really exciting.
00:02:16Did you force him to walk down the street?
00:02:17We had to walk down the street so it looked like two friends walking
00:02:22down the street, like I would be friends with Brian Williams.
00:02:24Like he would have me as a friend.
00:02:27But the last time I was on PBS I got a chance to speak with
00:02:30Judy Woodruff and you know, she's a key figure,
00:02:34especially for women in journalism.
00:02:36I was thrilled to talk to her.
00:02:38Anytime I get a chance to talk to anybody, especially from this side,
00:02:42it's kind of thrilling and exciting.
00:02:43Well, I'm interested.
00:02:45Let's start with that. This is different from you.
00:02:47You're normally asking the questions.
00:02:49You've got the sheet of paper. You know what's coming up.
00:02:51What's it like when you're not on this side?
00:02:55As journalists, what is your response to that?
00:02:58There's one response that says journalists shouldn't be
00:03:00on the other side, that journalists should recede
00:03:04into the background and they shouldn't be interviewed
00:03:08about your writing, it's supposed to be transparent.
00:03:11It's supposed to be neutral, it's supposed to be not seen.
00:03:13You're looking at me very strangely.
00:03:15Well, I'm not sure what the question is.
00:03:17Well, I mean what we're not supposed to do as journalists I think
00:03:21is to be pundits, to get out there and predict
00:03:24and tell you what should happen.
00:03:27What we try to do is tell you what we see from our
00:03:32analytical perspective and give you a sense of what is happening.
00:03:36Not what should happen or what will happen, what is happening.
00:03:39So sometimes we get on programs, Bill and I,
00:03:42I think we both had this experience,
00:03:44where we're asked a question to give our opinion
00:03:46or to tell us who is going to win a particular race
00:03:49and we can't do that, that's not our role and who cares what I think?
00:03:53You know, my role is to tell people here's what I've heard,
00:03:56here's what the candidates and the campaign issue people
00:03:59are telling me and here's how it might play out based on the facts,
00:04:04not based on my opinion or based on any sort of conjecture.
00:04:07And you know, before we do any writing
00:04:09and this show is about writing,
00:04:10but that's not the first step in our jobs.
00:04:13Our first job is to go out to the news event
00:04:15and find out what is going on.
00:04:17So we're covering the Ohio House or Ohio Senate.
00:04:20They are debating a death penalty bill or a tax hike or tax cut.
00:04:24So we go out there.
00:04:25Or we go to a news conference somewhere,
00:04:26somebody's announcing a lawsuit against something,
00:04:28who knows what it might be, or a campaign event.
00:04:30And our first job, before we write a word is to say,
00:04:32"well what's going on here"
00:04:34to get all the sound that's going on
00:04:36and then we might be at an event for an hour, two or three
00:04:38if it's a big debate and our job at that point is to say,
00:04:41"well what's the kernel of what's happening and
00:04:44what are the sound bytes,
00:04:46what are those two or three sentences from that side
00:04:48and that side that really symbolize the arguments."
00:04:53Those are the building blocks we use to then go back
00:04:55to our desks and our computers and then write up a script
00:04:59around those building blocks and kind of make it a flowing
00:05:03coherent thing and that's the challenge we face as writers.
00:05:06And we do not write before we go out.
00:05:08I think a lot of people think that, you know, especially if we've been
00:05:11around for awhile, that you write the story before you even go out,
00:05:14you know what everybody is going to say.
00:05:15We don't.
00:05:16And many times we are surprised.
00:05:17We go out to an event and it doesn't go the way
00:05:20that we might have thought it would.
00:05:22But we don't have something written before we walk out
00:05:24then just plug in the sound bytes,
00:05:25we really try to get out there and find out what's happening
00:05:27and just like Bill said, use those events and those sound bytes
00:05:31as building blocks for the final story that we present.
00:05:34Ok. So now you've both talked about using sound bytes.
00:05:37Do you, after this many years in the business, recognize when you hear
00:05:40the sound byte that you want and you some how write that down?
00:05:44Or do you go back, listen to the whole tape and you think,
00:05:46"ok, this the part that I want?" What is the process for that?
00:05:49Because to me, then you're sort of writing to that sound byte, right?
00:05:52You're providing context for what the person said,
00:05:54you may be saying it more succinctly than they did at the time
00:05:58and that's part of the analyzing it.
00:06:01Ok, this is what they mean, it is encapsulated here in this part
00:06:05and then I provide the rest of the context here.
00:06:08Yeah, I mean if you're taking good notes when the event is happening
00:06:10and somebody commits a sound byte,
00:06:14which sometimes is rare because some of these legislators
00:06:16and lobbyists and lawyers and who else, and activists,
00:06:19they're not very good at communicating and saying in plain English
00:06:23what they mean, others are very good.
00:06:25So you usually recognize a good sound byte when you hear it
00:06:28and you put a star next to it and you say,
00:06:31"oh where was that on my tape recorder" or whatever,
00:06:34and "make sure I get back to that one."
00:06:36And you may not use all of them you put a star next to,
00:06:38but you can often recognize when somebody says,
00:06:41"this is the worst proposal I've seen in my 42 years as a state legislator,"
00:06:46you go, well that sounds pretty good.
00:06:49You'd be surprised how much of the other talk
00:06:51during the news conference is totally useless
00:06:53because it's in bureaucratic jargon, you know,
00:06:57amended, substitute House Bill from the 112th General Assembly
00:07:01would require a set aside from the federal title twenty
00:07:05which is similar to Senate bill sixty-two
00:07:08and you're going, you're eyes are glazing over.
00:07:11Then somebody finally says something in plain English,
00:07:13punchy, with passion and that is on target.
00:07:16You're not picking something just because it is emotional.
00:07:18No, you're picking something that has content and some passion,
00:07:21that's punchy and really communicates.
00:07:23And you say, "boy, that's a good byte to use in my story."
00:07:26Bill's on a several-decade-long crusade to get people
00:07:29to speak English at these events.
00:07:33How's that going for you?
00:07:34It's not going great.
00:07:35No. Some people are really good at it and some people are not.
00:07:38And you know, when they're not, then their voice doesn't appear
00:07:41very much in the story.
00:07:42Instead you'll hear more of us in the story
00:07:44paraphrasing what they're saying.
00:07:47To me that's not as interesting of a story,
00:07:51but at least it lets the listener know what's happening
00:07:55and hopefully they haven't changed the channel, the station,
00:07:57or fallen asleep because at least we didn't put a really boring part
00:08:01of somebody's conversation.
00:08:03Now you said tape recorder earlier.
00:08:05I'm assuming you're using tapeless, chip-based stuff.
00:08:09Tell me, since you've got the ability to edit, wildly,
00:08:15the sound that you get.
00:08:19You can very easily, I don't know what program you use,
00:08:20but you can go cut up what you need.
00:08:22What kind of rules do you have in terms of trying to take
00:08:26what somebody says and can you do any editing
00:08:29to make it succinct to fit into your talk? What kind of rules?
00:08:34Because you can have somebody say,
00:08:35"this is the worst bill, I need some ice water, I've ever heard"
00:08:39and you're gong to take something like that out.
00:08:40Where does it end?
00:08:42Well, I think we struggle with that on a day-by-day,
00:08:45case-by-case basis.
00:08:47We certainly never edit somebody to change the meaning
00:08:49of what they said.
00:08:51We never edit anybody to look bad.
00:08:53We edit for time.
00:08:55We edit for, you know, people have missteps and misspeaks
00:09:00and we can allow for that because especially in a debate
00:09:04that can go on for hours, it's understandable that somebody
00:09:07might slip in the wrong word and then correct themselves.
00:09:11So I think it's a real case-by-case basis to try and figure out,
00:09:15we don't want to change the meaning,
00:09:16we don't want to make this person say something they didn't mean,
00:09:19or that they had no intention of saying in that way and so it's dicey.
00:09:24And we talk back and forth with our colleague, Jo Ingles, as well
00:09:27about if I edit this, what will it do, what will it do to the listeners?
00:09:31Is it really fair to edit?
00:09:32It's mostly for time, that's the main reason you're editing.
00:09:34And you know, you read the newspaper stories.
00:09:37You may see, the governor said he was -quote-
00:09:40"very angry that this ever happened."
00:09:43They're not even using a full sentence there
00:09:44and they've edited out that.
00:09:46Now we often use a sentence, two sentences,
00:09:48three sentences, four sentences.
00:09:50Our sound bytes aren't five seconds long, usually.
00:09:52They may go on for thirty seconds,
00:09:53which would be a long quote in a newspaper story.
00:09:56But still, our major stories are four minutes long
00:09:59and if you want to get both sides in debating some issue
00:10:03along with maybe some historical tape of what happened
00:10:05ten years ago, you've got to do some good editing.
00:10:08But that's what makes a story listenable and good,
00:10:11when've you done a good job editing, as you point out,
00:10:13without changing anybody's meaning.
00:10:16Yeah, I mean that seems like the obvious.
00:10:18You can't change the meaning.
00:10:19But there's also, well you know, I've talked to people who say,
00:10:21"I'll take the entertainer who's not being
00:10:25a very good communicator and I'll edit it down to
00:10:27what they meant to say," which I found fascinating.
00:10:30They say anyone who is a public speaker,
00:10:32no I'm not going to take out anything that they say,
00:10:34including the stuttering,
00:10:36including the repeating of a word, things like that.
00:10:40Is that too small for you to worry about?
00:10:42Or do you say, in the interest of time, I'll take out stuttering,
00:10:45I'll make them sound a little better
00:10:47than they did at the actual event?
00:10:49The easiest way to handle that is to, as Bill said,
00:10:52paraphrase and just get to the point where
00:10:54I don't have to take anything out.
00:10:56I've paraphrased the point until I get
00:10:57to the ten-second sound byte.
00:10:59But that's why I say it's a case-by-case basis
00:11:02because I certainly don't want to make anybody look bad
00:11:05or change anybody's meaning or change anybody's intent.
00:11:08But, you know, we are dealing with time issues
00:11:10and our stations wouldn't like it if we gave them stories
00:11:13that were six minutes long, full of people going, "uhh," you know.
00:11:17So we have to try and figure out how to do that
00:11:19and that's a combination of paraphrasing
00:11:21and a combination of editing as well.
00:11:23Sometimes, once in awhile, you'll do a little clip where you'll
00:11:26actually have a little interview with two or three questions in them.
00:11:29And if you ask a tough question and if the person really should know
00:11:33the answer to that question and then stumbles and pauses and you know,
00:11:36trips over themselves, you might keep that in just to make the point,
00:11:42well it was tough for them to handle that question.
00:11:46What kind of responses do you get
00:11:48and what do you do with the responses?
00:11:49You do something like that where you leave it in
00:11:51and it's clear that the person didn't know it.
00:11:53So that's, you know, a form of your writing.
00:11:56Do you get a lot of feedback because you're covering a political beat?
00:12:01I know there was one time when we left some pauses in
00:12:03and there was a blog that picked it up and set the whole thing to music.
00:12:08It was really inappropriate and it was a terrible use
00:12:11of our audio because it was not fair.
00:12:13This was a news setting and this particular blog decided it was funny
00:12:17that the individuals who answered a question stumbled and "aw-ed"
00:12:21and "um-ed" all over themselves.
00:12:23And so that's the sort of response we are worried about
00:12:25because we're a serious news organization; blogs are blogs.
00:12:29There's a big wall, in my view, between those two things.
00:12:33But for the most part, I think some people are suspicious
00:12:37of what we're editing.
00:12:39But now, with YouTube and everything else that's out there,
00:12:43you can actually see what we saw at
00:12:45a lot of these news conferences.
00:12:46You can see on The Ohio Channel,
00:12:48you can see the full house debate and you can see
00:12:49the full senate debate and the Supreme Court.
00:12:51You can see what we saw and then make your own conclusions
00:12:53about whether we were fair or not.
00:12:55And I think ninety-nine percent of the time,
00:12:57we come out as being fair overall.
00:12:59And that's certainly our goal because we're trying
00:13:01to really be truly fair and balanced.
00:13:05Truly. We're not maligning anybody.
00:13:08We're fair and balanced truly.
00:13:10So you've got this wall between you and blogs.
00:13:14Here's a phrase here that I hope neither of you will hit me for,
00:13:17"citizen journalist." And that's a very different take.
00:13:21Tell me about the impact of technology and the rise of things
00:13:25like blogs on journalism from your viewpoint.
00:13:28How is it changed?
00:13:29What is it doing to you or does it not matter?
00:13:32Well I just think there is a.
00:13:34I'm frustrated by the confusion between journalists and bloggers.
00:13:40Bloggers have every right in the world to get on the Internet
00:13:43and say whatever they want,
00:13:44just like they could have twenty years ago, but not on the Internet.
00:13:47They could have spouted off at the local bar or with their friends
00:13:49and give their opinions.
00:13:50Certainly free.
00:13:51In fact that's great.
00:13:52That's citizen action and involvement.
00:13:55That's good citizenship.
00:13:56But I think there is a lot of confusion these days when people say,
00:13:59"oh the media," for instance, "the media is biased."
00:14:02Of course the media is biased because the media is huge,
00:14:05the media includes bloggers, Rush Limbaugh, Air America
00:14:09on the liberal side, Oprah Winfrey,
00:14:11thirty second TV spots for candidates.
00:14:14Of course they are biased, those things are advocates
00:14:17and they get lumped in with the Cleveland Plain Dealer
00:14:20and Ohio Public Radio and The Columbus Dispatch.
00:14:22People who are trying to give you both sides
00:14:24of the story and fair analysis.
00:14:27Again, the bloggers and the opinion pushers,
00:14:29they have every right to do what they're doing,
00:14:32but I just want the public to keep in mind they are two separate groups.
00:14:35One are advocates and people spouting off
00:14:39with their own personal opinion, which is fine.
00:14:41Other people are reporters who are trying not
00:14:44to give you their personal opinion, but who are trying
00:14:46to give you a realistic picture of what's happening.
00:14:48And I have an esteemed colleague who refers to it as,
00:14:50you know, we can have citizen journalists in the same way
00:14:52that we can have citizen mechanics, citizen doctors.
00:14:56I mean journalists actually do get some training.
00:14:59We are here because we have gone through
00:15:02a certain amount of training through college
00:15:04or though high school even.
00:15:06Not everybody who is a journalist has gone to college.
00:15:08But we've done this long enough so we can separate our
00:15:12opinion from the facts and that's the training that we get
00:15:16and that's how we really are different from the blogs,
00:15:19from columnists in newspapers, from commentators on television.
00:15:23Those folks have opinions and I'm not saying they're not
00:15:26reasoned opinions because in many cases they are, you know.
00:15:29But we're not in the opinion business,
00:15:31we're in the factual reporting business,
00:15:33the putting it into context business.
00:15:36Now without bringing up. You cover politics.
00:15:39But without asking either of you to talk about
00:15:41your own political views, I'm curious about.
00:15:44What you said is, you know, you're separating facts from that.
00:15:48And I'd like to know what happens to you as a writer
00:15:53when you've got to report about something that,
00:15:56you know, it makes the people that you support look bad?
00:16:00And again, not bringing up either side, how do you deal with that?
00:16:04How do you say? Do you feel a lot more pressure when you write it?
00:16:08Do you feel disappointed? What's your take on that?
00:16:13I mean everybody's a person and I think it's fair to ask the question
00:16:16about what is it like for you.
00:16:18I think less and less do I care about what my own point of view is
00:16:21or who I support. That just fades way into the background.
00:16:26Over the years it's faded more and more.
00:16:29Even if I do have a slight tingling,
00:16:30"oh I'm for this particular side maybe,"
00:16:34I enjoy doing a story where I've tried my best to get both sides
00:16:38and the side that I generally support came out looking
00:16:42not very good because they're people weren't very good,
00:16:45they didn't have good answers.
00:16:47I kind of almost relish that.
00:16:50So but what I think anymore it just hasn't been as important
00:16:54as what I report on.
00:16:56I just get a bigger kick out of doing a good report that has both sides
00:16:59and is intriguing and compelling and has good points from both sides.
00:17:05So that's less of a question in my mind, what do I support,
00:17:08I just don't even ask myself that much anymore.
00:17:11And I've always kind of been a mediator.
00:17:13I can almost always see both sides
00:17:15and so it really doesn't test me as much.
00:17:18But there are a few issues that I do have strong opinions on.
00:17:20The death penalty comes to mind.
00:17:23So when I witnessed an execution, that really challenged me
00:17:26on my view on the death penalty whether I supported it
00:17:28or opposed it, it really challenged me to see both sides
00:17:32and if I couldn't see the other side, I needed to figure out why.
00:17:38I try to keep pushing myself on issues that I feel like I'm fading
00:17:42on one side or the other, to make sure that I really understand
00:17:45the arguments on both sides.
00:17:47And sometimes there's a third side or a fourth side, you know.
00:17:50You have to try and consider as many view points as possible.
00:17:52Like Bill said, what I think and feel is really irrelevant and it fades
00:17:58over time as we do more and more of these stories about issues.
00:18:01And I love to go into a story where I think, of course the arguments
00:18:05are on this side and then once you interview both sides you say,
00:18:09you know what, that guy, even though I didn't think
00:18:12he would have a very good argument,
00:18:14he's got a heck of a good argument.
00:18:15Now I may not agree with this person. Forget that!
00:18:17Again, he's got a strong argument, I never thought of that.
00:18:19That is interesting.
00:18:21And the more you're down there,
00:18:22I think you see even though both sides,
00:18:24liberal and conservative or whatever, often paint each other as,
00:18:27"oh, you're ignorant.
00:18:29If you would only know the facts you would be on our side,"
00:18:31or "you're just being mean spirited, that's why you're on that side."
00:18:34I think the more you're down here you see there are people
00:18:37of good intent, people of good energy on both sides of all issues.
00:18:42That doesn't mean you don't come up with any personal view yourself
00:18:45as a member of the public, but I think you get away from this idea
00:18:49of there's good on one side and evil on the other.
00:18:53I do get concerned though about facts in general.
00:18:56That it's harder and harder to try and figure out where the facts are
00:18:59sometimes in arguments, especially when you're dealing with
00:19:02thirty second ads and real short communications.
00:19:06Why do you think it's harder to deal with?
00:19:08It's just, there's a lot of misinformation out there.
00:19:10The Internet has been fabulous in so many different ways,
00:19:12but one thing it has been a challenge is that it spreads
00:19:16a lot of very bad information very quickly and it's hard
00:19:19sometimes to backtrack it and figure out where the source
00:19:22of that bad information was and try to connect all the dots.
00:19:27And so that's part of our job, to figure out, ok this person said this.
00:19:31Is that true?
00:19:32I need to check that out.
00:19:33There's something about that, no matter how many times you say it,
00:19:36it doesn't make it true.
00:19:38You have to go back and do the research and figure out factually,
00:19:42is this a correct statement to make.
00:19:43A lot of what we're dealing with,
00:19:45it isn't a matter of fact or not fact.
00:19:47It's usually predictions.
00:19:49"Oh, if you lower taxes, this is what's going to happen."
00:19:52And one side says, "this is going to happen" and the other side says,
00:19:54"no, it's not." And we don't know because it's all prediction.
00:19:58It's all prediction.
00:19:59And so it's not a matter of fact.
00:20:02Ok. Well I've got a question for you, Karen.
00:20:05You were a fellow in the Kiplinger's Masters Program
00:20:07for mid-career journalists at The Ohio State University.
00:20:12So tell me about going through a program like that mid-career.
00:20:16What do they do with you at mid-career?
00:20:19This was a particular time, it wasn't recent.
00:20:21Right, this was several years ago.
00:20:23There were five newspaper reporters, a radio reporter (me),
00:20:27and a television reporter and we were working with Jim Neff
00:20:30who is an investigative reporter, most recently in Seattle
00:20:32and is just fantastic, he's written several books.
00:20:35And so it was really interesting to work with him
00:20:38on investigative reporting and digging into records
00:20:41and making sense out of volumes of information
00:20:46and trying to get at stories that aren't exactly obvious,
00:20:49trying to dig under everything.
00:20:50And it was a fascinating experience.
00:20:53Not only to do that and to get a masters degree out of it
00:20:56and everything, but also to work with newspaper reporter
00:20:58and a television reporter and see how they did it differently.
00:21:01My masters thesis was a half-hour-long radio documentary,
00:21:05which was the most work I've ever undertaken before,
00:21:08in one fell swoop, so to speak.
00:21:10But I got to see how the newspaper reporters
00:21:12did their individual series',
00:21:14which one wrote something for The New York Times
00:21:17and you know. It was fun
00:21:18to see how everybody else did their process, as well.
00:21:21Now one of the things that makes me think of if you're talking about
00:21:25a span of time in which technology has enabled this convergence.
00:21:30You've got things like newspapers that have websites
00:21:33with video on them.
00:21:35And at the same time you've got television websites
00:21:38with a lot of writing on them.
00:21:40So what's happening to journalism?
00:21:42What are your predictions, I guess,
00:21:45for all this stuff is going to continue to mesh and mold?
00:21:49What do you see as the next thing in journalism?
00:21:53Because journalism seems to be going through
00:21:54this big difficulty right now of finding out what it is.
00:21:57Well nobody can be just a print reporter anymore.
00:22:00Nobody can be such a radio reporter, just a television reporter.
00:22:02You have to be prepared to do all three.
00:22:04And you have to be prepared to go on the web
00:22:05and you have to be prepared to take questions
00:22:08and talk about the stories that you're doing in the video
00:22:11and then write it in the web
00:22:12and maybe even do a radio or a podcast for it.
00:22:15You have to be flexible enough to do all these things so your skills
00:22:19you have to develop are even more than maybe
00:22:22what they were ten years ago.
00:22:24Because I know a lot of print reporters for a long time didn't want to
00:22:26do television and didn't want to do video
00:22:28because that's not what they did.
00:22:30Well, now you have to.
00:22:31It' s part of the job now, I think.
00:22:33It's interesting, yeah, as you point out ten, twenty years ago
00:22:36newspaper reporters, some of them looked at
00:22:39the radio and TV reporters and said,
00:22:40"Are these people really reporters?"
00:22:43Now that some of the newspaper reporters are carrying around
00:22:46tape recorders or you know, got a video recorder,
00:22:50I think they have a little better understanding of yeah,
00:22:53it's journalism and it's not always easy
00:22:58because we were pointing out before,
00:22:59you're trying to get the news makers to say something interesting
00:23:02in plain English that you can use in radio, you can use on TV,
00:23:06you can put onto the web. It's not always easy.
00:23:10I like you're description of that: "Say something interesting."
00:23:14What's, when you're in the pursuit of a story,
00:23:16what defines it as interesting?
00:23:19Is it something that you hadn't thought of before?
00:23:21It is just the clear?
00:23:22Because you can have something said in a clear way,
00:23:25but it may not be interesting.
00:23:26You know, "I took the dog to the vet today."
00:23:29Not particularly interesting, but quite clear.
00:23:30So if you're pursuing a story, what makes that interesting?
00:23:33What peaks your curiosity and you say, "That's it right there.
00:23:37That's the thing I'm going to pursue."
00:23:38Well, the first basic thing is taking a stand.
00:23:41I mean if the legislator isn't.
00:23:43Ok, I'm doing a story on this proposal to repeal the death penalty.
00:23:46"Senator, are you for or against it?"
00:23:47"Well I haven't decided yet.
00:23:49I think there's arguments on both sides."
00:23:51That's not too interesting to put on.
00:23:53Well, first I'm looking for someone really strong who's for
00:23:56and with somebody who's strong and against.
00:23:58Now there could be a place for that person who's undecided if we go
00:24:02"Hey, the vote count right now is 40-40
00:24:07and we're at a tie breaking vote and Senator Jones
00:24:09is one of two tie breakers. What's he thinking?
00:24:11He's still undecided. Ok."
00:24:13He might still get in the story, but less likely.
00:24:15We're looking for people to show the listeners
00:24:18hey, there are two sides to this story.
00:24:20Here are the basic arguments on both sides and, you know.
00:24:22Then, you know, the other element is just saying it with some punch
00:24:26as if you care about what you're saying.
00:24:28Every once in awhile you interview somebody who kind of
00:24:30takes a clear stand but they have so little passion
00:24:34it's cross purposes with what they're saying.
00:24:39And I always look for the surprising thing,
00:24:41the thing I don't expect.
00:24:43The guy who I thought was going to say this, but actually said that.
00:24:45You know, the guy who seems to.
00:24:47He has a strong stance in this direction,
00:24:50on this subject he's completely in the other direction.
00:24:53That's interesting because it's unique.
00:24:56Part of the definition of news is it's unique, it's new,
00:24:59it's different, it's something that's happening right now.
00:25:02And so when you find somebody who changed their mind
00:25:05or has that stance that's unexpected, that's interesting.
00:25:09So is that ultimately what.
00:25:13Or, how can I phrase this question.
00:25:15Ultimately it seems like that's the thing you're most passionate about.
00:25:18You're passionate about getting the facts right,
00:25:20but also you want something that's going to attract attention.
00:25:23Well, we want listeners.
00:25:24We want viewers.
00:25:25We want people to tune in and to go to our website and that's the way.
00:25:28You know, people want to know this kind of information.
00:25:31But our first question, I think is,
00:25:32is this something that impacts people?
00:25:35That's one of our definitions of news.
00:25:38Yes, do people want to know who is Madonna getting married to
00:25:43or is Cher getting more artificial surgery on her face?
00:25:48I'm noticing you have done that enough lately.
00:25:51But our definition is ok, people may be interested in that,
00:25:54but that's not our definition of news.
00:25:56Of course our beat is the Ohio legislature and state government.
00:25:58So our beat is, what is state government doing or not doing
00:26:01that impacts you?
00:26:03So if it's a story about taxes going up, taxes going down,
00:26:09an anti-crime bill, gay rights, women's rights, civil rights, whatever.
00:26:14Is it going to impact you and your everyday life?
00:26:16There are bills here everyday that these legislators deal with
00:26:19that do that.
00:26:20There are a lot of bills that don't.
00:26:21A lot of bills are bureaucratic tinkering things legislators
00:26:25make a big deal about and we cover and we go,
00:26:27"That's not a news story. It doesn't impact a lot of people."
00:26:31But if we can show our listeners that this is going to impact them
00:26:34and their pocketbooks and their jobs
00:26:35and their schools, then it's an important story.
00:26:37I think we always argue for ourselves that what happens here is
00:26:40sometimes more important at the federal level.
00:26:44It can sometimes be more important
00:26:45than what happens at the local level.
00:26:46Because, just like Bill said, it effects your wallet, it effects taxes,
00:26:49it effects your schools where your kids are going to learn.
00:26:52I mean, so many different areas.
00:26:54Final question.
00:26:55This is your opportunity for the sound byte
00:26:56because we're almost out of time.
00:26:58Somebody's coming out of school in journalism,
00:27:01what's your advice to them, Bill?
00:27:05Maybe you want to switch fields.
00:27:07It just doesn't look good. It doesn't look good.
00:27:09Although I would say that if somebody really is passionate
00:27:11about journalism and government or whatever they're interested
00:27:14in covering, I'd say go for it.
00:27:16Maybe get hooked up with a newspaper.
00:27:18Get hooked up with a public radio.
00:27:19Boy, to work for NPR in Washington or around the country,
00:27:22that would be a gem job, but very few of those jobs.
00:27:26But if you're passionate and you get into internships early
00:27:29and show you really want to do it, I say got for it.
00:27:32You're not going to make a lot of money,
00:27:33but you'll love coming to work.
00:27:36Be ethical. Stay out of debt. And consider marrying well.
00:27:39Those would be the things that I would suggest.
00:27:42And there will be suggestions for that
00:27:45that we'll put on the website after this.
00:27:47I have no advice.
00:27:48I have advice on ethics, the rest is that I'm not sure.
00:27:51Well Bill Cohen and Karen Kasler,
00:27:52thank you very much for being here on Writers Talk, I appreciate it.
00:27:56And from the Center from the Study and Teaching of Writing
00:27:58at The Ohio State University,
00:27:59this is Doug Dangler saying, keep writing.
Note : Transcripts are compiled from uncorrected captions