It’s not just like an ordinary nine to five job. Early in the mornings a marketable story is sought out and identified. The story is then filmed, written, edited, posted on the web, and finally released by the 7 o’clock news. Between one or two full news packages, entire work days are critically utilized.
“Some days are easy. Other days you just want to pull your hair out!” said WSLS news reporter, Lindsey Ward.
Ward has been a loyal associate of the news industry for more than six years. She began her career at WWBT/NBC12 in Richmond as a tape editor where she advanced to the assignment desk. Later, Ward moved to Charlottesville to contribute to the Newsplex, a collaboration of CBS19, ABC16 and FOX27. Much like a “one-man-band,” she filled the role of many positions, such as a general assignment reporter, photographer, producer and news anchor. In 2009, Ward took her journalism experience to Roanoke where she now works at the Media General’s WSLS-TV/NBC10 news station.
WSLS Studios neighbors the Roanoke Times & Tribune, Fox 21/27, the Blue Ridge Journal, and WDBJ 7 in the heart of downtown Roanoke’s media landscape. Every day, viewers tune in to the latest news as far south as Yanceyville, N.C. and as far north as Harrisonburg, Va.
“I’ve grown up around Channel 10 my entire life,” senior Ryan Willet of Radford University said. “I mostly watch it when I’m at home in Roanoke, but it’s nice to know I can watch it at school, too.”
Willet has watched Ward on the weekend news a number of times. He described her performance as a reporter as “very effective.”
“She creates the impression that she is talking to the viewer, rather than the camera,” he said.
Since high school, Ward seemed to have the entire package cut out for her. She knew she wanted to be a news reporter, as she loved talking to people and being “in the know.” Having that first breath of information and the ability to convert that knowledge into newsworthy stories was a fulfilling sensation. However, she has also made some difficult sacrifices in the midst of all her dreams.
“I have no life,” Ward said. “Journalism is a huge time commitment.”
There are no holidays and there are no weekends. There is almost always a constant pressure and time constraint on employees to perform competently in journalism.
Ward was one of the few to immediately jump into the real world after receiving her Bachelor of Science from Virginia Commonwealth University. It was hard for her to keep up with the social aspect in college, especially since she had a responsibility to work an on-the-go lifestyle to investigate, profile and highlight key events every day. She said that the feeling of watching her friends still going out in graduate school and living the “good life” was almost disheartening. Even so, there were benefits to her hard work, and Ward has learned to become more appreciative of her career rather than resentful.
“I wouldn’t be half the reporter today if I had not ‘one-man-banded’ first,” Ward said.
Through pursuing her career early, she was able to master time management skills, acquire shooting and editing techniques, establish compatible partnerships with her photographers and perfect the overall layout of her stories. She takes pride in how well-informed she feels, and with each story she writes it becomes more evident as to how much improvement she has made as a writer. Ward also developed a general idea of her beat preferences. Even though crime may not be her “topic of choice,” she feels as though her interests are well-rounded. Today, her most desirable beats include storytelling and human-interest segments.
In the last year, Ward won her first media general award for best general news from an investigative report she had conducted on a man and his snake from her hometown. Sheldon Washington carried a boa constrictor around with him in town, sometimes even on his neck when he rode his bike. Out of public concern for safety, the town tried to put an end to his unusual ways by enforcing a law to make him carry his snake in a cage. In her report, Ward put two sides to the “snake man’s” story: Sheldon’s attachment to his snake and residents’ humanly reaction of fear. At the end of the day, her expense had paid off. Ward’s story was well-received as she was asked to do a follow-up story later, and eventually it aired on CNN and NBC.
Ward has been honored to participate in a number of events that not many other career professionals will have the opportunity to endure since taking off into journalism. One of her most memorable experiences was at the Greenbrier Casino grand opening in July. The event welcomed stars and celebrity endorsements from all over the country. Ward dressed up and went on the red carpet as a “celebrity” for the day to pick up her story.
During an average work week, Ward spends her time covering local stories and human-interest segments. On Friday nights, she follows up on high school football and on the weekends she fills in as a news anchor.
“Ideally, I’d like to be a full time anchor,” she said.
Journalism requires a great deal of time exposure when working to the top. Many broadcast journalists start out editing as producers behind the camera. Ward’s advice to young journalists is to first get a degree. Start taking on extra training and consider an early internship. Perfect strengths and weaknesses and be sure to get the full preparation not only in front of the camera, but behind the scenes.
“I can almost guarantee you that hanging out with the reporter will not get you the right, immediate experience. Hanging out with the photographer will teach you to learn how to shoot and basically fend for yourself in the real industry,” she said.
Ward continues to enjoy the unpredictable, yet exhilarating field. She has made it her responsibility to honestly deliver the news and give a voice to the community that she feels it is entitled to.