Poor pay, stress overload and constant uncertainties are squeezing reporters and MMJs — not to mention badly needed producers — out of TV news. Here’s what station and group leaders need to hear if they want us to stay.
Experienced multimedia journalists and employment experts urged MMJs to compel their bosses to be more proactive about field safety in a second virtual town hall for MMJs sponsored by the Society of Professional Journalists last Saturday. MMJs have more newsroom clout than they think, experts said.
As solo acts in the field, multimedia journalists are very particular about the kit they carry. From cameras to lights and audio, connectivity tools to editing software and apps, experience has taught them that flexibility and portability are among their gear’s most important qualities. Above: Sony’s remote production package, which includes the PXW-Z280 4K handheld camera, allows MMJs to remotely control, capture and transfer high-quality content in real time from any location.
By now you have probably seen the video of Tori Yorgey, a TV reporter for NBC affiliate WSAZ, getting hit by a car while she was reporting live on a water break in Dunbar, W.Va. The scene lasts only a few minutes, where we can see the reporter and her camera mounted on a tripod get run over by a pickup truck. Yorgey immediately exclaims “I’m okay” and continues her stand up as she catches her breath. This event has sparked a lot of debate within the journalism community, with many journalists being outraged the reporter was sent alone to do a live shot at nighttime, arguing that her news station totally disregarded her safety. Progressively, more than the safety of journalists while on the job, professionals started questioning the position of MMJs, or multimedia journalists, who are expected to be a “one-person team.”
Hank Price: Multimedia journalism was born out of financial considerations, and now that MMJs are widespread, TV news owners and management have an obligation to better ensure their safety. It’s time for news directors to step up at the station level.
A virtual town hall discussion on Saturday hosted by the Society of Professional Journalists found a wide swath of multimedia journalists calling for more safety training and open lines of communication with newsroom leaders over well-being concerns following an MMJ being hit on-air by a car.
What’s it like to be a multimedia journalist? What does an “MMJ” even do? Follow along with one day in the life of LaSalle Blanks of WTNH in New Haven, Conn., to find out.
Attentiveness, Trustworthiness, Experience, Work-Life Balance and Approachability, according to the female multimedia journalists who frequent the Facebook page MMJane.
Ask a few TV reporters what it’s like working as an MMJ and you might get very different stories. Reporter Adam Bagni couldn’t be happier that he no longer has to work alone.
If you’re working as an MMJ in your first job and think you won’t do it in your second, think again, says Heidi Wigdahl. She’s been in the business seven years, starting in market 153 at KTTZ Rochester, Minn., and she’s still shooting her own stories in her third job at KAREMinneapolis.
Joe Little is an MMJ by choice and loves working alone. He shoots, edits, and does his own live shots from the field. He even produces his own graphics. “There is nothing a traditional crew can cover that I can’t cover,” he says. Why does he enjoy working by himself so much? “I like to be in control of every aspect of what I do.”