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News Literacy Project: Behind the scenes at ABC 10News

How an idea becomes a story
Posted at 12:11 PM, Jan 24, 2023

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - This week, ABC 10News and our parent company, EW Scripps, are taking part in "National News Literacy" week.

We've partnered with the News Literacy Project, a group that works to ensure people don't just watch the news, but understand it. And also that they understand how to tell if the news you're seeing is fair, accurate, and unbiased.

To help, ABC 10News is taking viewers behind-the-scenes to show our editorial process and how we make sure everything that hits the air is accurate.

There are several ways a story becomes a "story." But typically, it starts at 9:30 a.m. That's where the ABC 10News team of reporters, anchors, producers, managers, and more gather to go over story ideas for the day.

"It's the most difficult part of the day," says ABC 10News News Director Bobbi Gearhart. "But it's the most fun part of the day, and it's the most important part of the day."

Even before this meeting, most of the people involved have been at work for hours, digging through news releases, social media, viewer tips, and more. That's where they find story ideas, which they "pitch" in the meeting.

"A lot of minds get together," says Gearhart. "A lot of people talk it through. They talk about the pros of the story, the cons of the story, and the why of the story."

The why may be the most important part.

Gearhart says she's always looking for stories that have a broad impact on the community and balance the diversity of San Diego.

After all of the story pitches, and a review of the scheduled events for the day, reporters get their assignments. Some of the assignments come from pitched stories.

Others come directly from the assignment desk, which keeps track of breaking news, news conferences, meetings, and more.

Reporters then spend most of their days making phone calls, gathering interviews, researching their assigned topic, and shooting b-roll to help tell the story in a visual way. They also do follow up work to make sure the information they've been given is accurate.

For ABC 10News Reporter Perla Shaheen, doing this every day is a passion, not just a way to earn a living.

"Journalism enables me, not only to use my creativity every single day, but to meet people, to empathize with them, and to put myself in their shoes, while writing their story," she says.

Once all of the information, interviews, and footage is in hand, reporters are responsible for writing their stories. To make sure it fits within a given time slot (most stories get anywhere from one to two minutes of broadcast time), the reporters focus on the most interesting and important aspects of the story.

After it's written, newsroom managers go over the scripts several times, relying on decades of experience to make sure everything lives up to the highest journalistic standards.

"Once the story is written and coming together, you have a few eyes read it," says Gearhart. "They make sure it's accurate, make sure it's factual and just look for any red flags that the person writing it didn't see. More eyes are always better than one."

In some cases, that means holding a story for a few days, or more, to ensure every fact is true, and every side of sometimes controversial issues has a chance to make their voice heard.

That helps build credibility, which Gearhart says is vital to any news organization.

"It's the most important," she stresses. "It's our credibility and that is worth your weight in gold."

But journalists are human, and they can make mistakes.

When that happens, ABC 10News policy requires an on-air correction. Gearhart says the newsroom also puts systems in place to make sure the same mistake never happens twice.

That desire to get it right, and to make sure all the news presented on-air is done so in a fair, accurate, and unbiased way is what separates professional newsrooms from social media posts or propaganda-like youtube channels.