How can a station do more with less and still produce award-winning work? KUSA-TV in Denver was named NPPA station of the year in 2009–the 11th time it’s won the top prize for TV photojournalism. But that’s one of the few things that hasn’t changed in the KUSA newsroom lately.
In fact, KUSA no longer has a newsroom. Two years ago, it was renamed the “Information Center” in a Gannett-wide reorganization. And as chief photographer Eric Kehe tells News Photographer magazine, the photo staff now is somewhat smaller and and a lot busier.
Photojournalists now write scripts, write for the Web, produce their own material, generate more content and story ideas, run live trucks, fill in on the assignment desk, edit more, build slideshows, take still pictures, answer phones and make coffee.
Kehe tells me his own job is very different from the one he signed up for. “I sit in the middle of the Information Center right next to the Information Desk,” he wrote in an email. “I answer phones, help with logistics, deploy resources, operate live trucks, manage a lot more equipment and teach and critique photography to all our multimedia journalists.”
KUSA still has more photojournalists than many local stations–20 in all–plus five “backpack journalists” who shoot and report every day and two reporters who regularly shoot their own stories. In addition, Kehe says, about 15 newsroom employees–producers, writers, editors, managers and assignment editors–“can leave what they’re doing, grab camera gear and go out and shoot.”
The KUSA team produced an NPPA entry that won praise from the judges for “great reactions, great moments,” that was “solid all around.”
So what’s KUSA’s secret for doing excellent work in tough times? To hear Kehe tell it, it’s really all about attitude. They’ve been through unpaid furloughs, pay cuts and buyouts, but Kehe says the storytellers at KUSA still love what they do, still want to be there and still want to do good work. “Once you decide [that] then you find ways to overcome obstacles,” he says. As he puts it, you have to retrain your brain to solve problems instead of identifying them.