Column: Students visit NBC4

DWC students before their tour of NBC4

Another deadline day was not met, second week running. It seemed that I would never make the 8 a.m. publication time for the final school-year issue of Sumus Leones, a high school newspaper that I founded in February.

Procrastination, complaining and lack of time had threatened to derail the end of year one. It did.

A fifth issue of Sumus Leones never came out by the end of the school year. I learned about the difficulties of hitting deadlines the hard way.

Given my experience in the spring, I was impressed with the ability of the reporters, anchors and producers at NBC4 in Washington to constantly hit deadlines and handle their workload.   If you thought a high school newspaper deadline was stressful, get a load of this.

On a visit to the NBC4 studio in Northwest Washington, students at American University’s Discover the World of Communication program saw the inner-workings of a broadcast station. Six minutes before going live at 11 a.m., the local news anchor was fumbling for her lipstick and makeup, the control room staff was debating trimming a video clip and the director was busy punching away at buttons.

Not only was deadline day about scripts and news, it was also about the news anchor combing her hair in precision timing. She finished her grooming two seconds before going live. Someone even found a second to say “have a good show” to the anchor before she began the newscast.

And you thought a 400-word article in two weeks was hard.

Everything from the automatic studio cameras to the newsroom staff tweeting last-minute updates was based on accuracy and timing. Complete concentration is required by everyone.

This is a particularly difficult task for journalists in the chaotic NBC4 newsroom. The sound of beeps and buzzers and the click-clack of typing, along with the rush of reporters around the room makes focusing a challenge. Some opted to wear headphones to block out their surroundings.

24 hours. Seven days a week. And the morning news staff came in at 10 p.m. and worked through the night.

For any high school journalist wishing to appreciate the difficulty of hitting a deadline, a visit to a local news affiliate is instructive.

You’ll walk away with a new perspective.