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In the Newsroom

October 8, 2008
Tech hassles “captured” in India


Ara Ayer transfers files on-the-go in Bhopal, India. Photo: Mary Lockhart

Producer Ara Ayer reports from India with producer Mary Lockhart. Ara runs through what it’s like to be a high-tech, multitasking, multimedia journalist on the go.

A Worldfocus shooter-producer wears many hats in the field. I have to wear more than most since I’m bald –- yet that’s not the topic of this blog. I’d like to digress about workflow.

Gone are the days when an electronic journalist could spend a day reporting and shooting then hit the local watering hole for refreshment. Today’s multimedia journalist has to report, do lighting, sound, operate the camera and archive digital video clips in the field. It’s the new reality of media production: five jobs, one salary.

Not to boast, but I’m an analog guy. I shoot photographs on 35-mm film, listen to jazz through a McIntosh amp, and used to enjoy shooting video on tape. That is, until I started with Worldfocus and learned to joys and hardships of working in an all-digital news gathering format.

My trial by fire came on assignment in India and Singapore. Fellow producer Mary Lockhart and I ambitiously took on the task of producing seven stories in three weeks.

Neither of us were experts using the high-definition Panasonic P2 camera. Unlike cameras of old, a P2 doesn’t require tape. The P2 camera “captures” digital video on reusable — but limited — memory cards.

Mary and I had to often break our shoot schedule to download and erase cards. Fading computer batteries often sent us scrambling to find power to transfer clip files from the camera to portable hard drives. We started taking over wait stations in restaurants, hijacking offices for electrical plugs and, if need be, using the car’s cigarette lighter for power.

If the assignment gods were kind, this process would end at sundown. Yet after the shoot day was done, digital clip files on the portable drive and the remaining P2 cards all had to be backed up to two archival hard drives in real time.

So if I shot four hours of video during the day, I spend four hours archiving at night. Mary and I often took turns sharing the archival duties –- assuring at least one of us got more than fitful sleep before the next day’s assignment.

The great boon of digital technology is access to the media. I can screen and edit my work virtually anywhere on my laptop. I know it’s nothing revolutionary to the YouTube generation, but the ease of scrutinizing material before we decamp for the next assignment or home truly helps make me and my colleagues better storytellers and journalists. Plus, with all the late nights transferring files, our clips are archived and ready to edit when we touch down in New York.

– Ara Ayer

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Sir, I hope you’ll get a chance to report from the Philippines. International news media/press don’t report much about the Filipino people and Philippine in general.

Philippines lack fiar media/press attention.

I hope World Focus will focus more on the Philippines in the coming days and months.

Thank you, M. Matthews


Dear Ara,

May be its a bit of a struggle for some video journalists but I am passionate about it.

Doing everything single handedly is not an easy task but then you don’t have to ask camera person to take a shot what you want.There are positives and negatives as well.

I enjoyed learning video journalism during my journalism degree and love it.

India is one of the great country and culture.Hope you enjoying your stay.

University of technology Sydney


Dear Mr. Ara Ayer,

What an intersting story about your adventure and misadventure in India in so far as learning how to work and use the digital stuffs that is needed to produce your news reports from India.

Sir, it seem to me that most world news organization and media outlets are ignoring what’s happening in the Philippines.

Yes, indeed, Philippine is very seldom in the news around the globe. could you urge the executive producers on World Focus to focus on Philippines for a change? I hope so.

Best wishes to you and Ms. Mary Lockhart! I do remain

Very truly,

Michael Matthews, Channel 13 WNET NYC


Hi Ara,I am happy that you could visit a country which is so different than any other.Your experiences,good or bad in India will attract you again,to go and bring some more news,Thanks to PBS. Mohini.


I’m glad that global news coverage is seen as important to PBS; it’s important to me too. Keep it up and I’ll keep watching.


Interesting to hear what’s going on behind the scenes.


Travel in India is unlike anywhere else on the planet, the distances are huge, booking tickets can be tricky and comfort is often at a premium. Nolan Changing

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