NewsNews Literacy Project


News Literacy: A day behind the scenes at ABC Action News

Behind the scenes of the editorial process
Posted at 6:56 AM, Jan 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-28 17:49:21-05

TAMPA, Fla. — At WFTS-TV, ABC Action News, covering our community and reporting the facts without bias is our most important mission.

The final product viewers watch on their televisions, online and our ABCActionNews+ streaming app is a labor of love.

Each day begins at 9 a.m., where everyone on the team meets to discuss the day's news, pitch stories and make sure the content we provide is essential to the community we represent.

In journalism school, you learn that interest, impact and immediacy are great metrics to start the process. And, like any good journalist, asking who, what, when where and why. These are the tenants of journalism, seeking the truth and reporting the facts.

"We are the last voice delivering that news to you all at home," Lauren St. Germain, the 3 p.m. and ABCActionNews+ streaming anchor, said. "You always want to make sure every story has all the sides, and all the sides are given equally because you have to think of the person who might have a different opinion on that story. And, that's so important right now, because then you know, the political climate is just a mess. The world is almost split into two. So you don't want to make anyone say, 'I'm not going to watch that channel. Because they only give one side,' you have to give both sides equally."

Every news tip, script and story idea goes through rigorous fact-checking.

"Almost anybody that does a tip for you has some sort of motivation for the tip you know they are angry, they are upset or they have been done wrong and to make sure the information they are giving you can be backed up," Melanie Payne, Manager of Investigations and Enterprise Content said.

Payne joined ABC Action News a year ago after working in newspapers as a columnist and investigative reporter. Her newspaper background brings a different set of skills, advanced writing and storytelling that compliments broadcast journalism. And, one thing that remains constant about every story, no matter what the medium, is getting it right. And the final product is what motivates us all.

"I love the feeling of hey we found this out, and it's going to stop, or we found this out, and it's going to change, and I think that's kind of what journalism is about for me at least to make a difference," Payne said.

When phone calls come into the newsroom, our assignment desk is usually the first to write down the information and pass it along. And, when there is breaking news, they are also the first step in a lengthy vetting process.

"Like I always say, you know, if the sky is blue I'm still going to go outside and check it — check to tell you. Somebody says, 'hey, the sky is blue outside,' I'm gonna go outside and double-check," Assignment Editor, Amanda Boettcher said. "Cause you just never know if what that person is telling you is the truth.”

Trust but verify are words to live by. And, no matter what your gut tells you, even if you think you are 99.9% sure of something, it is not enough. There is no room for error and no room to let the .01% ruin your credibility or the trust a viewer depends on.

"You know, just getting those facts right. And being the one that the viewer can depend on to get those facts," Samantha Gottlieb said. "I was brought up to watch the news; this is our main source of getting information in our community. And, why I got into the business was to make a difference. And by someone watching a part of my newscast and then helping them either if it's for tonight or tomorrow, then I know I'd done my job."