Behind the Scenes of Naperville News 17

Every Friday we bring viewers a new episode of the city’s only television news show, Naperville News 17.

We are proud to announce that on Friday, October 26th we will be celebrating our 300th episode!

Although Naperville News 17 is a weekly show, news happens 24 hours a day 7 days a week. All weekend, reporters are out covering events happening throughout the city and get added into the next week’s show.

On Monday morning the entire news team gets together for a meeting, discussing story ideas to add to the mix of weekend events.

“I might have an idea for the story that I’ve assigned you but they might have something completely different, said Jen Hannon, Anchor/Producer, Naperville News 17. “So it’s kind of how can we come to common ground and really get the story that both of us want to tell and have in the new show.”

“I like the Monday morning meetings,” said Liz Spencer, Executive Director, NCTV17. “I think when they go well they really set the week well, and then when they go bad, then we’re struggling.”

On an average week we cover about 15 stories, but this week we had 25 following the Monday meeting, making it a bigger week than usual.

The producer makes the decision about which stories can fit in the 30-minute newscast or which will go straight to the web, and also lays out the order of the show.

“I have to decide what ones are going to go well together, what ones need to be at the top of the show versus the bottom of the show, how over am I or how under am I that I need to go create more news,” said Hannon

Once they know their final assignments, reporters hit the ground running. This week, Kevin Machak took that literally.

“I did a great story on a marathon pacer, a local woman who is joining the Chicago Marathon,” said Machak. “She’ll be holding a sign letting people know the pace. She’s running at a 10-1/2 minute mile pace. So an important job and I was able to join her for a jog. That’s part of the exciting part of news. You really get to be invested in the story and take part in the story sometimes. I was out there with a camera over my shoulder, running you know after them, getting all the shots that I need, doing kind of whatever it takes, even drove around in a car with my hand and camera out the window, getting the shots that I needed.”

Reporters work hard everyday to uncover some of the best stories in Naperville. And for each of us, NCTV17 was the first stop after graduating college.

“Each one brings in a different point of view and a unique set of circumstances, but they all come in with a common goal and that’s the neat thing,” said Spencer. “They want to come in and they want to be a reporter. They want to have that experience of learning how to tell a story because that’s really what we do differently here. We tell stories and we send them out and we train them and we spend a lot of time with them.”

All reporters are expected to become a mini expert on their topic.

“They understand that even though they may not be a mom or a dad or have a terrible a disease they can empathize,” said Spencer. “We’re really stretching that empathy muscle so that we can get that person, that reporter, to understand and walk in the shoes of that person. That’s really important.”

Our crew is made up of reporters, camera operators, interns, graphics designers and sports reporters. Every element has to come together to create the final project.

Tuesdays and Wednesdays are heavy shooting days, with multiple reporters out covering events and getting interviews. Shooters are assigned to reporters as often as possible, but sometimes they have to one-man band.

After taping, the project is just getting started. Everyone writes their own scripts, which go through multiple drafts before reaching Kim Pirc.

“Kim’s role is another set of eyes because we get so involved, “ said Spencer. “Sometimes we hook on to something that you know is just – it’s a great part of the story but it’s not the main emphasis. Sometimes you know we got to shake that loose and that’s what Kim’s job is.”

There are different types of stories in the show, from smaller VOs, or voiceovers, when the viewer hears the anchor but doesn’t see them, to VOSOTs which is a voiceover with a sound byte, to a package, a well told story that interweaves video with reporter tracks and soundbytes. .

Every week we cover a variety of stories that this community cares about like city council meetings, school issues, events, national topics and personal stories.

“From the great stories of inspiration to the stories of you know sadness and loss and grief; things that really affect people and things that I think our viewers can connect with because that’s what makes a great story, is that emotion that goes into a story,” said Machak.

Each story also has to have an over the shoulder graphic. Tim Bachleda, also our web master, spends a few hours a week blending pictures together to match the story.

Thursdays are one of the biggest days in the office. Reporters and techs often scramble to meet the Thursday evening deadline.

It’s also taping day, so after reading through the script Hannon gets ready to go under the lights which Machak sets up every week before sitting in on the taping.

“We do use a virtual set, so it actually might look that I’m standing there in the place but it’s really just a blue screen,” said Hannon. “I read off a teleprompter and sometimes I do mess up and we have to start over and read things again.”

After taping, Machak puts on his editing hat, and sets up for the night in the editing room. On average he wraps up around one in the morning after making the show look as perfect as possible.

“Editing is sort of that last step,” said Machak. “It’s sort of the last line of defense if you will. I’ll spend time color correcting. I’ll spend time you know carefully placing each shot deliberately with a purpose you know to help craft that story. It really takes a lot of hours and a lot of care. It’s basically our child that we all kind of raised together throughout the week and then I’m sort of the last caregiver. It requires a lot of attention to detail.”

Fridays are our last chance to catch any errors. We watch the show together making sure the news is as current as possible. Then at 6pm, the show goes up and Naperville residents can count on a new episode of Naperville News 17 that connects the people, places and happenings of their town.

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