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December 21, 2008

KCCI-TV’s gratuitous features
Posted by Teresa at 03:50 PM * 14 comments

KCCI-TV is a local television station operating out of Des Moines, Iowa. I don’t know what they’re like if you live in the area, but I love the feature stories they archive on YouTube. They have good writing and camera work, tight editing, and a dry sense of humor when they know they’re covering a journalistic cliche. The segment titles and descriptions started out as theirs, and still mostly are.

Pigs on the Interstate: Dozens of pigs are scattered over I-35, outside of Des Moines after a semi carrying them is involved in a accident. Watch the editing on this one.

Snake Slithers Into Reporter’s Pants On Live TV: KCCI-TV Meteorologist Kurtis Gertz got quite a surprise during a live broadcast from the Iowa State Fair on Thursday when a snake slithered up his pants. This is KCCI’s most-viewed YouTube video, and a minor internet classic.

Cat Stuck On A Power Pole: Cat stuck on power pole for two days. Power company rescues it. Funny. This and the next segment are bog-standard local feature stories. They just cover them really well.

Hawkeye Fan Loses Bet, Wears Skirt: A Hawkeye fan must make good on his bet with a Cyclone fan.

$26,000 mattress: A local mattress outlet received a very expensive mattress set in with its usual shipment. I think what really makes this segment is the understated angelic choir singing in the background while they describe the mattress.

Mouse Stops Jet Airliner!: A small but mighty mouse kept a Delta flight from taking off from a Des Moines airport for hours.

Raw Tape: Incredible Chemical Fire: A chemical plant explodes and burns in Des Moines.

Tiny Guns Made From Corn Husks: A Central Iowa man makes toy guns from corn husks.

Massive Pumpkin Will Compete In Weigh-Off: A Des Moines man hopes to break an Iowa record, or even a world record, with his huge pumpkin.

Raw Storm Chaser Tornado Video: Iowa storm chaser captures this video of a funnel that hit Parkersburg Iowa.

More Raw Tornado Video - Parkersburg: Here is more video from Iowa storm chasers as they tracked the tornado that hit Parkersburg.

Echo Company’s Sendoff: Fort Des Moines-based Marines leave for a second tour in Iraq.

Buzzard Won’t Buzz Off: A turkey vulture who was nursed back to health won’t leave its caregiver’s home. Another great piece of editing.

KCCI Snowbusters: A promo featuring KCCI’s Snowbusters winter weather program.

Family Sends Headlights To Iraq: An Iowa family sends high-powered headlights to their son in Iraq.

Tancredo Gets Into Shouting Match With Gay Activst: A same-sex marriage supporter challenges Republican presidential candidate Tom Tancredo during his news conference denouncing a judge’s ruling saying gay marriage is OK in Iowa. They play fair with their reporting, but I don’t think they like Tom Tancredo.

Bride in Wedding Dress Rolls In Mud: A bride wore her wedding dress to the Iowa State Fair to eat corn dogs and roll in the mud with pigs. KCCI was there.

National Murrow Award Winner: Lake Robbins Ballroom: KCCI’s Steve Karlin and photographer Dan Bolsem won a national Murrow award for feature reporting for this story about a weekly dance night at the Lake Robbins Ballroom.

Award-Winning Video Montage: An award-winning video montage from the National Press Photographers’ Association (NPPA) station of the year: KCCI.

Run Over By A Tornado (Cow Shaken Up but OK): Roger Hill and crew put a camera in the path of a tornado and a cow.

They’ve put up a couple of hundred more, some of them going back years, since I collected this lot, so have a look.

My first impulse was to wrap this up by saying it’s all very American, but I’m still ticked off at the Republicans for their “people from non-urban areas are the real Americans” riff, and besides, Iowa was the first state to go for Obama. I think the truth is that it’s all very human.

Comments on KCCI-TV's gratuitous features:
#1 ::: J MacQueen ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2008, 05:01 PM:

Thank you, Theresa. I just wish I could watch them all now. I did watch the cat, which led on to me watching one of the raw videos, about a child receiving a welcome surprise on seeing his father, who had been serving in the Middle East, a surprise that made the boy cry. Nonetheless, that footage was powerful enough to prompt me to feel so pleased for the kid and his family for the safe return of a loved one, and not feel like I was being manipulated for cynical purposes. Maybe it's because the camera wasn't in the kid's face all the time, because the camera pulled back to show that it was taking place in a classroom with the boy's classmates, one or two of whom seemed near tears too. I don't know, really, but that's how it felt.

At this time of year, when Australian television has moved out of the ratings period for the summer and is inclined to show the dodgier examples of US television production, this is a welcome antidote.

#2 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2008, 06:19 PM:

> My first impulse was to wrap this up by saying it’s all very American, [.. snip ...] I think the truth is that it’s all very human.

Bless you. One of my pet peevlets (I feed and groom it regularly, and keep it in a special cage) is reading "it could only happen in America" for quite normal human behaviour.

Even Barack Obama, who I'm still giddily excited about, did it in a speech where he talked about his multiracial background and then tacked an "only in America" onto the end of it. But I'm still glad he was elected.

But enough pre-Christmas grumpiness. Thanks for the vids - I'll watch them at home when I'm not thinking about work stuff (very hard to do just before Christmas!).

And a small Christmas greeting to anyone astronomically inclined: I made Christmas cards this year from the recent conjunction of Jupiter, Venus and the moon, which seemed to be sending an auspicious ascii art message to all:

#3 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2008, 06:58 PM:

These are great! I 'specially love that accent!

#4 ::: Nathaniel Payne ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2008, 08:39 PM:

Wow - how did you happen to come across our local station's YouTube archives? We love KCCI - it's our favorite news cast. And yes, it's just as much fun to watch live as it is to watch the stories they've posted online. They have a great team, both in front and behind the cameras. It's great to see their hard work get some recognition beyond our meager Iowa borders.

And Michael - what are you talking about "accent"? We don't have any accents in Iowa - it's the rest of the country that talks funny. ;)

#5 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2008, 08:45 PM:

I am from the area, and I can certainly attest to the truth of what one interviewee said: "There's not much to really do at the Des Moines airport."

#6 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2008, 08:48 PM:

The dude with the accent in the "pigs on the interstate" clip was from Missouri.

#7 ::: Ron Sullivan ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2008, 11:01 PM:

I believe I hurt myself laughing at the snake-in-the-pants episode.

#8 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2008, 11:29 PM:

Nathaniel: I forget what I was looking at, but I saw "Pigs on the Interstate" in the related videos list and got sucked in.

Those guys don't write and edit like they're putting out a newspaper illustrated with video clips. If you're looking at nighttime footage of a smashed-up semi lit by emergency lights, you don't have to start with a voiceover saying that last night on the interstate there was an MVA involving a semi. One of the standard answers to "Where does the story start?" is "When something irrevocable happens," and that's where they begin, with an on-scene witness saying "That truck jacknifed..."

The multiple descriptions of the accident that follow are like shifting camera angles showing how it developed, and audio moves from one voice to another at the tempo of normal speech. We don't see the aerial shot of the accident scene until we have enough background information to make sense of it, so it acts as a summary rather than a puzzle. Only when the setup is fully established do we get the voice of one of the eyewitnesses saying, "And then I realized what was goin' on, and then I started seein' pigs." Simultaneously, so do we: confused but ambulatory pigs in the foreground, and ominously motionless ones behind them.

The story cycles around through the pigs, then back to the accident, ending with the information that the accident could easily have been a lot worse than it was. The whole thing takes less than a hundred seconds, is entirely told in pictures and eyewitness accounts, and conveys a great deal of information. It's like the difference between a Ken Burns documentary and The History Channel -- Ken Burns gets in three or four times as much information per minute, and the information is more complex, more direct, and more coherent.

The segment about the buzzard is another beaut. The story's summed up in Beth Brown's opening statement: "We want everybody to be happy. We would like this bird to go ... be a vulture." From about 0:45 to 1:24 you get contrapuntal alternating sentences from the reporter, swiftly filling in necessary infobits, and Beth Brown, who gives the pithy color commentary. It's fast, painless, compressed, and memorable, and what more could you ask of language, unless it's that it have internal rhyme? I also appreciate the way they wait until you've been sympathetically watching this bird for a minute and a half before they explain why no one wants to just grab him and take him elsewhere.

I love KCCI's content, but their style gives me the same kind of pleasure I get from the opening minutes of Serenity, or John McPhee's description of geological processes in terms of a fire in a carpet warehouse that eats through the wall into the ice cream factory next door, or the first chapter of the Gospel of John in the KJV where the narrative and the language simultaneously begin in the abstract sublime, and, descending together, become incarnate in the everyday life and speech of this world.

Exposition geek, me.

#9 ::: R.M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 09:10 AM:

#8, Teresa -

Thank you for unpacking what was so wonderful about those segments*. I don't normally pay attention to video editing, and in this situation doing it well includes an element of being unobtrusive with it. Even having it called to my attention as noteworthy, all I could see at first was that it wasn't cringeworthy. I'll watch them again tonight with all this in mind.

*Besides the actual content. I did get amusement and warmth for humanity from watching them, no problem.

#10 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 10:37 AM:

Teresa, I'm not sure that "gratuitous" is the exact word you want. Sounds like you enjoy these freebies, as I would.

#11 ::: Lisa Padol ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 10:56 AM:

I drank Iowa. Well, I drank the cup labeled Iowa at the election party Josh and I went to. The host made a brownie map of the USA, complete with state capitols marked. It has Alaska and Hawaii, but not the non-state bits. He had fifty cups of varying sizes filled with booze in proportion to the number of electoral votes the states had, and a complicated rotation system for who got to drink which cup. When a state was called, the person whose number it was got the cup. Fortunately, I got Iowa and Maryland, as I am on the small side myself.

#12 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 11:34 AM:

Theophylact @ 10: She left a tip (gratuity) in their jar after watching each video.

#13 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 05:00 PM:

As a gift, given freely – it's a lovely word, tho' it hops a bit staccato, & doesn't count for damages claims.

#14 ::: David Harmon sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2011, 07:25 AM:

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