By Abbie Petersen
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Being a reporter has been a lifelong dream for Haley Herzog, 22-year-old Omaha native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate.
Her passion has its origins in her 1999 abduction by a stranger. Herzog, then a 6-year-old girl, was kidnapped from a Council Bluffs, Iowa, park and released later that day. She says incorrect information was released by the media.
So, Herzog learned at a young age the importance of verifying facts. Herzog wanted to be a reporter so that she could report the truth. Before graduating from UNL with a degree in journalism and political science, Herzog had two internships and was involved in the National Broadcasting Society.
Although her kidnapping happened 16 years ago, her motivation to report persists today.
In her job at WLNS-TV in Lansing, Michigan, Herzog reports and produces. As a reporter, she pitches stories in morning meetings, gathers contacts and sets up and conducts interviews.
“I make sure I shoot b-roll and then come back to the station and pick out the sound bites I want to use, write my script, get it approved, voice my track and then put my track and sound bites together and edit corresponding b-roll over it to bring it all together,” Herzog said in a phone interview.
Herzog said she never knows what to expect day-to-day. She said she is never bored with her job and is always on her feet, meeting interesting people.
Although Herzog has been working in Michigan for several years, she hasn’t worked on a major news story.
“Since I have been here it has been a lot of hard news or really fluff stuff,” Herzog said.
She enjoyed a ride along she did with the Greater Lansing Food Bank delivery truck - an assignment that started at 7 a.m. Herzog carried in boxes and met the volunteers who help at the food bank.
Herzog writes and edits her own scripts and then gives them to a news director to critique. Herzog said editing her writing is important, but so is editing her shots.
She advised other broadcast reporters to re-read scripts many times and in different voices, check shots to make sure they are clear and not overexposed or underexposed.
When it comes to making tough news decisions, Herzog said sometimes it’s just about asking.
“I always ask before shooting someone, and with stories I feel iffy on, I ask my news director," she said.
Another thorny issue is social media, she said.
Herzog said social media and the race to be first have hurt journalism's credibility.
"Everything happens so fast so we have to do our best to get it out to the public, while maintaining our credibility with keeping the facts straight," she said.
One of the biggest struggles Herzog faces is competition in the TV news industry. She said that finding a first job is a struggle, the salary is low and newcomers often start out on less desirable shifts or do jobs others might not want to do.
She was hired part time as a part-time producer. She now produces the weekend morning show, which means she wakes up at 11 p.m., gets to work at 12:30 a.m. and goes home at 9:30 a.m.
“Producing has made me a much better writer," she said. "I love the small morning weekend team I work with, and I have had a lot of opportunities to report for the show as well.”
In the future, Herzog hopes to be reporting full time and she said she would love to anchor in a community that she volunteers in and has connections.
Herzog said she didn’t let the 1999 kidnapping define her. If anything, it increased her drive to do the thing she loves: reporting.
And, Herzog said she has some advice for journalism students.
“Work hard now, get internships, talk to people, stay in touch with contacts, and don’t give up," she said. "It is a hard industry to break into and don’t let that keep you down. Some days and even weeks are really hard and you feel like giving up or that it is all just too much, but if you really love it you will make it through."
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