Q&A with Joshua Chapin ’09, Reporter/Fill-In Anchor at ABC11 Raleigh-Durham
Chapin discusses his career in broadcast journalism, shares insights on the industry, and offers advice to students looking to work in media.
The following interview is from the November newsletter of the alumni network DukeJournos.
As a reporter/fill-in anchor at ABC11 Eyewitness News Raleigh-Durham, is there ever a rhyme or reason to the material you are reporting on or is it always somewhat of a surprise?
Each news cycle, we strive to help our viewers make informed decisions about their daily lives and their community. Our main content pillars focus on a fine balance of stories on race and social justice in a time of health and economic distress, with hyper-local issues like traffic, crime, and weather. The surprise part of the job that can be fun and nerve-wracking is breaking news. Maybe it’s a car chase or a house fire or severe weather. The “reasoned” material can be a story I set up featuring a local business pivoting to survive during the pandemic. On other assignments, I know for weeks—as I did this election—that I’d be covering the campaign of Senate Republican Thom Tillis. Obviously, 2020 has thrown all of us in news a huge curveball, but it’s made us focus on content that’s more relevant and timely for our viewers. Every day, no doubt, is different.
What is your favorite story or project from the last 3-5 years?
Easy, the Astrodome. When I was at KHOU in Houston, I would drive by the abandoned sports stadium a few times a week. It got me thinking: What was it still doing there since I knew a sporting event hadn’t been there in 15 years? The last time it was used was for housing refugees of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. More digging led to a five-part series on a living history of the ‘Dome,’ the famous events that took place there and the controversy surrounding its future (which still hasn’t been resolved).
In the realm of television journalism, what do you think the industry does best in terms of delivering news and where do you think they can improve?
At its best, local television news provides simplification. We get you to the point of a story (who, what, where, when, why and how) in a moment’s time, which is relevant and reliable. Local news can always improve when it comes to being more balanced, clear-cut and concise and leveraging digital screens to drive viewership. The modern viewer has a short attention span and they’re not turning on TV in the usual way to consume news. As a result, we find ways to meet them whether on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or linear television or on our website.
You have had to work hard to reach your current position— proving yourself at multiple news broadcasting stations (KHOU-TV, NBCUniversal, News12 Brooklyn) along the way. Are there any career hurdles or setbacks from which you would be willing to share insights?
When I first started out at News 12, my boss told me I wasn’t ready to do television or at least be in front of the camera. I was furious and upset because I thought I was ready. Instead, she had me work part-time supporting the assignment desk where we’d go through newspapers and blogs to find stories, listen to police scanners, and figure out how a coverage plan would work for a given day. Once I understood how material was generated for our newscasts, I shadowed other reporters to understand how the story ideas were produced and aired. Eventually, I became a one-man band reporter—writing, shooting and producing stories. It was the best thing to ever happen to me. It forced me to understand the nuts and bolts of the business and allowed me to be a better team player.
The takeaway is that you have to be ready for critical feedback and to not get too down when someone tells you ‘No.’ Use the ‘no’ for motivation and let it energize you to achieve more.