Nathan Heffel's Public Media Profile

Jul 6, 2015

Credit CPR

People involved in public media share how they navigate the news. This month we heard from Nathan Heffel, reporter/host at Colorado Public Radio.

Three daily must-reads:
I read the New York Times and the Denver Post daily. I also often check the urban infrastructure blog Denver Infill. It’s a great blog about the explosive amount of growth happening in Denver’s inner city. It comes in really handy since I’ve kind of turned my attention to covering public infrastructure, transportation and infill when I’m not being a GA reporter at CPR. 

Three accounts you'd pay to follow on Twitter:
Since I cover transportation pretty regularly, I follow the #avgeek hastag, and within that there are a few people I follow regularly: @AirlineGeeks, @AirlineReporter, and @AirlineFlyer. Their mixture of serious news and funny/true airline related musings is great. It’s interesting to note, I’m nearly obsessed with all things flying, but I’m still terrified when I get on a plane!

Three guilty pleasures online:
I’m a fan of YouTube and the many emerging YouTube celebrities. I find the idea that a kid in his basement with a camera and some ingenuity can have millions of followers online amazing. These are the three that I find not just entertaining but also very creative: MarkE Miller, JacksGap, Bertie Gilbert Films. I rarely watch live television anymore, and after a hard day at work, I find myself going down the YouTube rabbit hole discovering new talent and amazing videos. These three are consistently making great content.

First thing you check in the morning:
E-mail, Twitter, The New York Times followed closely by the Denver Post.

My phone is always charging right next to my bed and at my fingertips in the morning. Since I’m a GA reporter for CPR, even before coffee and a shower, it’s a good 30 minutes reading the morning headlines and twitter feeds so I’m ready to pitch stories for newscasts.

Last thing you check at night: 
Email, Twitter.

Go-to local news source:
I’m still a big fan of the Denver Post as a first source. I really enjoy reading my fellow transportation wonks including Monte Whaley and Laura Keeney of the Denver Post and Cathy Proctor of the Denver Business Journal. There are a lot of transportation stories in Colorado to cover with the expansion of DIA, the building out of our light-rail and commuter-rail system, and the issues surrounding traffic congestion and tolling/public private partnerships and these three consistently cover those stories well.

Your most used mobile reporting tool or app:
Voice Memos on the iPhone. This is the most used tool I use on the fly as a backup audio gather. It’s really intuitive, easy to use and when my Marantz is on the fritz, or if I need to gather quick audio. It comes pre-installed on every iPhone. We use it quite a bit at CPR when we talk to guests via phone. It’s easy enough for them to record their answers during our interview then send us the audio so we give the listeners much better audio quality than typical phone tape. I’m also just discovering the Periscope app. It allows you to broadcast live from anywhere without the need for WiFi. I plan on using it on an upcoming tour of Denver International Airport, taking my followers with me on the reporting trip. The possibilities of this are nearly endless during breaking news (wildfires, floods, etc.), but also behind the scenes tours etc. I’m really excited to see how it works out.

Words of wisdom for your fellow shows/stations as they go forward with their digital efforts:
Simply pasting your feature audio script into a web post unchanged or slightly changed is not enough. Of course, people hear stories different than reading them. It may take an extra step, but write your on-line copy first, flesh out the story a bit, THEN write your radio script. It’s amazing how well things come together if you try this out. Plus you’ll have a good web based feature to boot. I’ve always been a radio journalist first, and learning how to adapt my writing to the web took a while. However I’m very appreciative of KUNC’s Digital Manager Jim Hill for forcing me to take a leap and learn the ins and outs of writing for the web. He’s my go-to guy for all things digital.

Also, don’t be afraid to think multimedia in the field. Take this story for example, I was taking photos, as well as recording video, while holding my field microphone gathering audio. I ended up with a solid web post, a well watched YouTube video, and an on-air wrap. It doesn't take much with all the technology on our smart phones to become a true backpack journalist.