Behind the Doc

Behind the Doc

Posted June 20, 2011 5:00 p.m. EDT

It’s unusual for a local television station to have a documentary unit focused exclusively on the production of in-depth programs on issues and topics important to its viewers. The fact that WRAL-TV has a documentary unit is a reflection of Capitol Broadcasting Company’s commitment to its community and its state.

There is no shortage of documentary topics to choose from. The ideas come from WRAL staff members, management, our viewers and me. Every couple of months I meet with our station manager and general manager to choose the next two or three topics we’ll produce and the order in which we’ll produce them. I begin researching and developing a concept for how the next topic will be presented. There is overlap in our production process. When our documentary photographer and editor Jay Jennings is editing a project, I’m researching and scheduling shoots for the next. Sometimes we work on multiple projects simultaneously. Our topics are mostly issue-oriented, tackling topics related to education, the economy, the environment, the criminal justice system, politics, the military and other areas. We occasionally do more feature-oriented topics like the documentaries we produced on the Blue Ridge Parkway and North Carolina’s Christmas tree industry. We typically produce about half a dozen half hour documentaries a year.

Our goal with our documentary production is to be accurate and fair and balance our programs with a variety of viewpoints. We want our documentaries to not only inform our audience, but also to be thought provoking and even inspirational. We hope that sometimes they even serve as a call to action for people to be a force for positive change. That’s what broadcast journalism is all about.

About this Blog:

Documentary producer and writer Clay Johnson provides some behind-the-scenes insight into the production of WRAL documentaries.