(Moved from my old blog)
We’re in a meeting.
Our boss was asking for more story proposals. I looked at my notes and hesitated to pitch because my stories are from being compelling.
My segment producer suddenly broke the silence and exclaimed, “Stevens Johnson Syndrome”. What the heck was that? I studied biology and read all encyclopaedias I can find at home but I have never heard of that!
It sounds very hard to find.
I glanced at him, asking, “Are you sure? Where on Earth can I find someone who has Stevens Johnson Syndrome? I don’t even know that!”
He said he knows of someone who was diagnosed with that disease and it happens to be a prominent actor in the Philippines. He dropped the name but he doesn’t have the contact number, just the name of the restaurant that the profile owns.
Boss approved and my dilemma started.
Research is probably the hardest yet the most exciting stage of TV production. You spend so much time looking for people you doubt ever existed but once you found them, there is this tickling fulfilment and happiness of finally meeting them, sharing their stories and seeing their faces on TV. But how will you really find the right people you need for your show?
1. ONLINE RESEARCH
Gone are the days when we rely on books when it comes to researching, especially for TV. We can consider going to the library to know more about Stevens Johnson Syndrome but it would take too much effort and money unlike when you use your phone or computer which takes you only a click away.
Know how to choose a reliable website to cite. Wikipedia primarily appears when you search on something but remember that the information in here can be edited by anyone. It’s always better to double-check your data by looking at other websites. In this case, I checked on Mayo Clinic, MedicineNet and Stevens Johnson Syndrome Foundation.
Through these websites, I have known that Stevens Johnson Syndrome is a rare disease, almost like a severe skin allergy, affecting the respiratory tracts, organs and genitals. The allergic reaction may be due to a drug taken by the person. Here are sample images of a person affected:
It starts with flu and some rashes that rapidly spread and turn into blisters all over the body.
When compiling and writing your research, be sure you understand your topic so you can relay it to your producers without referring to your reading once in a while. Don’t copy and paste other’s research. Indicate your sources.
Once you’re done and clear with what person you’re looking for, you can start tracking them. Facebook is the most helpful social media because you can easily send messages to a vast number of potential case studies or inquire if they know of someone.
Based on my experience, in a week or less, you’ll get a response.
2. WORD OF MOUTH
Maximize the people you know and ask them. They can be the one you’re looking for or maybe they know of someone who can refer.
I contacted the restaurant owned by the actor recommended by my producer but he declined to be interviewed. Another thing is, he was already cured and is no longer visually convincing as a case study for the topic.
When you’re after a medical case like this, you can consider asking your friends who are nurses. Perhaps they have encountered patients as such.
Ask your fellow researchers who has probably a number of saved contacts.
Inquire from the doctors you have already interviewed for your other topics.
Never ran out of possible people who will lead you to that person. There should be at least one who could point you to the right direction.
3. CONNECTING DOTS
Exceptional researchers go beyond just researching online and asking friends. They analyse and create more ways of looking for topics and profiles.
A foundation or organization that caters to people with Stevens Johnson Syndrome most likely has members who are diagnosed with such syndrome.
You might have thought of directly asking hospitals if they have such patients but be mindful that they have protocols on privacy. They won’t reveal any patient’s information unless the hospital director is your relative, you’ll have an ace.
4. LAST RESORT
If you’ve done everything you could think of but still didn’t find it, you may opt to try a desperate move.
If you have the patience, call and inquire from every barangay in the Philippines.
If you have the guts, try disguising as a hospital visitor and screen every ward. And that’s how I found my case study.
It started with a brief conversation with our marketing officer. I mentioned that I was assigned that topic and she told me she will ask her friend who is a doctor. The doctor happened to be in the hospital where a patient was admitted because of a rare disease named Stevens Johnson Syndrome.
5. INITIAL INTERVIEW
Since I need to see the person, conduct a pre-interview and personally ask her if we can put her on TV, I had no choice but to mask as her cousin visitor. I paved an easy way in the hospital.
The moment I saw her, I can’t believe how severe the disease is! Her body looks like it was burnt. Her face is unrecognizable. Her lips and eyes are swollen. She could barely open them. Her eyelashes fell. There’s mucus in her face, neck and genitals. Her mother told me that her daughter can’t eat. She just takes soft food.
She showed me her picture before she suffered from the disease.
She told me about that one night her daughter fell sick, she took over-the-counter medicines that anyone who has headache usually consumes. Even before she got well, she became more ill. She had rashes all over her body. Next thing she knew, she could hardly breathe.
Her mother brought her to a hospital which disagreed to admit her because they thought she has that contagious meningococcemia. After a skin test showed that she’s negative from the bacterial infection, she was finally admitted by another hospital.
She was monitored from time to time because she’s in a critical condition. Had they took few more days before they brought her to the hospital, she could have died.
She couldn’t speak a word when I was there but I saw in her eyes how hurt yet hopeful she was.
The doctor said she has good prognosis and in few more days, she will be well.
6. NEVER GIVE UP
In TV production, people respect deadlines. There’s no acceptable excuse to late submissions. Either you air or not. Don’t give up until you’ve reached the deadline.
I’ve been to one of the busiest department on a TV network and I’ve witnessed fellow researchers not going home even at wee hours of the night just to find case studies, talents, locations and expert interviewees for the show. I’ve watched how they turn tables at the last minute.
7. BE EMPATHETIC
After getting what you want, so what now?
Say thank you and help your case study in any way you can. Good thing for us, we we’re provided budget to assist with the medicines and other needs like medical consultation.
I know of few researchers who, of own accord, find livelihood grants for their profiles. They can be considered social workers, more than researchers.
Being a researcher is in the bottom of the TV production hierarchy but they have one of the most vital role. If they come back from field with good research, expect a show worthy to watch.
I love researching because I get to meet a lot of people, go places and learn without squeezing too much brain juice.
You can watch the aired episode about Stevens Johnson Syndrome here: