This is the fourth in a series, aimed primarily at print and radio reporters who are asked to produce video reports. For multimedia journalists, these skills are a must. And for video reporters, it's a reminder of key elements that can make your stories stand out. Read part one A video primer for print journalists here. Read part two Crossing over: Audio advice for print reporters here.
Storytelling was one of the forces wooing me into video journalism about 35 years ago.
It can be a terrific framework for certain news events. But sometimes the fundamentals of journalism can become overshadowed, or even neglected by our narrative choices. The best reporters who rise to the top will always be those who dig for the real story and keep their antennae out for warning flags. They may write in a storytelling style when it works but this doesn’t distract them from their real job.
An oft-repeated newsroom maxim uses sarcasm make a point: "Don't let the facts get in the way of a good story." Facts will always be the cornerstone of what we as reporters need to convey to our audience. With this said, please remain vigilant against letting style overtake substance. Don’t let your smart reporting suffer from the urge to be the best storyteller in the universe. Here are a few examples that left me with unanswered questions:
I think you catch my drift. And it just occurred to me, maybe this is why I like historical novels. We’re pulled in by the narrative and by the lives of the protagonists but we get smart as well. We learn greater detail about a period in time.
Getting caught up in the tools of storytelling tends to effect reporters who are newer to the game. Great nat sound! Compelling sound bites. Eye-catching video. But for truly effective storytelling, don't forget to include facts and details that help put the story into perspective. How can you make your audience smarter as they watch this report?
I’ll end with a respectful nod to the ‘quick turnaround’ that’s pervasive in our work, and to the ‘I didn’t have time’ folks. Some of your schedules are whiplash worthy and I feel your pain. But didn’t Scarlett O’Hara say “After all, tomorrow is another day?” For us, there’s always the option to follow up. And who knows what those facts may lead to.
News consultant Joanne Stevens has written extensively about broadcast writing, reporting and anchoring, including columns in the former print version of RTDNA's Communicator Magazine, and earlier versions of the RTDNA website. She has taught at Columbia and New York University and serves as a news award judge for the New York Press Club. She has returned to RTDNA.org to offer a new series of News Coach columns with tips, best practices and more. - Click on the RTDNA logo below to learn more.