TIP OF THE DAY
USE YOUR AUTHENTIC VOICE
When you first heard your voice played back to you, did you like it? Did it sound like you? Most people are surprised when they hear their recorded voice. But it is YOUR voice - it's authentic. How many times do you hear TV and Radio hosts whose voices sound like a parody of the reporters on the Daily Show - trying to exaggerate and over-emphasize their phrases, as though otherwise people won't listen?
The best voice you'll ever hear is YOUR OWN, speaking like you speak, your truth, your facts, your knowledge. Practice your skills reading out loud with your own sincerity and clarity. The best public speakers gain attention not just from what they say, but how they say it, and by their body language and embrace of the audience. The best can lower their voices to a whisper, and still retain the audience's attention. Shouting is so 1990's. Use the full range of your voice, and don't channel others. Ownership is attractive, as is every unique human voice.
protecting yourself at public protests
The harassment of journalists this year in riots and at public protests highlights the dangers you may face. One of the things you can do to protect yourself is to blend in with the gathering as much as you can. You don't want to show up at an angry protest wearing a tuxedo, or at a business meeting in shorts and a tee. So try to look like the people around you - this is challenging if you have to appear on camera during the event, but choose your clothes carefully and remember nuance counts.
Don't draw unnecessary attention to yourself by behaving aggressively, assertively, or by talking loudly. You are there as a public witness, not a celebrity.
If you have lots of equipment with you, this will naturally draw attention to you, but should also serve to make clear that you're there to do a job.
Go about your work, and remember that no reputable news organization should ever tell you to put yourself in harm's way unnecessarily. Ask questions, meet people, find out what's happening. Report the truth. Remember that you have every right to do your job and be on public property as a public citizen, but being a journalist does not afford you any special rights. And remember YOU are not the story, and you don't want to become the story by getting hurt or arrested. Here is some great in-depth advice from the Committee to Protect Journalists.
when sound can be the enemy
Springtime in Washington DC - I'm recording an audio interview outdoors near a park. Apart from the sounds of the birds, and the occasional distant aircraft, there's a strange whirring noise from the trees. It's the emergence of the Secadas - and boy does it sound strange. Have you ever come back to edit a video or audio story and found a strange noise running in your sound? We've all done it. You did an interview, the interviewee was clear, but what's that buzzing sound?
It is easy to miss ambient sound if you're focusing on the task ahead, but your microphones will hear everything.
If it's a sound easily understandable to the audience, it is probably fine. But an unusual sound is distracting, often ruinous to your recording.
SO BEFORE YOU START, ask everyone present to stay silent for at least twenty seconds. Indoors, listen for noise from the air conditioning, buzzing overhead lights, electrical appliances, even your own camera connections . Outdoors, unusual sounds unfamiliar to the audience. Sometimes these can be explained in commentary: "The sound you hear is a helicopter landing in the distance as I'm joined by Joe Jones to talk about........" But sometimes not. With video, you can spend so much time worrying about the pictures that you don't notice the intrusive noise. So make sound your friend, not your enemy, by paying attention to it before you begin.
A GREAT FACE FOR VIDEO
How many times have you watched news stories about public meetings which contain a lot of meaningless crowd shots? When you're shooting B-roll (or cutaways, or overlay as it is known in some places) focus on the faces.
Don't be shy to zoom in at a public gathering, a meeting, a conference, or a rally, or anywhere the subject's consent isn't needed. Faces and expressions make way more interesting video than seas of unidentified people. They say "names make news". I say faces make for good TV.
DON'T JUST SHOOT - WRITE
Whenever you go out with a video camera, take. a notebook also. Hours and hours are lost in the editing process while you figure out which file contains which material.
In your notebook, write a good shot list as you videotape, which should include
TIME OF DAY (synched with the camera's timer)
PICTURE YOU SHOT (or interview)
NUMBER YOUR PICTURES IN THE ORDER YOU SHOOT THEM (You can add file numbers later when you download)
ROUGH DURATION OF THE PICTURE OR INTERVIEW
Trust me, this will save you time and frustration when you come to edit your material.
And when you need the pictures for archive, later, you have a written record of what's already there.
ask questions which invite interesting answers
You know that old media saying: "never work with children and animals"?
That's because if you ask a specific question of a young child they will give you a one-word answer. Last night I asked my 9-year-old son: "how was your day?" His response was "good". A reply like that doesn't make for a great quote, or great copy.
So remember to ask people open-ended questions. Not "who" or "when" questions - questions which will solicit an interesting answer. Try formulating your question to an interviewee with "How?" or "What happened?"
"how did you do that....?"
or "what did you think of....?" or simply
"what happened when you.......?"
"tell me about.........."
You are inviting an answer which tells a story, which makes for a better headline, quote, sound-bite, or narrative for your story.
Try it for your next reporting assignment. Then try it socially with your friends - it works there too. The goal is to get people talking, and to open up to you.
SAYING THANK YOU PROPERLY GOES A LONG WAY
It's an old-fashioned but highly effective way of making sure you stay in the minds and on the radars of the hiring people.
When you've done a good job interview, buy a nice thank you card, and hand-write a note individually to the people who took the time to speak with you. Tell them how much you enjoyed meeting them, and include your contact details again. For a boss, a hand-written thank you note shows genuine appreciation, kindness, thoughtfulness, and a determination to win the position - good attributes which show you'd be good to work with.
And employers often put them on display on their desks or in their offices, which serves to remind them of your interest in their company.
GOOD NEWS = BAD WRITING
How often do you hear News Announcers say "Good news for........." . Its lazy and usually promotes one side of the story, because - if you think about it - good news for one organization or group is usually BAD news for another. When the Stock Market rises, some people still lose money. "Good news for home buyers" might be bad news for sellers.
And "Good news for Donald Trump" is bad news for his opponents. So think of a more creative, and accurate, way of writing the story, and stay away from the Good/Bad cliche'.