Monday, August 10, 2009

When setting up interviews, avoid the obvious

One of the things that turned television news around in the 1960's was the concept of "personalizing" the story by talking to the "average Joe." (Shameless promotion: you can read about it in our book. Operators are standing by.)

Still, one of the most common tactics among many reporters is relying on "official" sound bites. Why? Well, it's easy.

So you have to train yourself to think like an average Joe if you're going to find one for your story.

So, let's play with some scenarios and give you some out of the box ideas on ways to approach stories.

Story #1: Property taxes will be raised in your community next year. It will cost the average homeowner 500 dollars more annually. Should you:
a: Interview the Mayor and members of the City Council
b: Do a man-in-the-street package and solicit opinions
c: Avoid interviews with politicians and find an average homeowner, showing how a family will deal with increased taxes

Story #2: School bus service is cancelled to a remote area due to budget cuts. Should you:
a: Interview the Superintendent and budget officials
b: Go door to door, talking with people who live in the affected area
c: Find a carpool organized by parents and ride along

Story #3: Unemployment benefits can now be applied for online. Problem is, many people out of work don't have a computer and/or internet access. Should you:
a: Talk to unemployment official
b: Talk to people at the unemployment office
c: Follow someone who heads to the public library to use one of its computers.

See the trend here? If you're still doing "a" most of the time, you're doing the obvious, and not really "showing" what the story is about and who it is affecting. You're "telling" instead of showing. Remember, TV is all show and tell, emphasis on the show.

So when you get an assignment, simply do two things. Figure out who the story directly affects. Put yourself in that person's shoes.

Then all you have to do is find one of those people and show how the story is affecting that person.

This often takes thought and legwork, but trust me, your stories will be a lot better.

No comments: