Thursday, July 29, 2010

The "lazy" package

One thing News Directors don't want (and can't afford) these days are lazy reporters. You may think you're a hard working, nose-to-the-grindstone journalist, but your final product might suggest otherwise. If your legwork or digging doesn't show up in a package, you might end up with the lazy tag; in this business, that's someone who phones it in, who does just enough to get by.

Here are some of the most common "lazy tags" that show up in packages:

-Single source sound bites: We've discussed this before, but this means interviewing one person, and one person only, and then chopping the interview up into several bites. A ND looks at this and thinks, "So, six billion people in the world and this reporter only talked to one of them." Remember that "two sides to every story" thing you learned about in college? Well, if you only talk to one person, you're... wait for it... only getting only one side of the story!

-The b-roll repeat: Nothing annoys me more than seeing a package with lots of video possibilities and seeing the same b-roll more than once. If you have limited b-roll, at least get wide, medium and tight shots so you can mix things up. If you run out of b-roll because it is very limited (a perp walk, defendant walking out of courtroom) then use that wonderful non-linear function called slow motion. Or throw in a graphic.

-The lame close: The reporter who can't think of anything to wrap up a story often just throws together a basic sig-out that falls right out of a sound bite. Would it kill you to write one sentence and tie the package together before saying your name and location?

-The official-could-not-be-reached-for-comment line: Can't find the other side of the story? Don't tell me, show me. I want to see you dialing the phone, knocking on the door, asking the secretary.

-The missing graphic: A story with too many numbers and no graphic doesn't make sense to the viewer. Graphics are one of those great elements a ND looks for to make confusing stories understandable.

-No standup: Unless you're covering a funeral, every package needs a standup.

-The dreaded meeting video: Yep, we've all been stuck covering meetings, and if your package has nothing but meeting video, you were too lazy to get the agenda before the meeting, find out the topic, and get 90 percent of your story before the meeting. For example, if there's a meeting to determine the location of a sewage plant, go to the neighborhood, show the location, and , what a concept, talk to the people who live there. Meeting video should be kept to a minimum.

-The dreaded official sound bite: Apparently no real people live in some neighborhoods, as some reporters only talk to officials. Again, McFly, that's one side of the story.

-Earthquake video: As a News Director you might think the United States is plagued by constant earthquakes in all fifty states. You have a tripod for a reason. Use it.

-Mood lighting: You wanna have dinner by candlelight, fine. I don't need to see a news package that looks like late night on Cinemax. You have a light kit for a reason. Use it.

-Shotgun interview audio: Ah, the lovely sound of someone being interviewed in a barrel. Shotgun mikes are for natural sound, not interviews.

I realize that many of you are time crunched these days, but this is basic stuff. If you want to grab a News Director's attention, show that you care about the basics.

No comments: