Thursday, July 1, 2010

Your video deserves a first look before editing

I used to work with a reporter who carried around one of those mini voice recorders. She would hold it with her microphone, then listen to everything when she got back to the station and write her package. She never looked at the video that had been shot. Someone asked her why she did this, and she said, "It's all on the audio tape. Same thing."

Uh, no.

The first thing you should do when returning to the station after shooting a story is look at your tape. And if you're not doing this, start today. Trust me, the quality of your packages will go up 100 percent.

You may think you know what you or a photog has shot, but until you actually look at the tape you can't appreciate what the camera has captured. Pay close attention to the b-roll; your "money shot" might be in there somewhere, a piece of nat sound you didn't notice may jump out, something in the background might change your story.

But if you don't know it's there, you won't use it. The camera sees things differently, and so does a photog. So it's up to you as the reporter to carefully screen everything on the tape.

So grab a pad and log everything on your tape. Sound bites and standups, sure, but make sure you have a good idea of what your b-roll shows and sounds like. It may change the direction of your package, and it will most certainly make it better.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Got a guy who won't leave you alone? Put a ring on it


I'm a female reporter in my first job. I'm trying to be professional but one of the officials on my beat keeps hitting on me. I've tried telling him I have a boyfriend and want to keep our relationship professional but that doesn't seem to work. Any ideas?

Ah, the downside of being a single attractive woman on local TV. This has happened to many of the women with whom I've worked.

That old "I have a boyfriend" excuse didn't work when I was single and never will. You have to realize that most single men, especially those under 30, don't understand when they're getting brushed off. Many think the "boyfriend excuse" is a polite turndown, and deep down think there really isn't a boyfriend in the picture... so they keep trying.

A couple of things you can do:

-Get a male friend (preferably one with a deep voice) to record your message for your home telephone number. Then if the guy calls, he'll hear a male voice saying, "Hi, you've reached John and Jane, we're not here right now."

-Go to a pawn shop and buy a zircon engagement ring. Saying you have a boyfriend is one thing, but when a man sees a diamond ring on a woman's finger (trust me, we can't tell the difference between real and fake) he'll finally have a Hello, McFly moment and realize he's wasting his time.

Years ago someone asked me what was the first thing I noticed about a woman. I said, "Left hand." If there was a ring, it was a waste of time. Most guys probably feel the same way.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Cover letters, part deux: blowing your own horn will get you nowhere

Let's continue with common mistake number two when writing a cover letter; telling a News Director how great you are.

Here's a typical letter with the News Director's thoughts in italics:

"I'm an award winning reporter..."

Yeah, everyone's got awards of some sort

"I'm a take-no-prisoners reporter who fights for the lead story..."

Geez, I sure as hell hope so

"I've broken some big stories during my two years here..."

Uh, that's what reporters do

"I'm a terrific writer..."

Says who?

Okay, got the point?

The one thing News Directors don't need is a reporter who thinks he or she is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Your current ND may think you're great, you may have a wall full of awards, you may indeed be a terrific writer, but no ND is going to believe it until you actually work in his newsroom.

Keep your cover letter modest when talking about yourself. You still want a clever cover letter, but be humble when writing it. Let your tape showcase your on-air talent. If you're as terrific as you think you are, the ND will be able to see it on your tape.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Cover letters: flattery will get you nowhere

A while back a News Director got a typical letter from a job applicant, saying, "Your news team has a long history of providing an excellent product to the viewers, and I'd like to be part of that team."

One problem. The station was a start-up, and had never been on the air.

(Cool! A cover letter from the future!)

I've received hundreds of cover letters over the years with similar sentiments. People who have never set foot in the state suddenly know of your station's:

-Commitment to journalism
-Top quality product
-Excellent news team


Do these people acquire this knowledge by osmosis, or are they astrally projecting themselves into your newsroom?

Unless you've grown up in the area or spent a good deal of time in the market, telling a News Director how great his product is just doesn't make sense. Blowing smoke is more transparent than a politician, and makes you look like a brown-noser.

Leave the flattery out of your cover letter. ND's just roll their eyes when they see this kind of stuff, and it doesn't help you one bit in your quest for a job at that station.