Friday, July 8, 2011

Walls, plateaus and steps

You see it all the time, especially in those first three years of a career. And in this era of instant gratification, it can be frustrating to young people just starting out.

You're not getting better fast enough.

We had one young reporter wears ago who wanted to learn everything about the business in the first week. He would get frustrated that every package didn't have every single element. We told him it would take time to master the art of reporting.

In this business, it's not about going up the ladder. It's about hitting the wall.

When most people start, the packages are pretty basic. A bunch of sound bites, voiceovers and a standup close. It's pretty much a template for all rookie reporters. No nat sound, no graphics, no writing to video.

The reporter gets comfortable with that, and then gets bored. There must be something else. He has hit a wall, then suddenly discovers the wonders of using nat sound. He becomes obsessed with nat sound, and takes a step up to the next plateau.

A few months later, same deal. Mastered nat sound but bored that all the packages look the same. Then it's walking standups. He sees a reporter he admires doing a cool walking standup, and suddenly he figures out the secret handshake. Another step up to another platueau.

Every step leads to another plateau. Writing to video, using graphics, writing in and out of sound bites, turning a phrase, doing a standup bridge rather than a close.

This seems to be a common denominator with talented people. Sometimes it takes a while to find the step, and sometimes you spend more time than you'd like on a platueau, but it's necessary to the process.

You can't master everything all at once. Take your time, learn one thing at a time, master it, then move on to another element. Trust me, if you do this in your first job you'll be knocking out great packages in a year or two.


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