Friday, July 29, 2011

What you watch can shape your style

Growing up watching the New York City newscasts was a real learning experience for me. Even when I was a kid. Why? Because when you watch something, even casually, your subconscious is taking notes. The styles of anchors and reporters becomes burned into your brain, even if you've never been a reporter.

It's like a kid who has watched hundreds of baseball games and listened to the commentary, then goes out to play his first game. Everything he's learned comes into play. He knows how to run the bases and field ground balls with two hands because he's seen it a thousand times, even though he's never done it.

It's the same with fiction writers. The best writers read all the time, and they read a wide variety of writers. While doing so their subconscious picks up one thing from one writer and another from another. All those little things combine to make the writer unique.

Same with television reporters and anchors. You can go to the best broadcasting schools and read every book (and blog) on the subject, but unless you watch what the pros are doing, you're going to remain a pretty blank slate. Oh, you'll be able to knock out a decent package and have a good career, but you're not going to pick up those little things that can set you apart.

So what do you do if you didn't grow up in a major market watching the best people? Luckily we live in an age in which you have major markets at your fingertips. Pick a big market, and you'll generally find at least one station that streams its newscasts online. You can watch New York one night, Philly the next, San Diego the next.

If you're starting out, this is a must. Working in an entry level market and going home to watch the competition is fine, but you're not going to learn much from people at your own level. There are "teachers" out there in the form of major market anchors and reporters...and all you have to do is watch.

You should do this two ways. Sometimes you should takes notes. Deconstruct a great package. What did the reporter do that made the piece so compelling? Watch the story again and transcribe the script, then compare it with what you're doing.

The second method is just to watch as a viewer. No notes. Just relax and let your subconscious take in the little things. Do this enough, and soon you'll find yourself doing those same things.

You'll pick up a little here and there, and all these things add to your personal style.

Just because you're out of college doesn't mean you should stop learning. The electronic classroom is open 24 hours a day. And there's no tuition.

TVNEWSGRAPEVINE, copyright 2011 © Randy Tatano


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