Friday, September 9, 2011

Covering 9/11: Let your video and nat sound do most of the talking

For those too young to remember JFK's funeral, I suggest you go online and watch the coverage.

It's dominated by nat sound and pictures. Nearly 50 years later, I can still hear the repetitive cadence of the drums as the President's coffin was wheeled through the streets. The image of John-John's salute is seared into the brains of everyone who watched.

Who did the commentary? I can't remember. Doesn't matter. Words weren't necessary.

They often aren't when you're dealing with emotion, and should be kept to a minimum. If you've ever covered a funeral for a soldier, cop or firefighter, you can't help but get choked up by the playing of taps, the haunting sounds of the bagpipes.

That said, you're writing has to be at the top of its game at times like this. You have a very brief opportunity to make your words count this weekend. They should be filled with the emotion that matches the video and nat sound. They should complement what viewers see and hear, not overshadow it.

And please, stay away from terms like "closure" and "healing" and "justice" because those don't really exist for those who lost loved ones ten years ago. These people have holes in their hearts that can never be repaired. No amount of justice or comforting can bring back the souls we lost.

Ten years ago we saw some of the most phenomenal reporting in modern history. Probably because the best reporters knew when to shut the hell up.

Finally, the story isn't about you. Standups aren't necessary. Forget reporter involvement. Show respect while covering it, and respect in your copy. This is one story that almost tells itself, so stay out of the way.

TVNEWSGRAPEVINE, copyright 2011 © Randy Tatano


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