Monday, June 4, 2012

After years of being told to "write to your video" now you have to "write to nothing"

Let's face it, nothing can screw up your life more than technology. Whether it's your cable service going out, your cell phone failing to get a signal, or your printer suddenly spitting out gibberish, your day can be thrown into crisis mode because of those 1s and 0s being out of psync.

It sometimes makes me long for the days when you got on the roof to rotate the antenna, had to wait fifteen minutes for apple pie to heat up in the gas oven because microwaves did not exist, and used the same telephone for fifty years. And, incredibly, everything worked a lot better and lasted a lot longer before the digital age.

Alas, it's a different world now. So after being taught you need to watch your video before writing your script, you have to do something backwards. Oh, you still have to write to your video... at least for the television version of your story. But now many of you are being required to write for the station's website. (You know, that thing your anchors tell viewers to visit twenty times every newscast rather than watch television.)

Problem is, writing for the web is very different than writing a television script. You can't reference video or nat sound as you would for broadcast, so you have to do everything backwards.

In other words, you have to become a newspaper reporter for part of your day.

Problem is, many people in this business have no experience in print journalism.

I started in newspapers, working for our college daily and then getting my first job at a local weekly. So I was brought up writing in the print style and had to learn to write for broadcast. In radio, I had to paint a picture with my words. In television, the photogs provided me with words and sound so I no longer had to describe what the viewer saw.

Then I started writing fiction and had to go backwards again after being told my a major author, "You don't have any setting in your stories. Readers need to see the image you've created." I had become so accustomed to writing to video that I'd forgotten readers of fiction needed to have a picture painted in their minds.

The same holds true when it comes to writing for the web.

Too many of you are simply cutting and pasting your TV script into the web. If you want to see how confusing this is to someone who reads your story and does nothing else, try listening to your story and not watching. Turn down the channel with the nat sound and just listen to your voice tracks and sound bites. Doesn't make as much sense, does it?

In the next post I'll go over some web writing techniques that will hopefully make you better web writers. So you're probably thinking, "Why are you spending so much time on this? I'm getting hired because of my resume tape, right?"

That's true, but all things being equal, being a good web writer is just another hat you can wear to make you more marketable in this wonderful digital age. (I'm being sarcastic with the part in italics, in case you didn't know.) The ability to write, and write well, has become more important.

Down the road your looks may fade, you may get sick of shooting your own video, but you'll still need a job. You might pick up a gig as a web writer.

Look, I'm not a fan of piling more work on overworked reporters, but if you've gotta do this anyway, you might as well do it right.

Next time. Web writing. Film at eleven. (And that, my friends, is how you don't write for the web.)


No comments: