Getting ahead in 21st century news

Woman filming dog

To impress today’s TV news boss, there are a few things to remember. First, try to be under 22. Second, hone your shouting as well as shooting skills.

The modern day TV reporter

Good advice would be to take the term ‘multi-tasking’ to a new level wherever possible.

You’ll be a standalone news soldier, combining what used to be six jobs into one. You’ll be expected to

  1. Identify and verify your news story (news editing);
  2. Get the facts (researching);
  3. Organise interviews (planning);
  4. Find a camera (crewing);
  5. Check everything works (technical);
  6. Get ‘on the road’ to conduct interviews and film (reporting/camera and sound operating);
  7. Write script, record voice and edit film (video editing).

Do-it-yourself video journalism

Cartoon of TV reporter with microphone

At your location, set up the camera on its tripod.

Ask your interviewees to address their answers to thin air either to the left or right of your camera.

You’ll be behind the lens and it will look silly to the viewer at home seeing interviewees contained within your report (package/VT) looking directly at them (this only happens if the interview is live with a presenter in the studio).

After recording interviews, it’s time to film general views (GVs). These are the background pictures you’ll use to cover (paint) your report while the viewer hears your voice (voiceover) telling them the story.

So if your piece is about a court case, you’ll need to film the police van bringing the defendant to court and the arrival of the victim’s family and lawyers.

Networked city image

Stop to scratch your nose or change battery pack and you might miss the arrivals shot. This will spell trouble.

With so much syndication, networking and media partnerships, it’s likely 12 other TV and online news outlets will be depending on your images too.

The “piece to camera”

You probably went into television news with a desire to see yourself on screen, so next you’ll need to film yourself saying something relevant about the story (piece to camera or PTC – pron: ‘the peestee’).

For the one man news soldier, this will probably require several attempts (takes) so you can check how you look after each one.

Man taking film with selfie stickShut your mind to how absurd you’ll look to bystanders although this may no longer be a consideration in the age of the selfie.

Once you have filmed enough material, head back to the newsroom by cheapest means possible – preferably walking, while balancing camera and tripod on your back.

Next, feed your raw material (rushes) into the computer’s digital editing system.

Take a notepad and pen and watch your recorded film. Make a note (log) of the details and timecodes that appear on screen when you

  1. find the best picture (money shot)
  2. hear the most succinct interviewee answers (soundbites).

Now you are ready to write your script, remembering to keep words to a minimum and allow the pictures to tell the story.

When your script is ready, put on your headset with attached microphone.

Hit the ‘record’ button on your computer’s editing system and start reading your script out loud into the microphone (voicing).

Ignore the loud crunching of crisps from the overweight sports presenter sitting next to you. He’s had no lunch either and the viewer will most likely think it’s a sound effect anyway.

The glamour of TV news

Once you have your voiceover track, your soundbites and raw material, it is time to get out the video sewing box and patch it together.

Usually there will be about five minutes in which to carry out this once prized craft.

It takes most TV newshounds at least ten years to get this fast, so expect to miss your deadline and be bellowed at for doing so.

Insert your soundbites in the relevant slots and paint the images in the space where your voice track can be heard.

Don’t forget to start the piece with your money shot.

If all’s gone smoothly, the viewer at home should only detect a small amount of the shouting match your colleagues had behind you while you were voicing.

When your report is ready, inform the programme editor. No doubt the programme will have started by now, and he/she (usually a he) will be sitting hunched and frowning over a computer in a dark room full of TV screens and people screaming, swearing and being rude to each other (the gallery). Wait for a gap in the frown and jump in.

After the programme the head of news will hold a meeting (debrief) during which you will be criticised by three or four people for your squeaky voice, wobbly camera work and missing your deadline.

Finally, take off your armour, go home and tell your flatmates all about your glamorous job in television.

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