Reporting and covering events for news is not always an easy task and it is something that one must build on and learn from over time. In this essay, I will be simplifying how to effectively accomplish news writing and reporting for on and off camera use, considerations that can lead to problems if not addressed, things that will surprise or frustrate someone when attempting this process, and most importantly my experience working in this system. To start, what is news, why is important, and where can one find it?
Three definitions from Merriam Webster come up that are used to define news, and they are a report of recent events, previously unknown information, and matter that is newsworthy. So, what makes something newsworthy? In short, it is timely (as it happens), significant to many people, proximity or how close is it to us, who is it about or prominence, and human interest (why should someone care about the story). A newsworthy story could be about a recent crime, a play with a famous actor, or merely a big community gathering. Niche topics also work well, but as the word implies, there are fewer readers because it is less universally interesting. However, where can one find these stories? There are two places that news exists in today’s society, print or digital, and then video. In a 2016 article by Small Business Trends, it is said that “videos turn watchers into advocates as 92% of mobile video consumers share videos with others while social video generates 1200% more shares than text and images combined,” that is assuming it has possibly doubled in the last three years. While video is on an upward trajectory, there is still a market for print and digital text such as books, newspapers, blogs, magazines, and more. The statistics from Pew Research Center indicates that the readership of newspapers is steadily going down from its last peak in circulation in 1990 at about $63 million to $31 million in 2017. Even with that, the readers that still subscribe to newspapers, whether that be online and/or physical copy, are a loyal audience and want to read great stories as it is shown by Sweor, that “articles with a word count between 2,250 and 2,500 earn the most organic traffic.” Not everyone can start a video in a crowded place, and not everyone has the time to sit down and read if they live a go, go, go lifestyle, a video is quick and to the point (most of the time.) However someone wants to get news, there are ups and downs to both sides, and it depends on the situation one may be in when browsing the web for stories.
Being a journalist is not an easy task and covering events is just one of the things that journalist must do at one point or another. Let’s say that there is a journalist who works at a local news station and is one of their multimedia journalists, meaning that they cover an event entirely by themselves. What do they do? Well, they first gather any information they can get before the event’s date. They might call the organizers of the event, or if they have a public relations office, and ask about dates, times, special guest, announcements, cash drawings, sponsors, the theme of the event, and more; of course taking thorough notes along the way. Typically if someone is covering a story for an event, the people in charge of the event will be delighted to answer any and all questions a journalist may have. It is technically free publicity for the organizers for more people to come to the event when it happens or a higher interest next time it happens. It is a “give and take” relationship. Now that the research is done, they go to the event early, dressed business casual, and get a good spot for their camera and a place they can freely move around. During this time it is good to talk with event goers, and the organizers to say “hello” and thanking them for allowing coverage of the event. It is always good to build positive connections for future stories. During a typical event, one wants to capture b-roll, which merely is shots of the event in between interviews and voice-overs, and capture the main attractions such as announcements, shows, special guests, meetings, and more. Once that is recorded the interview process (or follow-up’s) starts, and sometimes they can be in-depth or just a chat between two local people. It is good to keep questions broad when recording to keep it as naturally flowing as possible, and one answer questions are good for names, dates, titles, and of course the yes or no questions. When the event is all said and done, and it is time to write the story and put the video together. The number one goal is to figure out what was newsworthy and how to showcase it by keeping it real and authentic. It takes time to master the quick skills of a multimedia journalist which could do all this within a couple of hours depending on how much time an event takes.
As a student journalist, an editor-in-chief, and a freelance journalist I have had a wide variety of exposure to every aspect of news coverage. As I mentioned before, there is a divide between print and video but when they work to together it only benefits the writer, the outlet it was made for, and the audience even more because they appreciate the options. The example I will be playing off of is when my COMS-146 Media Performance professor gave my team and I an assignment to cover an event at Radford University. We first started to discuss what event we wanted to cover as a team. Unfortunately, the first three events we chose didn’t work out due to them lacking in newsworthiness. We finally chose to go to Radford’s Fall Dance Fest on October 19 at 7:30 p.m. I took care of setting up the event for my team, so it would be easier to film it. I emailed James Robey, the Associate Professor & Chair of the Department of Dance, if there was any way we could record it. Robey and I were emailing each other back and forth over the past few days. We ended up missing the dress rehearsal, which no one on the team could have gone to due to schedules. Robey managed to let us video the dancers pre-show warmup and make time to let us interview him at 6:30 p.m., but we only had from 6:20 to 6:50 p.m. to gather b-roll before the crowd came in. We had to be on our toes and fast for the 2 hours we were there since we had to come early to make sure everything was working and in place. The team and I met up at 5 o’clock to write an intro script, film the intro, and capture b-roll outside of Radford’s Preston Hall where the show was being held. We wrote the intro keeping in mind the 5 W’s: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. Keeping it simple and to the point but also adding local charm and flair. It is best to leave most of the information for the interviewees to say. We also worked on broad questions to ask such as “How did you all decide to come up with the performances,” and “What went into making these type of performances?” Every member was a crucial part in making this work from the design of shots, script writing, carrying equipment, and representing the COMS department well by being quiet and respectful to the dancers as they were warming up and when interviewing Robey. Lastly, the team and I stayed to watch the show but skipped the last performance to set up the equipment again to captured b-roll and interview people while they leave the show. We wrote the ending script and questions during the show because we were running out of time. We interviewed three event goers to see their thoughts on the event as someone who is not attached to it. Not everyone is natural on camera, but it is a good idea to get as many good interviews as possible because it will be beneficial in the end when putting it all together. A team member and I realized the footage we captured for the intro was too blue and everything in the background was focused but the reporter. We went out the next day to do a quick re-filming of that since the event had not started yet when we did it a day before. It is good to note that will not always work out because events can be far away and with a big crowd. Continuity is an important thing, and one does not want to confuse the viewer.
In conclusion, the video did not turn out how I expected, and any video never will, but I was delighted with what we produced. There is always something happening, new people with stories to share, and unexpected technical issues. It is never good to get frustrated or lose focus. The key is that there are always options. Even though my example of the news package my team and I did was mainly focused on video, it could have easily translated to text well, but since it was a dance festival, it works better shown than told. Working a camera takes practice, being an on-air reporting takes practice, and being a hard-hitting print journalist is not an easy task by any means. Reporter Henry Luce once said, “I became a journalist to come as close as possible to the heart of the world.” There will be failures, but one thing to consider is it must be real and authentic always.
Mansfield, Matt. “27 Video Marketing Statistics That Will Have You Hitting the Record Button.” Small Business Trends, 4 Oct. 2016, smallbiztrends.com/2016/10/video-marketing-statistics.html.
Barthel, Michael. “Trends and Facts on Newspapers | State of the News Media.” Pew Research Center’s Journalism Project, Pew Research Center’s Journalism Project, 13 June 2018, http://www.journalism.org/fact-sheet/newspapers/.
“Ideal SEO Content Length: Flushing the Goldfish Cliché Down the Toilet.” 17 Eye-Opening Website First Impression Statistics, 18 Jan. 2018, http://www.sweor.com/seocontentlength.
“News.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/news.