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While online news outlets are busy feeding off the “Jedi mind meld” gaffe President Obama made today, I feel like I am recovering from a news “mind meld” courtesy Poynter’s Al Tompkins.

From 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Wednesday, I sucked in as much as could in the short time period he presented to two different groups at the news station I work for.

Here are my takeaways:

  • Make your headlines a promise and then deliver on that promise in the story.
  • Use the cutline! Tell the viewer what they don’t know. It is one of the first places that readers look at, according to Poynter eye-track studies.
  • “When I show you the little person affected, you start connecting with it,” Tompkins said. He was showing us USA Today’s interactive feature on Ghost Factories.
  • Linking to additional resources is good. Expanding your stories with the info in those additional resources is GREAT!
  • Start the day knowing at least 3 big things for the day’s coverage.
  • Acclimate your viewers to make it a habit to share their pictures/video with you <user generated content.
  • Make “the web” a way for users to experience the story.
  • Write how you talk. Duh!
  • Raise your right hand and take this oath: I will never cut and paste from a TV news script.

On top of all the great information, Mr. Tompkins signed my copy of “Aim for the Heart.” That book I credit for helping me get past my fear of ‘gasp’ writing.

Thanks, Mr. Tompkins!

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I’ll get straight to the point.

For planned coverage of big events like the State of the Union, I think its time for social media editors to expand what they do.  Simply quoting the SOTU speech via “live tweeting” is not enough.

You will give your online viewer more value in preparing extra content relevant to what is taking place already in front of them.

The effort put into live tweeting is wasted on something like the SOTU when there are other sources of the same exact information. Ex. @whitehouse.

Work smarter.  The Pew Research Center (@pewresearch) had the right idea.

When President Barack Obama spoke on immigration, the Pew Research Center tweeted, “Obama raises #immigration: our study found Illegal population in US has declined since 2007 peak #SOTU.

They did this throughout the speech!

I know the newsroom is not always the most conducive to planning ahead, but make it a point to prepare and you’ll see your effort pay off.

Your SOTU live chat will be rich with content driving people to your website!

By the Numbers (some neat stats from Twitter and Google!):

@gov: 1.36 million total #SOTU-related Tweets from 9:10 pm ET (President’s entrance) to 10:44 pm ET (end of #GOPResponse). Was 767k in 2012.

@gov: Most-tweeted #SOTU moment: Middle class opportunity and minimum wage at 9:52p ET = ~24,000 Tweets per minute.

@gov: Second most-tweeted #SOTU moment: Call for vote on gun legislation at 10:12pm ET = ~23,700 Tweets per minute.

@gov: Tweets-per-minute peak during #GOPResponse to #SOTU: ~9,200 TPM at 10:43 pm ET, following @MarcoRubio‘s sip of water.

@gov: Second-most-tweeted moment of #GOPResponse to #SOTU = @MarcoRubio on Republicans not “protecting millionaires;” about 8k TPM at 10:33p ET.

@googlepolitics: Rising @google search terms from 9:25 – 9:55 PM: 1) Minimum Wage 2) Violence Against Women Act 3) Paycheck Fairness Act 4) Al Franken #sotu

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I just cleaned out a pile of papers and came across some notes from a seminar given by Boyd Huppert (KARE) at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, I believe in 2009, for students and local professionals.
I attended while I was working as Internet Director at KTIV in Sioux City. I always enjoy these types of seminars and feel like any take-aways should be shared with the world. Needless to say I am long overdue in typing this up! These are just my notes, Mr. Huppert used a couple of example stories, but I’m sure you’ll know what they mean!

On shooting —
“shoot and move”
Don’t cross the 180 degree line – stay on the same side
Establish wide shot
Interview – try to continue the action/story in the background
Sequencing – continuity – move the story along with variety of shots
Shot just: 1)made 2)now 3)next
Cut-aways will save you! (wide, medium, tight, tight, tight)
Shoot as you go – make one line with lots of little stops
Don’t forget the people
Best placement for microphone=out of the shot
Remember every story has a beginning, middle and end*
In & out – of the frame. Let the subject leave the frame
Think about the possibility of your raw tape going to air

Stand-ups —
Contribute to the story
Maintain flow
Action in the background
Brief
Don’t influence the story/stage the action. If you miss an important shot, cut away. Maybe it becomes the stand-up…
Don’t do stand-ups by a wall

Getting started —
Focus – beginning, middle, end (the roadmap as storytellers and for the viewer)
Where’s this going to start?
Do you have a main character?
Interview
Character – get to know him
Moments -natural – the things you remember
Details are like Velcro, they stick to you
You must know your focus!

Things to start a story —
1. Establish the focus (commitment)
2. Handshake shot: show the character
3. At least one meaningful detail about the character

Nat sound:
Puts you there
Provides information
Sets the pace (throttle)

Mic-ing your subject
“could you help me with something?”
“do you mind wearing this, we’ll back away”

Good print writers are descriptive
– broadcasters aren’t descriptive

Posting to the web: can’t cut and paste your copy

A good story needs layers – identify your layers when you start to write

The work is in the transitions – once identified move on.

Print = inverted pyramid
TV = layers keep the viewer from looking away

Writing OVER versus TO the video
Any sound is better than gunshots
Describe the bigger picture
“say it, prove it”

Active interviewing – natural setting, they’re being themselves

Write the open and the close/tag
details stick with you
Don’t beat yourself up if your struggling to write a story, it takes time. Boyd Huppert says he’s a slow writer.

*This is my favorite tip. It’s the most basic and a foundation for so much more.

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