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Posts Tagged ‘writing’

margie-fark

I’m a little behind the curve on reading this one, but that’s what happens when you buy super discounted books from the Orange County Public Library Friends of the Library bookstore.

This book was published in 2007. FARK began, as Drew Curtis writes, in 1999.

I sat down at the Relax Grill at Lake Eola with my boyfriend right after buying this book for a dollar and began what would be a few days of introspective thought on what it is I do for a living.

Curtis, blatantly puts it straight. News editors aren’t doing journalism, they’re doing whatever it takes to get a page view. Bleh.

On and on, Curtis writes about what “isn’t news” –  “unpaid placement masquerading as news,” the “out-of-context celebrity comment,” and “seasonal articles,” just to name a few chapters of the book.

After the first chapter, I kept a sheet of notebook paper as a bookmark to collect any revelations I had – and well, there was a big one.

What is news, if it’s not what’s going on in our daily/everyday lives?

In journalism school, wherever that happened to be for you (for me it was the University of Nebraska at Omaha), one of the first things they teach is News Values.

The ones I was able to remember off hand: Timeliness, proximity, conflict, prominence, strange/sex

The ones I had to look up: Frequency, Impact, human interest.

I argue that even when I worked at at FOX station and we had an American Idol viewer panel in our 10 o’clock newscast, that was news.

We are documenting what goes on in our daily lives. And for a lot of people, not everyone, American Idol is a concern worth hearing about. (This was back in 2008-2009, LOL)

The ballpark that has strange promotions to get people to attend, an example in the book, is worth covering, in my opinion. It should be covered because people should know what is going on in their community.

Curtis spent 200-plus pages talking about what isn’t news and making fun of it. The last chapter, called “Epilogue: What should Mass Media be doing instead?” was about 16 pages and I feel like Curtis side-stepped the question.

*Spoiler Alert*

He came to the conclusion that stories have a focus to draw people in and click on it. “Everyone claims to want real news, but no one really does. The great unwashed masses want the titillation Mass Media provides,” Curtis wrote.

Isn’t that the truth? I know with social media, particularly Twitter, I have 140 characters to find the one element that will make a reader say, “What?” and move the cursor over the link and physically push down on the link to my news station’s website. I have to be very convincing.

In a sub-heading called “The Future of Mass Media” (which I guess is really now?), Curtis gets it right:

“Local video is the one thing local TV can do better than anyone else. Local TV should be beefing up its Web site offerings…”

This, in the words of Chris Traeger on NBC’s Parks and Recreation “literally” made me go DUH!

I love raw video. I can remember the first time I put raw video on the website of the station I was working for. I was the weekend assignment editor at FOX 42 in Omaha. Santa was flown by helicopter to the children’s hospital and we had video of him arriving. It was super cute. I had to have the director run it through the board so the encoder could capture the video and  I could clip it in the CMS. What fun those days were!

Overall, the book was a great read and I honestly now consider with most any headline I write if FARK would make fun of it.

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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 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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