A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
By Lauren Furniss
April 11, 2011 6:07 pm
To the viewers, a tease is the first video they see in the newscast and the intriguing thing that makes them sit down and watch for what comes next.
In the newsroom, the tease often becomes a quick twenty-second editing project assigned to the most novice of multimedia journalists (MJs). As a producer trying to get my show edited and on the air by 6pm, editing teases is a trivial task that just needs to get done quickly. Unfortunately, I often forget the purpose and power of a tease crafted to fit the script I have generated.
On my day of air, the way I approach teases tends to cause a disconnect between the video being shown and the words being read by the anchor. "Writing to video" is a golden rule in the highly visual medium of broadcast journalism-- I've heard from my professors at Annenberg since Day 1. However, after analyzing my teases in previous shows, I realized it was a principle I had sort of cast to the wayside for the sake of efficiency.
With this reflection in mind, I entered my day of air shift with the goal of making good video the
central part of the newscast with good writing to follow. I tried taking careful notes on what video we shot or received over the wires. I pressed multimedia journalists and reporters to clearly describe their footage and clarify which shots they thought were the best. I took time to envision what video I would want in a story as a viewer before assigning someone to edit it.
Sometimes this thoughtful planning and debriefing worked- giving MJs clear and precise instructions sometimes paid off, as it gave them a guide on how to edit and select the best shots. This allowed them to edit faster while also producing a more interesting, visual piece. And most importantly, it allowed them to understand the story better, making their writing more accurate and precise.
Other times my ideas were replaced by what the MJ determined was the best, which wasn't necessarily a bad thing. I always admire a reporter, anchor or MJ who feels committed and passionate enough about a story to challenge a producer's opinion. The news-gatherers are usually the people who know the story the best, so I also learned that it can be beneficial to step back and allow a reporter to exercise some creativity.
And then there were the times where this just didn't work at all, reminding that each person values different elements of a story or defines "interesting" or "visual" in different ways. This came up in discussions with my producing team in regards to what video or graphics should be included. Our discussions got far more heated than I had expected! Again, the conflict between artistry and efficiency came up as we tried to shape our show under the looming 6:00 hour.
In my opinion, the key to resolving this debate is training writers and editors to be both creative and fast. In my remaining weeks as a producer, I will continue to take time to talk through what video we have, what types of shots and interviews are the most interesting and talk to my MJs about they process they go through as they edit and write.