Packaging the News

Welcome to the land of broadcast journalism and creating a news story that will not only draw viewers in, but outline a story that will be informative. 

Your challenge is before you.

My goal is to major in broadcast journalism as my undergrad.  I’ve been working hard to emphasize this in all classes.  In government we are required to have a current event each week, including a summary of the news story.  Subconsciously, I write it in a journalistic style.  The more I begin to create news stories, the more I saturate my thinking.  It’s purely soaked up in journalism and I love it.

The other day I was about to head out of media class when Mr. Doran hands me a book. “I think this will help you, and it’s a quick read.” I glanceMelissa down at the book and am on my way. The book is written by Bob Dodtson with a forward by Matt Lauer and introduction by Mervin Block. It’s all about “writing and packaging TV news with style.”  Ironically, it’s called Make it Memorable. The majority of my advice for news packaging is rooted somewhere in his words, and really, I would recommend getting the book.  For the time being, welcome to your crash course.

In my own words, I would break the process down into a few parts: finding a story, interviewing with ease, writing and writing, editing it all together.

Finding a Story: The first thing that Bob doesn’t even touch that may be a dilemma for anyone of us in high school is a story.  In real news stations there is a constant flow of stories.  Then, it is vital to choose the one that will make a good story for viewers.  For our cases, look around at the constant flow.  Everyone and everything has a story, it’s worth identifying in your mind which are the good ones. 

For example, a freshman scored the winning touchdown.  The difference from cliché and great news story is showing a different angle on the story. Maybe the football player worked through a tough injury and this capped off his season on good note. This is where one of Bob’s rules first comes into play.

Interviewing with Ease: “Filling the Silence” If you want a different response, ask a different question.  Many times the interviewee will answer a question multiple times, and it’s ok to be silent.  Wait for the silence for them to really tell a story or explain something further.

Ask questions that will prompt them to say something “worth hearing.” What I mean by that, is something that is on target to the direction your news story is heading.

Writing and Writing: I usually wait until I have the interviews, and b-roll complete.  I use my voice to tie all of the story together.

“Write in the Middle of Your Story First” Sometimes, if not always, the opening line that is supposed-to-be-amazing-and-catch-all-the-viewers is the hardest. Work around that and wait till the end to figure out the beginning statement. 

Also, keep in mind it doesn’t always have to be you talking.  Maybe there was a really good sound bite, or some b-roll with natural sound.  Never use any outline or someone’s opinion as the ONLY way to produce a news story. Always be on your toes and thinking outside the norm.

Editing it all together: You’ve done the brunt work, now for the completion.

“Make it Conversational.”  No one wants to watch a news story they can’t understand.  Consider your audience, and work to make your package professional, without being foreign.

“Silence” Sometimes silence is the most conveying way to show emotion.  Determining the right amount will depend upon your story.

Lastly,

“All television news stories have basic building blocks:

-pictures

-natural sound

-logical editing, both visually and verbally

-short sound bites

-graphics

-reporter on-camera stand-ups”

Now it’s your turn. Go after the story and make a great news package.


Melissa Prax is an active student and athlete. Her introduction to film and editing began when she took an Interactive Multimedia class at Grand Valley High School/ Ashtabula County Joint Vocational School. (See Grand Valley's Profile ) Her involvement in the class led to her election and win of SkillsUSA northeast Ohio regional president. Every few months she writes a student column for her local newspaper, The Star Beacon. After high school Melissa is looking forward to double major in broadcast journalism and nutrition.