Monthly Archives: October 2017

PODCAST EPISODE #57: My speech to college journalists on finding their voice

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When journalism professors ask me to speak to their classes and groups, they typically request I focus on two areas: the craft and the business.

They want me to show my work, discuss how I produce stories, advise how to navigate the media landscape, and impart the wisdom of a broadcast professional.

These are important topics – but, in my mind, not the most important.

In one of my first blog entries, I wrote about what I learned (and didn’t learn) in journalism school. Here’s what I said I didn’t learn:

  • How to tell a story – in the advanced sense, anyway
  • About the cold hard reality of the industry
  • How to battle bureaucracy

Here’s what I said I did learn:

  • A foundation outside of journalism that I apply to my work as a journalist
  • To think critically about my field
  • That what we do is important, and what we do is valued

In short, I learned how to develop my voice.

I thought of this when I received the chance to give the keynote speech at the induction banquet of the University of Georgia’s DiGamma Kappa broadcast society. I decided I would encourage them in the way that had worked for me: implore them to think big and have something to say.

I recorded that speech and present it now as Episode #57 of the Telling the Story podcast.

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Want to shoot better-looking interviews? Use your hand

To anyone who uses a camera in TV news: would you like a simple tool to help your shooting without giving you anything else to carry?

Have I got your attention?

It’s your hand.

Right?

The next time you get ready to interview someone but you’re unsure about the lighting, put your hand out. Stretch your arm and open your palm so you can see all of its features.

How does it look? Is it shiny? Is it backlit? Does the light flatter your skin – make it smooth, soft, the same shade up and down – or accentuate the folds and wrinkles?

Here’s the problem: our chief photographer does this and gets made fun of. Our chief photographer has won major awards. Our chief photographer has shot pieces that look like they should be presented on a golden platter.

Why does he get teased? Because it looks silly? Because it seems too easy?

What’s wrong with easy?

Does it work? Then easy is the way.

But why does he really get teased? Because the people who tease him might not value what he’s doing.

Lighting may not seem like it matters anymore. Most young MMJs I meet haven’t been taught the basics. And who would teach them? College professors have much larger points to make, and news managers at any level don’t have the time to dig so deep.

Except lighting is a bedrock. Learn it, and it’s an instant upgrade. Learn it, and your stories will have that indefinable quality that just looks good. But it’s not indefinable. It’s good lighting.

And it doesn’t require actual lights. Lighting is everywhere, in every shot. It’s in a bulb on the ceiling or the sun in the sky.

So when our chief photographer opens his hand to test an interview, he’s showing respect to one of the key factors that determine the quality of his shot. And he’s doing it in three seconds, with no extra gear.

I saw him do it nine months ago. I’ve done it about nine times since. I can usually guess the lighting by looking around, but sometimes it’s unclear. So I put out a hand. And it answers the question.

Maybe the lesson here is to value lighting. Or maybe it’s to stop teasing chief photographers. Most likely it’s this: when you see people who know more than you, and they’re doing something that looks strange, ask them why they’re doing it. Learn first, then judge. Or learn first, then think critically about what you’ve learned, and judge last. But don’t judge like a final decree. Absorb the information and understand why you’ve chosen to incorporate it – or why you haven’t. And don’t get too attached to either direction.

So try the hand. Or not. But don’t worry about looking silly. Worry about telling a great story.

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The Solo Video Journalist is available for purchase. You can find it on AmazonBarnes & Noble, and the publisher’s web site.

Matt Pearl is the author of the Telling the Story blog and podcast. Feel free to comment below or e-mail Matt at matt@tellingthestoryblog.com. You can also follow Matt on Facebook and Twitter.

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