book

Introducing “The Solo Video Journalist”, my how-to book for aspiring MMJs

I am a television news reporter for the NBC affiliate in Atlanta, Ga., the 10th largest TV market in the country. But I am also my own photographer, shooting and editing the video that becomes my pre-produced reports. From the start of my day to the finish, I am almost always on my own.

And I represent a growing reality in TV news.

The term “multimedia journalist” gets thrown around in the news business, but in television it has a clear meaning. It refers to a journalist who produces a report from start to finish, combining the jobs of a traditional reporter (researching, interviewing, writing) with those of a traditional photographer (shooting, editing). We now occupy a substantial part of TV newsrooms; per the latest survey, roughly nine of every ten local network affiliates use them in some capacity. When aspiring television journalists go to college, they are warned they will almost certainly start their careers – and likely spend a good chunk of them – as one-woman and one-man bands.

Yet no book exists that offers a comprehensive overview of what the job entails, with the insights and authorship of journalists working in the business.

So I wrote one.

I am proud and excited to announce the release of The Solo Video Journalist, available now on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It is a how-to guide for a position in TV news that is long overdue for such analysis: the multimedia journalist, or MMJ.

(… or backpack journalist, or VJ, or any number of titles bestowed upon this position through the years. I went with “solo video journalist” because I think that term most accurately describes the job: producing video stories and journalism on one’s own.)

I have held this title since I entered the business more than a decade ago, and I have remained astounded at the lack of explicit instruction exists for those who do it. So many, both inside and outside the business, continue to envision newsrooms full of traditional reporters and photographers, neglecting the vital role MMJs have come to play.

The reality is far different.

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PODCAST EPISODE #36: David McRaney, “You Are Not So Smart”

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Remember those commercials where a poor sap cannot stop raving about the delivery pizza he is eating, only to be scolded: “It’s not delivery, it’s DiGiorno”?

That’s how I feel at the beginning of every episode of “You Are Not So Smart”.

The podcast delves into various concepts of psychology, but it almost always opens with a pop culture example that both illustrates and introduces each episode’s topic … not unlike what I just did with the DiGiorno example.

But after host David McRaney lures you in with clips from Mad Men or the Twilight Zone, he provides a beautiful hour or so of discussion and conversation that connects on a much more sophisticated level.

McRaney is my guest on Episode #36 of the Telling The Story podcast.

I reached out to McRaney because I was impressed with both his expertise as a storyteller and his versatility in the field. This is a guy who once owned a pet store (twice!), but he transitioned to journalism and carved out an utterly unique path. He has written for a handful of popular web sites, but he has become most prolific through “You Are Not So Smart”, which before it became a podcast started as a blog and continued as a book. From his home base of Hattiesburg, Miss., McRaney has built an empire that has opened the door to opportunities.

What makes his show such a success? McRaney credits, at least partly, his subject matter. “These are heady topics that appeal to the lowest common denominator,” he says, “in that everybody is interested in why we think the things we think.”

But McRaney did not reach 200,000 Facebook followers thanks to topic alone. He reached it through exposure, likability, and superb storytelling.

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PODCAST EPISODE #26: Adam Seth Levine, American Insecurity

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You can imagine my surprise when a childhood friend of mine wound up being the 2nd-most popular person named Adam Levine.

But I was completely unsurprised when this Adam Levine — now going as Adam Seth Levine — became a published author.

A faculty member at Cornell University for several years, Levine recently embarked on the journey of writing a book. Nearly three years later, that journey is complete, and the result is American Insecurity: Why Our Economic Fears Lead to Political Inaction.

Levine joins me for Episode #26 of the Telling The Story podcast.

He is an atypical guest for the podcast; he does not work in journalism or storytelling by trade. Levine has, though, at least partially, made it his trade. His background is academic; the potential audience for this book is far wider. He thus faces the challenge of producing a book that both general and academic readers can find useful.

And when Levine discusses the process of writing a book — the surprises, the triumphs, the difficulties — he unearths lessons for storytellers of all stripes.

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PODCAST EPISODE #5: Andrew Carroll, author, “Here Is Where”

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To this point, the Telling The Story podcast has focused on short-form storytellers.

I have interviewed a multimedia journalist, a former sports anchor, a television photographer, and a newspaper photographer. Each person produces his or her work quickly, usually on deadline, in the often ephemeral format of daily media.

Not this guest.

Andrew Carroll joins me on the fifth episode of the Telling The Story podcast. He is a two-time New York Times best-selling author who has just released a mammoth, 450-page tome called Here Is Where, which tells a giant handful of forgotten stories from America’s history. In researching and putting together this book, Carroll has produced a phenomenal piece of storytelling.

I wrote about Here Is Where several weeks ago in a book review that focused both on Carroll’s storytelling and his themes. The book left me spellbound by its conclusions about the role of history in present society.

Here is what I wrote at the time:

Here Is Where is absolutely worth a read. It is the first book I can remember that captivated me with its content while truly making me think about larger, cosmic concepts and connecting me with history in a way that seemed real and palpable.

Carroll is nearly as good a podcast guest as he is a storyteller. In the podcast, we cover a ton of ground, touching on a variety of subjects including:

  • The importance of history, and particularly these forgotten stories: “There are still all these great stories around us, and they connect us in ways we don’t even realize.”
  • The best advice he was ever given: “Don’t write to be published. Write because you love to write. Write because it changes your view of the world. Write because it makes you more attentive to what’s around you.”
  • On the pros and cons of modern media: “I do wonder overall how much the art of conversation is being lost … because the art of conversation is so much a part of writing.”

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