solo video journalist

PODCAST EPISODE #47: Heidi Wigdahl, solo video journalist, KARE-TV

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I’ll always remember the first time I was asked to speak at a major storytelling conference.

I flew to Minneapolis/St. Paul in 2014 to talk about solo video journalism at the Ignite Your Passion workshop. It immediately became one of the most joyous and fulfilling experiences of my career, and it sparked an evolution that led to me co-directing a similar workshop two years later.

This past fall, Heidi Wigdahl received that same opportunity.

The KARE-TV MMJ discussed the do-it-all process with Twin Cities colleague Adrienne Broaddus and WITI-TV’s Jonathon Gregg. She cherished the opportunity to reach a regional audience of solo video journalists, many of whom are — like her — in their 20s.

Wigdahl has a pretty impressive story to tell. She has risen up the ranks from Rochester, Minn. to Knoxville, Tenn. to her current location, Minneapolis/St. Paul. She now works at a station that is widely respected for the storytelling acumen of its reporters, photojournalists, and MMJs.

Wigdahl is my guest on Episode #47 of the Telling the Story podcast.

We discuss a wide range of topics but focus on one of the biggest logistical struggles for many MMJs: how to dress for the twin challenges of appearing on-air and shooting quality video. I interviewed Wigdahl about that topic for my new book, The Solo Video Journalist, available now through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the publisher’s web site.

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Every piece of advice I’ve ever written for aspiring storytellers, MMJs (almost)

I started this blog 45 months ago as a resource for all journalists, but I specifically aimed to reach the younger ones looking for guidance as they embarked on their storytelling careers.

Now, 45 months later, I have taken the next step in that process: writing a book designed to help aspiring solo video journalists, or MMJs.

The Solo Video Journalist is available now on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or my publisher’s web site. In honor of the book’s release, I have compiled a collection of every blog entry and podcast that deals with life as an MMJ and how I approach the job. I hope you find it useful.

PODCASTS WITH SOLO VIDEO JOURNALISTS

Episode #1: Jon Shirek: It’s only fitting that I began my podcast interviewing a solo video journalist. Jon Shirek is a tremendous co-worker and an inspiration in so many ways. He, like many of the guests in this list, wound up as interviewees for my book.

Episode #3: Anne Herbst: When I interviewed Anne Herbst back in 2013, she was working as the assistant chief photographer at KDVR-TV in Denver. She’s now the Senior Multi-Skilled Journalist across town at KUSA. She’s a terrific resource (and another interviewee in my book).

Episode #19: Ted Land: Yet another MMJ who I interviewed in The Solo Video Journalist, Land has won national awards for writing and is one of the more methodical, analytical storytellers I know. This episode is a winner because of his expert understanding of the craft.

Episode #27: Mike Castellucci: This dude shot a half-hour special on an iPhone. He’s a smart, offbeat guy with a passion for storytelling and a willingness to take extreme measures to do it.

Episode #34: Ben Garvin: I love Ben Garvin. He’s a solo video journalist in many ways, but mostly he represents the creativity and versatility that should be desired traits for any aspiring TV news storyteller.

Episode #42: Ellen Crooke & Scott Livingston: TEGNA and Sinclair have both become leaders in their usage of MMJs. In this episode, recorded at the NPPA Southeast Storytelling Workshop, each company’s VP of news addresses the topic and many others.

Episode #46: Joe Little: He is an annual YouTube sensation thanks to his montages of solo stand-ups. He’s also a pretty darn good MMJ who hustles harder than most.

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PODCAST EPISODE #46: Joe Little, solo video journalist, KGTV

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Last week I made an exciting announcement that, I hope, will greatly benefit the journalism industry.

I introduced my new book, The Solo Video Journalist, dedicated to providing a unique how-to guide for TV multimedia journalists — also known as MMJs, backpack journalists, one-man and one-woman bands, and VJs. The book can be found on AmazonBarnes & Noble, and my publisher’s web site.

Throughout the book, I interview some of the country’s best MMJs — and journalists period. I use each chapter to break down a specific step of the storytelling process, combining my advice with that of the journalist I interviewed for that chapter.

In the case of shooting solo stand-ups, I knew exactly who to call.

Joe Little of KGTV is my guest on Episode #46 of the Telling the Story podcast. He has gained notoriety in media circles for his annual YouTube compilation of his stand-ups that have continued now for more than half a decade.

(I actually just got sidetracked writing this post while watching one. Check it out …)

He brings creativity and fearlessness to a task that would deter many solo acts — myself included. I shied away from shooting my own stand-ups for a long time but have seen from Little and others how they can benefit my work. Now I do them regularly, and I am more empowered because of my solo status.

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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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5 lessons from the NPPA’s best video stories of 2014

Effort.

It’s the one through-line of every great story I see.

Television news constantly forces the hands of the people who bring it. At various points throughout the evolution of a story, a reporter, photographer, or multimedia journalist must decide when they have done enough:

Did I do every interview I can do for this story, or do I need to find another?

Do I have enough footage for this story, or do I need to shoot more?

Is this script exactly as I want it, or should I read over it again?

How much time do I have to keep editing, or do I need to submit my story for air?

These are the questions that daily confront TV news journalists, and they are often answered by the ticking clock of the deadline. But more than that, they come down to effort.

I thought about this frequently as I watched this year’s video winners for the NPPA’s Best of Photojournalism awards.

In each one, I saw numerous moments that only succeeded because the winning photographer made an extra piece of effort, be it during the gathering or editing process.

This year, I was one of those winning photographers; as I mentioned last week, I received 1st place in the category of Solo Video Journalism: General News. I won for the story of a Madison County, Ga. man who rescued a baby on the side of the road; the piece went viral and aired, in slightly edited form, on NBC Nightly News. As I wrote then, that story is a quintessential example of the value of effort.

Here are four other winning entries that I found particularly powerful — and the lessons I took from them: (more…)

Ladies and gentlemen, some changes — and exciting news!

You have probably noticed: the site looks a bit different.

After taking a few weeks off for an international vacation (more on that in the next few weeks), I decided to shake up the appearance of the Telling The Story blog. As much as I enjoyed the previous look, I wanted to adopt a new presentation that offered more visible links and a more modern feel. I hope you like the changes.

You will notice, on the right sidebar, a group of essential entries that showcase, I believe, my best work from the first two years of the site. Below that is a complete list of podcasts, from #1 with WXIA-TV reporter Jon Shirek to #27 with WFAA-TV reporter Mike Castellucci. I look forward to adding to this list and welcome any suggestions for potential storytellers to interview.

I also have an exciting announcement: one of my stories has received a national award! I found out this weekend that my story about Bryant Collins, the Madison County, Ga. man who found a baby crawling on the side of the highway, was named the NPPA’s story of the year for Solo Video Journalist General News. This piece went all kinds of viral last June, and I am thrilled that it has received such strong recognition. As my friend (and podcast interviewee) John Kirtley said to me, “The NPPA is THE standard for storytelling, and this is on the national level,” so I am honored.

In the meantime, I will return with new entries next week and look forward to your feedback. Thanks for your readership, and enjoy the new site!

My favorite posts of 2014: A look back

I am spending the next few weeks looking back at 2014, recapping the best stories I watched or read while also reflecting on my favorite blog posts of the year.

For whatever reason, I have had a lot to write about.

I remember feeling somewhat nervous as I began my second year of writing for the Telling The Story blog. Would I start to run thin on topics? Would I lose the momentum I had developed last year?

Far from it.

Between my Olympics journey and several other professional successes, I found plenty of blogging inspiration during 2014.

Here are my five favorite entries from the past year, with excerpts; thank you all for reading:

An outstanding NPPA honor, and a prideful achievement (3/26/14): At the moment when I received one of the greatest honors of my career, I could not have felt less prestigious.

I was not dressed in my black-tie finest, attending some lavish awards banquet, hoping to walk up on a stage and give an acceptance speech. I was not surrounded by my colleagues, loved ones, and journalists from all over.

I was sitting alone on my couch, in my gym clothes, staring at a laptop.

And that was completely, absolutely, undoubtedly fine.

The TV branch of the National Press Photographers Association, or NPPA, held its annual awards show Monday night. The association named its photographers and stations of the year for each of its three regions. It also named its national Solo Video Journalist of the Year, in a category full of talented one-person bands who shoot and edit their own reports.

I am thrilled to announce that I was named 2013’s Solo Video Journalist of the Year. (more…)

An outstanding NPPA honor, and a prideful achievement

At the moment when I received one of the greatest honors of my career, I could not have felt less prestigious.

I was not dressed in my black-tie finest, attending some lavish awards banquet, hoping to walk up on a stage and give an acceptance speech. I was not surrounded by my colleagues, loved ones, and journalists from all over.

I was sitting alone on my couch, in my gym clothes, staring at a laptop.

And that was completely, absolutely, undoubtedly fine.

The TV branch of the National Press Photographers Association, or NPPA, held its annual awards show Monday night. The association named its photographers and stations of the year for each of its three regions. It also named its national Solo Video Journalist of the Year, in a category full of talented one-person bands who shoot and edit their own reports.

I am thrilled to announce that I was named 2013’s Solo Video Journalist of the Year.

(more…)