tv news storytellers

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.

svj-cover-2

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.

PODCAST EPISODE #45: Matt Mrozinski, founder, Storytellers

Play

Many of us in the TV news business spend the years of our 20s trying to “make it”.

We expend all of our energy building our craft, learning from others, staying afloat, and climbing the ladder to a point of relative stability in a ruthlessly unstable industry.

Then we get to our 30s, and we make a conscious choice to begin to give back.

I know I went through that process. It’s why I started this blog four years ago. It’s why I almost always accept requests to speak at workshops and conferences. It’s why I helped organize and direct a workshop back in June.

(It’s also why I have been working on an exciting project for which I’ll be making a special announcement next week.)

And it’s why I began the Telling the Story podcast, in which I always devote a segment with my guest about advice for younger journalists.

My guest on this episode has fulfilled the same calling in a magnificent way.

He is the director of photojournalism at KING-TV in Seattle, but he is perhaps even more highly regarded as the founder of Storytellers, a web site and Facebook group for critiques and conversation that just cleared 10,000 members — almost all of whom are current journalists, news managers, and media professionals.

He is Matt Mrozinski, and he is my guest for Episode #45.

I have been a member of the Storytellers group for several years, but I had never heard how it began until interviewing Mrozinski for this podcast. I found his story fascinating, mainly because he did not start the group with the intent of reaching thousands of people. On the contrary, he stumbled upon its success — but then seized the opportunity to ensure its growth in a meaningful way.

I really enjoyed this interview and believe you will too. Mrozinski gives great insight into how the Storytellers community has benefited its members; he even provides some self-proclaimed “BREAKING NEWS” about future plans.

(more…)

5 reasons for hope for journalism’s future

I realized it the other day: I started the year by highlighting a sobering story for any storyteller.

I linked to a brilliant piece by Andrew Marantz called “The Virologist”, which profiled a web site/content creator who aims for clicks and money without any nod to ethics or storytelling. Sites like this — think Buzzfeed, but even more calculated — drive on the highway of journalism without getting into the lane of journalistic responsibility. Marantz gave an absolutely brutal assessment of the landscape of the Web.

The piece, to be sure, started the year on a low note.

So let’s take it back to a higher one.

Let’s use this space to talk about what excites us for the new year — and the future of journalism and storytelling.

Here are five things that give me hope: (more…)