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PODCAST EPISODE #28: Michael DelGiudice, photographer, WNBC-TV

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Michael DelGiudice has won more Emmy awards than the number of weeks in a year.

Michael DelGiudice has won more Emmy awards than the number of Super Bowls.

Michael DelGiudice has won more Emmy awards than the number in a famous Beatles song.

Michael DelGiudice, during his 30-year career in television, has won 65 regional Emmys.

The photographer has captured a slew of other awards as well, and he was just named this year’s NPPA Photographer of the Year for the East Top region — an extraordinary honor in what he calls “a dogfight” of a competition.

But what most impresses me about DelGiudice is not his award count but his location.

He has achieved this type of success, and preached the gospel of storytelling, in the largest market in the country: New York City.

The Big Apple has a reputation for wanting the hardest of news; its stations fly through their newscasts, rarely staying on one story for very long. But within those parameters, DelGiudice — along with the reporters who work alongside him — has developed his own reputation as a photographer who finds humanity in his subjects.

He joins me on Episode #28 of the Telling The Story podcast.

DelGiudice and I discuss his tried-and-true techniques, tips for younger journalists, and the ups and downs of working in a market that swarms with media. He is a New York native (it shows in his voice), and he has made a tremendous living in his home city.

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PODCAST EPISODE #27: Mike Castellucci, reporter/anchor, WFAA-TV

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A few weeks ago, I raved about a half-hour special ran by WFAA-TV, the ABC affiliate in Dallas, at the end of last year.

It featured a compilation of stories shot, written, and edited by widely acclaimed feature reporter Mike Castellucci.

And his camera? It was the one on his iPhone.

Castellucci has become well known in Dallas — and, now, among TV news reporters and photographers nationwide — for his compelling piece of boundary-pushing storytelling. His features actually appear quite straightforward until you realize the equipment he used to shoot them.

But give him credit: he saw a need and attacked it, fearlessly flying into both multimedia journalism and iPhone videography. He wound up with an impressive result — and a powerful niche in his market.

Castellucci joins me for Episode #27 of the Telling The Story podcast.

“People ask me why,” he said, “and I think it was [because of] two reasons. One: I wanted to be first. And, the challenge of it … I had been doing stories on my iPhone 4, and I just said, ‘Let’s take it 19 steps further.'”

Here is a reporter who has had plenty of success in various markets, but he chose to take on a challenge many journalists would reject. He deserves some major kudos.

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LESSONS LEARNED: From role models and inspirations

I am on vacation — and out of commission — for the next two weeks, so I wanted to use this space as a vehicle for reflection.

Since I started the Telling The Story blog last winter, I have written extensively about lessons about storytelling. Many of those have come from fellow journalists and storytellers, who have been great sources of inspiration throughout my career. Here are three of the moments that stand out to me, along with brief snippets from the posts themselves and minor edits for clarity:

Saying goodbye to Gary Smith, this era’s greatest sportswriter: Many journalists crave the thrill of the deadline, the immediacy of breaking news, or the access of being at the center of a giant story. Others, such as myself, feed off of something else.

We feed off of depth.

We feed off of the desire to tell as full a story as possible and to examine a person or issue from as many viewpoints as we can find. We want to tell the whole truth, educating and informing while bringing our world a little closer.

Any journalist who fits that description, and who knew about Gary Smith, had no choice but to envy him.

Smith wrote just four stories a year for Sports Illustrated. But those stories were always powerhouses because Smith, by the time he wrote them, had become such an expert on their subjects. Rick Reilly once wrote that Smith “has a rule. He’s not done researching a subject until he’s interviewed at least fifty people. That’s why [his stories] are often the most unforgettable of the year. They are meticulous in their depth of reporting, nearly preposterous.”

For most journalists, “preposterous” seems accurate. They would love to interview 50 people for a story, but they don’t get the time. They also don’t get the space to unpack the knowledge such expertise would bring. Smith wrote stories that filled 20 pages; most TV reporters get 90 seconds.

Thankfully, given that kind of real estate, Smith never wasted an opportunity. (more…)

A storytelling lesson, from the heart of the country

I had nothing.

I was driving this past Thursday up to Jasper, Ga. — population 3,684 — with a potentially great story on my hands. We had learned of a woman who was born with congenital heart disease but had beaten the odds — and open-heart surgery — to play tennis in high school. She never received her letter jacket, though, but would get it in an honorary ceremony … 38 years after the fact.

If everything went well, I would leave Jasper that day with a touching moment — a woman earning a small victory after a lifetime of hardship. It would undoubtedly make for a great ending.

But everything until the ending? I had nothing.

Let me explain. I spoke with the woman in question — a lovely lady named Fredia Watkins — the day before. I wanted to interview her before the big ceremony, get some B-roll that would give viewers a window into her personality, and capture the necessary footage to compellingly tell her story to set up the climactic moment.

But Fredia did not want to do the interview at her home. Her husband recommended we do it in the conference room of his workplace, and we agreed to meet there the following morning.

A quick but important note: conference rooms are the most sterile, uninteresting places in any office. From a videojournalism standpoint, they are the opposite of what you want.

And I did not want this. (more…)

A video journalism how-to guide, from KUSA-TV’s Michael Driver

Consider this a cheat sheet.

Last week’s podcast with KUSA-TV photojournalist Michael Driver was one of the most-downloaded Telling The Story podcasts to date.

But, as I noted then, Driver was almost too good a guest.

He offered so much advice in such a short period of time, and while we were recording the interview, I kept thinking I could better serve photojournalists — heck, better serve myself — by transcribing all of Driver’s terrific tidbits.

I always enjoy the discussion of journalism, and I have used this blog several times to focus specifically on photojournalism. Check out my spotlight on the best NPPA video stories from 2012 or my podcast with KDVR-TV photographer Anne Herbst. Great photojournalism is an art that often must be sustained and passed down by, not station managers or other journalists, but the artists themselves.

Here is a thorough collection of important advice from Driver, one of the top photojournalists in the country.

BEFORE YOU SHOOT:

Back-time your day: “You need to make sure you know how much time you’re going to have to do this stuff. Give yourself enough time to edit and do the story properly. You have to have a plan in place. If you go in like, ‘We’ll see what happens,’ you’re going to run out of time. We work in a business where deadlines are our enemy. You have to make sure you get everything you can in the quickest amount of time, and then give yourself enough time to work on it.”

Work with your reporter (if you have one): “We’re constantly communicating, constantly talking about what we’re going to do. Talk to your reporter. When you get out to a scene, you’re not going to know exactly what it is. It’s constantly talking about, ‘What elements do we need? What are the visuals we need to tell this story?'”

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15 seconds or less: Meditations and ruminations on online video

Here are, for your consideration, some anecdotes and observations from the past few weeks:

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While out on a story several weeks ago, I met a reporter for a local Patch.com site; Patch is a web-based news operation brought to you by the folks at AOL. This reporter had her cell phone out, prepared to use it as a video camera.

We talked briefly about online video, and she made the following statement:

“My editors tell me my video can’t be any longer than 15 seconds. Anything longer than that, and people won’t watch.”

*****

While out on a different story, I met a newspaper reporter who is investing his time in a video piece to put online. He has spent many days, often on weekends, investing in a mini-documentary that currently stands at ten minutes. He said he will likely finish the piece in the next few months.

The only problem? He cannot find anyone who wants to use it — or, more specifically, any media outlet that knows what to do with it.

*****

A non-industry friend and I were recently discussing my job, and she asked if I treated my stories differently depending on which show would use it. In other words, would I tell a story for the 11 pm news differently than I would tell that same story for our morning show?

I said, while I did make certain concessions and alterations for the show-specific audiences, I ultimately had to assume that the story would see its greatest interaction online. For the most part, web readers and viewers do not care about the show in which the story ran; they watch the story independently of that.

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