Video Storytelling

How To Write A Video Story

CREATE AN OUTLINE

Content
Although I’ve been a video reporter for many years I am still humbled by how complicated and difficult the process can be. When I begin to report a story I often think, “It will be a miracle if this works out.” I have doubts about whether I can gather the information, get the right video and produce something that people will understand. Everything often feels so dense that it’s impossible to pare down to a relatable, let alone compelling, story.

I create an outline, sometimes in my mind and sometimes on paper. This includes the piece of information, video, or sound that I think will draw the viewer in, then the facts and the elements of the report in the best order.

WRITING
When I know how to organize the story, I use the keyboard to puzzle it together and create a script that is seamless where the writing, the video and the audio including SOTs and NATSOTs, flow together. After the script is written, I know that I can round the bases pretty quickly. Editing with a decent script and all the video elements is relatively easy. But it always feels like magic in the end, and I’m always amazed when the stories turn out so well.

STORY CONSTRUCTION

Fire

 

Every story has:

• Beginning
• Middle
• End

In TV and video reporting stories generally begin with an anchor, or on-camera lede (lead). In most cases an anchor in the studio will lede (lead) into your story.

If you write the lede in advance, it should set up the story that follows.

Here’s an example:

Finally, good news for the people of Broad Channel, Queens. It’s one of the communities hard-hit by Superstorm Sandy. Now Carina Russo reports that crews of repair workers are going door to door to fix up hundreds of homes.

 

Boat on the Lake

 

Beginning
How do you begin your story?

Remember you come out of that lede.
The story must flow.
Be clear about what you want to say.

Outline

A simple 1-10 outline will help you organize the story from the first element on.

Challenges of Video

This is a video story and so video and audio are important. This is why it’s important to think about how you’ll put the story together while you are shooting it.

Start with either:
• Your best video
• Your best audio
• Is your best audio natural sound?
• Is it a strong, emotional soundbite that will grab viewers’ attention?

Draw us into the story and explain the “nut” or the essence of the story in the first or second TRACK. Tell us what the story is about and why we should care. Answer these questions quickly.

Bring in a person using your SOT(s) who has a stake in the issue. You may use more than one. Three is generally too many.

Standup Bridge

Melissa Standup Bridge.png

If the story is complicated you may need a standup bridge where you explain an issue. For example: a shooting in Brooklyn leaves a teenager dead. Police are canvassing everyone in the housing development. They are going door to door. You don’t have the video, but you can do a Standup Bridge that says:

The NYPD tells us tonight police will knock on every door in this section of the housing development. They hope that someone who saw something will offer a clue that leads to the killer.

The Middle

Barbara Standup Bridge

The middle of the story expands it. This is where you have your pros and cons, or develop the point of your story more fully.

In the case of the shooting, you might explain that many neighbors refuse to talk to the police.

• Natural sound helps.
• Soundbites (SOTs) from people with opposing points of view help.
• Clear writing in your TRACK helps.

The End

Use soundbites from your interviewees that help to wrap it up. For example, the grieving mother who lost her son in the shooting says:

SOT: (Mother)
“I’ll never get over it. Never.”

Then it’s time for you to conclude.

Standup Close

Standup Close

This doesn’t mean you rehash your story. Don’t forget you just spent more than a minute telling us all about it. Your standup close must take us forward. Tell us what happens next. In the case of the mom and her son you might say,

“Yvette Lewis says she wants to stay strong for her 3 other young children. She told me that she won’t let them out of her sight. In the meantime, police say they need help to track the killer. If you have information, call 1800 CrimeStoppers, Sunny Day City College News

 

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Where News Comes From

News organizations gather information with teams of reporters and editors. But they also use outside sources including wire services, or news agencies, to provide information.

These news agencies have their own teams of reporters, videographers, editors and producers who cover breaking news, politics, business, sports, entertainment, culture and more. They have investigative teams that frequently break important stories.

The Associated Press, a not-for-profit news cooperative, has teams in 100 countries and provides content to more than 1500 news outlets. Those news outlets contribute to the cost of news gathering and can use the material that the AP provides.

Reuters describes itself as the “world’s largest multi-media news-provider.” Part of the Canadian Reuters Thompson Company, traded publicly on the New York Stock Exchange, it says it serves more than a billion people every day.

Bloomberg, a privately-owned company, provides business and other news, digitally, through video, audio and on TV.  It has a big business providing news to Wall Street firms and other financial companies.

 News agencies headquartered in countries around the world also report and provide important information.

ABC, NBC, FOX , CNN,  NPR , BBC  and other broadcast groups have services to provide content including video and audio to smaller TV and radio stations around the country.

Government Agencies

Police departments, fire departments and some government agencies have public information offices that put out alerts and updates about breaking news.

The NYPD, for example, has an office called D.C.P.I., run by the Deputy Commissioner,  Public Information.

During Hurricane Harvey and in the aftermath the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) put out regular bulletins including those warning people to watch out for scams and frauds.

Social Media

Increasingly, news organizations look to social media to stay up with breaking news. They monitor social media platforms and then verify information from the posts, or tweets.

Other News Outlets

Newspapers, radio stations, television news organizations and digital news companies monitor one another.  If one breaks a story, others may pick it up and give credit: The New York Times , ABC News,  the BBC , Al Jezeera, ESPN, etc. reports, or they may assign a reporter and try to advance the story themselves.

Reporters and editors in news organizations work as a team, but they also compete with each other and other organizations to get stories. Sources provide an important stream of information that reporters and editors verify and expand.

Public Relations and Communications Directors

Public relations firms representing companies and clients, communications and p.r. people from companies, sports teams, not-for-profits and every type of organization you can imagine contact news organizations and individual reporters to push stories.

Reporters and editors often pick up these stories, verify and expand them.

News organizations and reporters often reach out to p.r. people to provide an expert who can help flesh out a story. They also use public relations representatives to help get access to government buildings, hospitals, sports arenas and private spaces.

 

News Sources

  • People we talk to every day.
  • Family and friends.
  • The crossing guard on the corner.
  • Reporters get assigned to beats — the police, the courts, city hall, the White House, the arts, celebrities, fashion, food, movies, books, business.
  • Reporters develop sources and the best reporters get information from those sources regularly.
  • Reporters get access. Access to a crime scene, a fire, politicians, a mayor, a closed meeting with a group of people making a big decision, athletes, a sports team, celebrities and more.

Good Reporters, Editors and Producers Always:

Ask Questions

Research

Ask more questions

Take notes

Ask More questions

Fact check and ask more questions

 

How We Write

When you sit down to write make, sure that each sentence reflects what you mean. Use active verbs and write clear concise sentences that convey your ideas.

Active Voice

The subject comes first in an active sentence.

Example

Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins wrote a letter to explain why she will not vote for the latest bill to repeal Obamacare.

Always look for an active verb to give your writing more energy.

Example:

President Trump tweeted nine times in one day to criticize football players who kneel and refuse to sing the national anthem to protest police shootings of African-Americans.

Avoid the passive “to be” verbs: be, am, is, are, was, were, being, been.

Nine tweets were sent by President Trump in one day to criticize football players who kneel in protest and refuse to sing the national anthem.

Passive Voice

You can use the passive verbs be, am, is, are, was, were, being, been when the subject of the action becomes the object.

Example:

Many Washington Heights residents are forced to move to other neighborhoods because landlords found tenants willing to pay higher rents.

We use the “to be” verbs to describe a state of being.

Example:

Dayan is a junior in college.

Have

We use variations of the word have when we use it, like must, can or have.

Jorge has to reapply for DACA by October 5, 2017.

We might also use a passive verb when we talk about ongoing action.

Example

The student was reading a textbook when the alarm bell sounded and everyone had to leave the classroom.

Pretentious Language 

Sure, you may think it sounds better to use flowery language and fussy words. But you end up sounding pretentious.

Example

When the scions of the elderly gentleman thought he had a female paramour, they pondered about their fortunes if he were to suddenly become deceased.

Use language that says what you mean.

Example

The children of the older man thought he had a girlfriend and worried about their inheritance if he died suddenly.

Catch phrases, Cliches and Euphemism

You may think you can make a sentence sound important if you use phrases or words that only suggest what you mean. But fussy sentences confuse readers, listeners and viewers.

Fussy                                                  Clear

economically deprived                  poor

youths                                               teenagers, young men, young women, young people,

chemical dependency                  drug addiction

downsize                                          lay off

adult entertainment                      pornography

inner city                                          give the name of the neighborhood

 

You also want to avoid fussy words that connect ideas

however

furthermore

nevermore

nevertheless

 

Avoid the Negative

Write sentences that avoid the negative.

Example

President Trump not only picked a fight with NFL players who choose to protest, he ignored the hurricane victims in Puerto Rico.

Better

 

President Trump picked a fight with NFL players who chose to protest and ignored Puerto Rico’s hurricane victims.

 

Writing Numbers

Write out numbers one through nine.

Write number 10 and up as you would in math.

 

Writing Percentages

Write percent rather than %.

 

Full Names and Acronyms

When you write for print, TV or radio, you separate the full name of an organization and its acronym with the word or, or commas.

 

Example

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACCA.

When you write for the web you put the acronym in parentheses.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

 

 

 

Writing TV News Stories

Writing TV Stories 

copyright 2017, Barbara Nevins Taylor

We use four formats for reporting and storytelling in television journalism: the live-shot or live report, VO or voice over, the VOSOT or voice over to SOT (sound on tape-the portion of the interview you use) and the “package” or full TV news report assembled as one piece.

When you report live, you do the best you can to gather information quickly synthesize it and then tell us what you know. Report only what you know. You look directly at the camera and talk. You’ll have an earpiece, or IFB for interruptible feedback. This connects you to the control room of your news organization and the director and producer who will tell you how long you have to talk and when to stop. They also may provide additional information to you.

Formats for TV News Stories 

VO        VOICE OVER GENERALLY READ LIVE BY THE ANCHOR OR REPORTER IN THE  FIELD. THE ANCHOR, OR REPORTER READS THE COPY OVER VIDEO.

 

SOT         SOUND ON TAPE. IT IS A PORTION OFAN INTERVIEW, OR SOUND BITE.

 

VOSOT    LIVE VOICE OVER THAT LEADS TO A

SOUND BITE.

 

 

PACKAGE   A COMPLETE TV STORY OR REPORT.

IT INCLUDES A TRACK, WHICH WHAT WE CALL NARRATION, SOUNDBITES, A

STANDUP, A REPORTER’S ON-CAMERA PRESENTATION, AND PERHAPS NATSOT.

WE ALSO CALL A PACKAGE A STORY OR A PIECE.

 

FORMAT FOR VO

 

INSTRUCTIONS                                  COPY GOES HERE.

GO HERE.                                             INSTRUCTIONS TO

ANCHOR GO HERE.

 

 

CU  OR TWO SHOT                           ANCHOR:

OR 2BX                                               YOUR COPY

 

 

TAKE VO                                         ===VO====

CHYRONS, LOWER-THIRDS,             YOUR COPY

SUPERS, OR ESS

 

NAMES,

LOCATOR

ADDITIONAL

WORDS ON THE

SCREEN

 

FORMAT FOR VO SOT

 

 

INSTRUCTIONS GO                         COPY AND WHAT

HERE                                                 ANCHOR READS

GOES HERE

 

 

CU OR TWO-SHOT                            ANCHOR:

OR 2 BX                                              YOUR COPY

 

TAKE VO                                           ===VO===

 

YOUR COPY

 

CHRYONS, SUPERS,

LOWER-THIRDS, ESS

 

 

TAKE SOT                                        ===SOT===

 

 

 

FORMAT FOR PACKAGE

VIDEO INSTRUCTIONS                         ALL COPY AND

CHYRONS, LOWER-                              INDICATION OF

THIRDS, SUPERS OR                            SOTS, NATSOT

ESS GO HERE.                                       AND TIME CODES

WHERE THEY

CAN

THEY INCLUDE                                       BE FOUND ON

NAMES,                                                   RAW FOOTAGE

LOCATORS                                             GO HERE

AND ANY OTHER

WORDS.

 

VIDEO

INSTRUCTIONS

TO EDITORS

SUCH AS

TIME CODES

AND SPECIFIC

SHOTS

GO HERE.

 

FOR EXAMPLE

 

APPLES 2:35

WIDE SHOT

MARKET 4:50

 

YOUR SCRIPT LOOKS LIKE THIS:

 

ANCHOR LEAD:

YOUR COPY

 

TRACK: 1

 

YOUR COPY

UNIONDALE, L.I.

 

JANET JONES                              SOT:

VICTIM’S MOTHER                       1:36 (TIME CODE)

WRITE OUT WHAT SHE

SAYS.

 

BABYLON, L.I.                               NATSOT: (POLICE

COP CAR 4:28                               SIREN)

CRIME SCENE                              7:23 (TIME CODE)

10:02

 

 

TRACK: 2

 

YOUR COPY

 

SOT:

 

10:40 (TIME CODE)

KEVINS SMITH                           SOT:

WRITE OUT WHAT HE SAY

NASSAU POLICE

 

CAROLYN RAMIREZ                STANDUP:

REPORTING                             WRITE OUT WHAT

YOU SAY IN YOUR

STANDUP.

 

News And Commentary

Journalists aim to report fairly and without bias. That means we don’t inject our opinions or feelings into reports.  Increasingly on TV news, especially on cable, we see anchors expressing opinions. Those opinions may respond to the day’s events or the behavior of a public official and you make agree with them. You may cheer them.  But the opinions remain opinions.

President Trump attacks journalist almost on a daily basis.

So what should reporters do. Here’s what I learned and here’s what editors and news directors want you to do.  Report what you see and hear. We all have biases. Step back and try to keep yours out of the report.  Sometimes we need context when we report and that’s also what you need to consider.

For example, when President Trump says one thing in Trump Tower and another at a rally, you do your job by reporting that without comment.

The Washington Post reported objectively when it split the screen and played what he said the second time, and then played what he said the first time.

Jim Rutenberg, a reporter who covers reporters and the media for The New York Times, wrote an article, Trump Takes Aim at the Press, with a Flame Thrower, after Phoenix about the president’s persistent attacks on reporters and news outlets.

He interviewed a number of people including ABC Newsman George Stephanopoulos,

who said, “You have to trust that if we do our job and do it well and do it with integrity and don’t make mistakes, that in the end, the sort of fundamental idea behind the First Amendment — the truth will out — will actually take place.