Question the Obvious

As reporters we use our senses to immediately begin gathering information for our stories. But, sometimes what we see and hear is not the whole story. Our own hearts and our life experiences may help us see more of the story than we have ever seen before.
Don’t let the obvious lead you to a story with no emotional range.

So begin developing your emotional range. Start your own life experience checklist. Remember what it felt like to be dumped by a lover or how you felt when you had that car accident. Go back to the time when you got a big holiday cash bonus or when your child brought home her first handmade valentines card.

A news director told me that when he is hiring a new reporter he looks for a candidate with a developed emotional range. They tell more powerful stories, he says. Life is powerful and it should be jumping off the screen when your piece airs. Make sure yours do.

Universal Emotions

Conflict is an essential element of most stories but conflict only scratches the surface when you are talking about emotional range. Conflict is the catalyst for the universal emotions such as fear, anger, frustration, happiness, and sadness. Can you show the quiet sadness or frustration of a family whose life was changed by a tornado? They are not yelling or crying or even talking. Does your emotional range allow you to recognize that emotional numbness?

Look in the Mirror

How did you feel when your first child was born? How did you feel when you had your first kiss? If we are going to be great storytellers we need to experience life ourselves and then draw on those experiences to make our stories better. So, use the experiences in your own life to begin developing your emotional range. Think of how you felt on your child’s first day at school or when your grandfather died and find words in your stories to help us better understand the story you are covering today. Unless you look in the mirror and realize what you bring to the storytelling table, you will waste your “seasoning” and your story will suffer.

Finding your Range

In order to begin finding and developing your emotional range in storytelling you have to look back.

Pull out your stories from the past two weeks and look at them again. Think about how you felt about doing the story and then think about how the people in the story felt. Did you capture those feelings? Did you show the quiet frustration of the city council woman who is trying to do something good for her district? Or, did you just do the obvious and show the argument in the council chambers?

Every Story You Tell

Affects the viewer emotionally. Even the most mundane city council budget story touches some emotion. Hopefully it is told in such a way that it touches the anger button or victory button, but maybe it’s just the boredom button. Whatever emotion a story elicits, it should be an integral part of our storytelling arsenal. But, does your emotional range even allow you to recognize that “feeling”.

Many seasoned reporters can look past the facts of the story into the hearts of people and understand what makes them act. Young, inexperienced reporters deal with what is in front of them and report it. They have not yet developed their emotional range.

Valuable Links
– The Society of Professional Journalists is dedicated to the perpetuation of a free press as the cornerstone of our nation and our liberty.
– The Radio-Television News Directors Association is the world’s largest professional organization devoted exclusively to electronic journalism. RTNDA represents local and network news executives in broadcasting, cable and other electronic media in more than 30 countries
– APTRA’s purposes are to advance journalism through the media of radio and television, to co-operate with the Associated Press in order to make available an accurate and impartial record of the news, and to serve as a liaison between representatives of the radio and television stations in California and Nevada that are members of the Associated Press and the management thereof, in attainment of those goals.
– A great resource that features links to top stories, writing tips, etc.
– One of the most tenacious and veteran street reporters in Southern California, Hal Eisner has his own site and it is loaded with great articles and info.
– If you want to find out the ranking of Nielsen markets nationwide or when sweep periods are in your market… you will find it here.
– I have known Ron for years. He has a website dedicated primarily to Los Angeles related TV news. It’s a great source for finding out what’s going on in the nation’s second largest TV market.
– If you ever have the chance to attend a seminar at this place, do it. The Poynter Institute is a school for journalists, future journalists, and teachers of journalists. No matter what their job title may be, journalists come to Poynter in a search for excellence. Our resident and visiting faculty provide concentrated instruction and personal support in that quest. CHECK OUT THE RESOURCES FOR FREE ON THIS SITE.
– You gotta have some fun, too. This site is dedicated to fun and a magnificent happy hour. My brother and his partner are having a great time selling unique party supplies and glassware. Check it OUT!
– NewsLab is a non-profit resource center for television and radio newsrooms, focused on training and research. We offer workshops on writing, storytelling, ethical decision-making, and other topics. Workshops range from an hour or two to half-day, full-day or multiple day sessions. We often provide training at state, regional and national journalism conferences, and we can work directly with your newsroom to develop specialized training.
– This is a growing TV news chat room. It is very civilized and, what I like about it is that it segments discussion in several large markets as well as a General TV category. It’s free and it will help you learn what’s going on around the country.
– Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc. is a grassroots nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of investigative reporting. IRE was formed in 1975 to create a forum in which journalists throughout the world could help each other by sharing story ideas, newsgathering techniques and news sources.
– was created to provide a centralized location for journalists seeking information about professional development opportunities. The site brings together those seeking training and those best equipped to provide it. The centerpiece of the site is a searchable database of local, regional and national journalism training programs arranged to easily find, compare and determine which training best meets individual needs.
– This is the National Press Club. Check out the resources on this website.
– This Web site is the first to publish new mass media research. Begun in 1995, it continues the reports for scholarly journals, trade magazines like the RTNDA Communicator and books for more than 30 years. Standards are the same as for peer-refereed journal articles. Emphasis is on long-term trends rather than year-to-year differences, which usually mean little. For a crystal ball look into the future of TV News… look here.
– The Project for Excellence in Journalism is an initiative by journalists to clarify and raise the standards of American journalism. The Project pursues the aim of clarifying standards by bringing journalists together to decide for themselves what their purpose and aims are.
– This is a good starting point to find news from TV, Radio and Newspapers around the world. You can find anything here.
– American Journalism Review is a national magazine that covers all aspects of print, television, radio and online media. The magazine, which is published six times a year, examines how the media cover specific stories and broader coverage trends. AJR analyzes ethical dilemmas in the field and monitors the impact of technology on how journalism is practiced and on the final product.
– Grade the News is a media research project focusing on the quality of the news media in the San Francisco Bay Area. We aim to provide timely critiques and in-depth, systematic analyses that allow the public to compare newspapers and local television news broadcasts on equal footing.
– The Carole Kneeland Project provides intensive training and education, building solid television news leaders. Our annual management workshop teaches Carole’s collaborative style based on ethics and standards. We are determined to help improve local television news in America.
– If you want some great DAILY story ideas, check in every morning with Al Tompkins of the Poynter Institute.