Basic Reporting Tips and Guidelines

From Ross Becker

1. WRITE THE LEAD FIRST. This is where the story begins. Use short sentences to draw the viewer into the story. It is a headline with a transition to the beginning of the video. If you are starting with a sound bite or natural sound, use the lead to “write into” or introduce that sound.

2. Begin the story with your strongest video or sound. AGAIN…if you use sound, use the lead to set it up. Example: if you start with sound of a city council member saying “I wanted to fight this because it’s important” then your lead should say “Jim Reporter found a member of the city council who says he had no choice but to act”

3. Each package should have a beginning, a middle and an end. The end is the summary and usually refers to the beginning. Take us full circle in your reporting.

4. The beginning sets up the story, the facts, the issue. The middle lays out both sides of an argument or tells the story of someone affected. The end sums up where the issue stands and what might happen next. Again, these are general, basic suggestions. Each story is different and can use different storytelling techniques.

5. These guidelines are simplistic. There are no rules for every package. Each one is a work of art, but there are techniques and tricks that work for all packaging.

6. Writing is critical to the success of your story. Use short sentences. Make the story personal with the words you use. Check your grammar. Make it conversational.

7. Stand ups. These can be tricky. The basic rule is to use a standup to show me something, move me from one place to another or help me visually when you don’t have video for a thought or point.

8. When doing a standup make sure the viewer understands why you are standing where you are standing. For instance, “I am here in front of the courthouse, because it’s here in a courtroom where this drama is unfolding”

9. Use the sound bites you have chosen and recorded as punctuation NOT to deliver information. For instance, you might write a line of track that says “the lawyer for the defendant is worried the jury won’t agree (then the SOT) and he says “I know they have a big job and a lot of testimony to consider”. The sound is the period at the end of that sentence.

10. Most of the time you do NOT want to end your story with a sound bite. After the last sound, use one line to end the story in your own words. It is part of the summary. It’s a good place to refer to the first sound or script. Take the story full circle.

11. If your station requires an anchor tag, plan and save something. One last thought or postscript. Remember this is the last thing the viewer hears about your story. Don’t throw it away.