All around the country, politicians have been holding town hall meetings on the issue of health reform. What they’ve been receiving have been hostile questions from angry participants. It’s made for some great sound.
Good sound from a meeting? Sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it? But the reality is that one mistake many reporters make is to avoid setting up inside a meeting, and instead, waiting in the hallway to grab reaction afterward. The problem with that approach is that the sound is never as good. Inside the meeting, participants are fired up. It’s their chance to really show the politicians how angry they are. The same person who verbally assaulted officials inside the meeting is often mellowed out by the time the meeting is over and the reporter sets up for a hallway interview.
Soundbites Add Immediacy
Emotional soundbites from inside a meeting help take viewers to the scene. It’s much more immediate. The viewer feels like he’s inside that room listening to those angry people vent their frustrations. We’ve seen it this week in these health care town halls. But these situations present themselves all the time.
Take a school board meeting. Parents march up to a podium and passionately express their opinion, upset that programs are being cut. Capture the emotion of the parents as they plead their case. Don’t wait to interview them after the meeting. After the meeting they have lost their emotion. Hallway interviews are not nearly as dramatic and you will have failed to show what it was really like inside the meeting. Sound from inside the meeting adds both immediacy and emotion which will make your story much more compelling.
It is much easier to do hallway interviews. Setting up in the meeting means arriving a bit earlier. It might even mean taking charge. If they don’t have a podium from where participants will speak, suggest to those in charge they use one. Don’t be passive. Often the individuals organizing the meeting don’t understand televisions needs. Take charge. Yes, it’s more work, but you will often end up with some great sound. Your story will benefit. Your newscast will benefit. Your viewers will benefit.
Doug Drew is a morning news specialist with 602 Communications. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.