The headline from CNN.com’s coverage of the Georgia floods yesterday caught my attention: Drowning Mother: “Please come help me!” It was an incredible story about a victim of raging flood waters. Because CNN centered this story around this specific person, it differentiated the piece from the hundreds of other flooding stories. That’s what good journalism is all about. The more people-centric you can make your stories and your newscast, the more interesting they are going to be. Good broadcast journalism is about interesting people and interesting pictures.
Focus on real people
Regular people make stories come alive. They make viewers feel connected to the content much more so than interviews with officials. Common people should always be the focal point of most any story.
Regular people, common people, real people are much more interesting to watch and hear from than officials and this should be kept in mind when reporting stories or booking guests for newscasts. Regular people are “real,” not slick and produced.
Reporters should always center their story around a real person. It takes some effort, by finding someone affected by the story will make the story much more interesting.
When booking guests for a newscast, the key is finding interesting people who have compelling stories to tell. Interviews with officials are likely to be boring, so you want to choose these guests carefully. There are a lot of people who are fine as a 20 second soundbite in a reporter package, but not as a two-minute guest.
Guests should have a story to tell
The best newsmaker is someone who has a dramatic story to tell.
- The dog-walker who saw a fire and called 911
- The Iraq war vet and the dog he found and adopted in Baghdad
- Friend of girl who dies while undergoing plastic surgery
- The woman who gave her kidney to save her best friend’s life
- The cancer survivor who finished the walk-a-thon
These guests don’t necessarily need to be “visual,” because their story is so interesting. You see them on the “Today” show, “Good Morning America” or “American Morning” all the time.
Officials can be boring
Guests such as the mayor, a city council member, fire chief, or police chief are problematic. They may seem “important” to news producers, but when they come on, viewers feel comfortable walking away knowing nothing very exciting will happen. Unless they have something really important to say and your viewers see this as “making news,” these are interviews you want to avoid.
We all know that you use a soundbite in a package to express emotion. Use the same rule for selecting guests on the morning show. The best guests are people who have an emotional. interesting story to tell.
In Wednesday’s USA Today, there was a special section on health care. The story focused on five regular people. There wasn’t a single “official” featured in the cover page. Why? Because regular people are more interesting.
Find these people in your community and then center your stories around them.
Doug Drew is a morning news specialist with 602 Communications. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.