I was watching a newscast this week where a reporter was doing a live interview with a school official about budget cuts. The official was talking about how teachers were not going to be able to have enough school books for all the kids in the class. During the interview, someone at the station decided to cover the interview with b-roll. The video was file tape of parents shopping at Target for school supplies. It had nothing to do with what the interview was about, and this is exactly what I talked about in my article last week. In that article I discussed how lame video is often used to cover up talking heads, and often the video really doesnt pertain to what the person is saying and it does more harm than good. I suggested that in many cases, I’d rather just see the person talk, even if it is just a “talking head.”
In response, I received several emails from readers, which I share in today’s column:
As I read your description of the practice of cutting away from the subject during news interviews (or in this case, sports) I realized that this has become a practice, hasn’t it? And we have been around long enough to remember WHY it came into being. To avoid the charge and criticism which came first from inside the newsroom, then got picked up outside the newsroom of “Talking Heads!”
In the pendulum swings of public perception and how to maximize viewer interest, it seems to me that we are coming toward the end of another one of those pendulum swings.
I appreciate your news-views, Doug. Thanks for continuing to be a positive influence in a business which is as threatened from inside the corporate structure as from out.
I could not agree with you more, I shudder when I see a report on obesity, and know I am going to have to sit through headless pork chops waddling down the street, or a report on smoking ordinances at restaurants or places of business, and I KNOW I am going to have to sit through B-roll of people lighting up cigarettes, it is so predictable you want to scream.
What drives me more nuts is when there is only 7-8 seconds of video, so you have to sit through the same short clip 5-6 times or more during the report. I get it, you don’t have much video, but you don’t need to show it to me half a dozen times during the report to make it stretch. We’re not that stupid that we think it is all different video. My short term memory tells me I just saw this same clip 10 seconds ago.
As an editor, I want to keep the viewer visually engaged. I want to illustrate the story, not cover it up. I have come to realize over the years that there are “technical editors” who know how to pull the various elements together, and their are “creative editors” who want to create something worth watching. They know how to add that “Je Ne Sais Quoi” to a piece of tape, but unfortunately, creative editors are not that common. Anyone can paint a room with a brush and a roller, but few can create a Mona Lisa or do the Sistine Chapel.
The problem is schools are chunking out “technical editors” who have little personal imagination or the creative side to take a common story and make it visually extraordinary. In our business, we look for the creative editor, but you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find the prince.
Jon May – Executive Producer
I read what you wrote on the “Use of video”.I see your point, but as a 10 yr. news photographer it’s an almost must! Mostly because of peoples short attention spans. Who really wants to sit and watch someone with a mundane voice, no personality, and has a boring background. Especially if the story is visual. If you can match video to the story then use it. But like you had said, you were interested in what someone had to say and see the emotion, expressions. But as a you had stated, the game was going on. Who really wants to listen to someone talk about their rags to riches story when an incredible pass, play or a change in the game is on. I’d be upset if I missed it. Kinda like the “Heidi Bowl” game. Remember? The station that cut away to that show got a LOT of FLACK for that! As they should have!
But you seem to be a true journalist, interested in a story. But as a sports fan, I’d rather see “live” game action. The interview would have been best suited for a pregame or half time report. When the attention span of fans are more acceptable to the interview.
Doug Drew is a morning news specialist with 602 Communications. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Doug on facebook http://www.facebook.com/dougdrew and on twitter at http://twitter.com/dougdrew