Tips for writing TV news stories

Mike Schuh has been covering daily news at the same station in Baltimore for 17 years, winning a Murrow and several Emmy awards along the way. His official title is general assignment reporter at WJZ-TV, but he prefers to describe himself as a storyteller. So when I asked him how young journalists can improve their writing, I wasn’t surprised when he told me a story.

“It’s kind of like a bricklayer knowing he needs to bring certain tools to the job to build a wall,” Schuh said. “He doesn’t think about, do I need a trowel…do I need a mixer, my pickle bucket? No, he just brings all that stuff and then he looks at the blueprint of a job and figures out what kind of wall am I building today.”  TV journalists, he said, need to be so certain about the tools of their craft–the shots and sound they need to do the job–that they can focus on simply telling a good story. As Schuh put it, “Once you’ve aced the mechanics of how you build a story, then you can worry about the story line and the plot, the quest, conflict and resolution, the reveal, all these other parts.”

With all the necessary elements in hand, Schuh has one simple goal when he sits down to write: “to get out of the way.”