TV anchoring tips from a pro

WLKY anchor demonstrates use of "TV Hands."

WLKY anchor demonstrates use of “TV Hands.”

KRON4 anchor Marty Gonzalez calls them “TV Hands” — that’s when an anchor keeps the elbows in, hands at waist level and then talks using natural gestures. Gonzalez also teaches broadcast journalism at San Francisco State University and says it’s hard to get inexperienced anchors to stop clasping their hands together in a death grip when they first get to the anchor desk.

“Nothing says rookie more than that,” laughs Gonzalez. In addition, has three more excellent pieces of advice for any kind of on-camera delivery:

1. Pacing. Gonzalez sums this up in two words — slow down! “Get a tattoo if you have to, but remember this,” says Gonzalez. “Cut your speed in half.” As he points out, you might as well have stayed at home if your reading is so rushed that no one understands it.

2. Emphasize important words.
Call this interpretation — Gonzalez says you should take a highlighter and identify at least one word in every sentence that should be emphasized for meaning. “You also want to build in pauses to sound conversational,” says Gonzalez. He recommends marking your scripts to remind yourself where a pause makes sense.

3. Vary your delivery. “Not all stories should be treated the same,” says Gonzalez. “You need to change your inflection or tone to match the topic.”

Gonzalez also says it’s critical that you understand the material you’re reading and that it’s essential to rehearse out loud.


Better TV stand-ups in a box

Shooting compelling solo stand-ups is a challenge — especially if you are new to TV news. Joshua Davidsburg is a TV reporter himself, now teaching broadcast journalism at the University of Maryland.

He created a unique online video module with best practices for shooting stands-ups on your own. It takes less than 8 minutes to watch, but gives you great advice for how to deliver content directly to the camera.

Davidsburg is using — a video tagging tool that allows you to embed text, links and other multimedia into a video. He says he finds it much more flexible than YouTube Annotations.

Right now it appears that few news organizations are using the tool, but it could be a an interesting way to produce some explanatory journalism projects and it looks like a great teaching tool.


App makes creating mobile video faster, easier for TV reporter

Reporting a story on social media as it happens is one more task that reporters like Beth Parker at Fox 5 DC have to work into their days. Parker recently covered the aftermath of a storm that brought a tree down on top of the home of a blind woman. Parker got to the scene and while the photojournalist she was working with started capturing video for the newscast, Parker pulled out her smartphone.

“I was able to take still photos and video on my phone and create a condensed version of my story to get the information out and tease ahead to the show,” Parker said.

ParkerVideoliciousParker says she uses the Videolicious app all day long to push out versions of her story.  Videolicious allows a journalist to record his or her own voice, shoot the necessary video clips that go along with the story and drag and drop them into place within seconds.  With another click, the video is edited and able to be shared.  Parker used the app to put a version of the storm story out on Twitter and Facebook, feeding the station’s significant mobile audience.

“I’m dealing constantly with our mobile folks.” says Parker. “I say, ‘This is why I think this would do really well on the Web;’ I constantly try to drive those numbers.”

Though Parker loves how easy it is to share content via mobile devices, she says the speed at which you can publish should make you more cautious than ever about accuracy.

“Every time I make a Vine, I’m representing Channel 5,” Parker said.  “When you’re at something that’s unfolding,  you feel pressure.  It can be nerve-racking to know you need to beat your competition, but you also have to make sure you’re right.”


Got the interview? Now, get the journalism job

More than 90 percent of journalism and mass communications grads reported getting at least one in-person job interview soon after graduation.  Yet, a little less than 74 percent ended up getting a full or part-time job.  So, what went wrong?

News anchor and reporter Byron Brown from WJTV in Jackson, Miss. says there are a number of mistakes interviewees make.

“If you do get the interview, dress for success,” says Brown.  “As my father said, from your hairline to the shoe shine, make sure you are dressed for the interview.”

Byron says he’s also amazed at how many people forget that the interview continues outside the news director’s office.

“When you’re out in the newsroom just kind of milling around, that’s the second part of the process,” Brown says.  Though you might think the tough part is over, Brown maintains that what the rest of the staff says about you after you’ve let your hair down can affect whether or not you get hired.  He also urges preparation for the position.

“Know something about the company; know something about the managers you’ll be talking to,” says Brown.  He also suggests it’s very important to come in able to articulate your goals and to show you’ve learned something about the community where you’ll be reporting.

The job hunt for thousands of May grads is officially on — be sure you’re one of the success stories!


Five tips for gathering better video and sound

By Bob Gould

I teach broadcast news at Michigan State and one day last year I decided to take the students out and shoot a story with the students watching me work. I figured it was much easier to SHOW them as opposed to just telling them. So, the story was about a contest for MSU students to win season tickets to the student basketball section (called, The Izzone, in honor of coach Tom Izzo–they are hard to get). All they had to do was make a halfcourt shot on a makeshift outdoor grass court and the season ticket was theirs.

Here’s the story.

There were several things the students took away from watching me.

1. They couldn’t believe how CLOSE I would get to people and how unfazed the subjects were when I did. They are horrified by getting close ups like this. It’s important to break the perimeter of the story and get fully inside. By doing this you have a better chance of bringing the story home. I use the phrase, “Take me There, Make me Care.” If you stay too far away, it will feel to the viewer as if we are watching from afar.

2. They also didn’t realize how important it was to just start asking questions on camera without first asking them if they would do “an interview.” You will see in the piece that I talk to students in their element and not pulling them aside. Doing this would ruin the heat of the moment.

3. It’s sometimes better to be lucky than good, but you need to know how to use the luck to your advantage and not screw it up. Coach Izzo showed up about halfway through our shoot. I didn’t know he was going to be there. He’s a charismatic guy that connects emotionally with everyone. The event lasted all day, but he happened to arrive during the hour we were there. I used it to my advantage. The students were upset with me, saying that they would never get that lucky.

4. A wireless mic is the best tool in your bag. I can’t stress it enough. I used it along with my shotgun mic to get good clean sound. The students were amazed at how I asked Izzo to put the mic on without hesitation. He asked what we were doing and I said this was a class. He was floored that a class would be doing this. He gladly put the mic on. I told the students that you have to be aggressive in asking people to put the mic on people like that. They are all afraid to ask and I said that the worst thing he would say is no. I got great sound with him with that wireless. I also used the wireless to get good clean nats throughout the shoot.

5. There are two different possible outcomes for this story. One of jubilation if they miss the shot and go away empty handed and one of disappointment when they don’t make it. It doesn’t necessarily matter which you get, because sometimes stories don’t have tidy endings and sometimes the story is better when they DON’T end happy.


How to land a dream job

Bob Dotson youngNBC’s Bob Dotson has what many television reporters consider their dream job. He travels the country, finding and telling engaging stories about “ordinary people doing extraordinary things.” In a new edition of his book, American Story, to be released tomorrow, Dotson shares his own story, explaining how he made that job what it is today.

Young people, longing for a more exciting job, always ask me how I got mine. They want to travel the country on someone else’s nickel, “looking for interesting people, taking all the time you need.”

This is what I tell them: Back when I started writing for the Today Show, my American Stories couldn’t run longer than a minute ten. They aired in a newscast and the length had to be short. So I spent a year doing 59-second stories. Never asked for more time. When everyone else begged for an additional ten seconds, I gave ten seconds back. Meanwhile, I searched for the tale worth more time.

A year later, I went to my boss and said, “Could I have a couple of minutes to do a special piece?” And he said, “You can have four minutes.” That’s blockbuster movie length in TV news, but I had earned a reputation for doing a good job without complaining, so my boss took a risk that I would use the extra time well. We all have to do the work someone hires us to do, but we can polish our skills until that work shines and the folks who sign paychecks see the best we can do.

Dotson’s back story reminds me of the advice I once heard from Lane Michaelsen, a former TV photographer who is now a news director. He’d tell young journalists that every time they exceed expectations–turning a story early, for example, or picking up an extra vo/sot–they get the equivalent of a penny in a jar. Over time, those pennies pile up. And one day, when you need more time to develop a story or to tell it, you get to cash in the pennies.

And then? You start earning pennies again.

Words from the wise.



Mobile newsgathering works for covering winter storms

When ice covers the roads, it can be just as hard for news crews to get around as it is for the general public.  So, reporter Margaret Ann Morgan and some of her colleagues at Raycom-owned WDAM in Hattiesburg, Miss. got serious about newsgathering with their smartphones during their recent encounter with winter.

“Last week was the first time that 95 percent of what I did was all from my iPhone,” said Morgan.

With traveling into the station to get gear not a speedy enough option, Morgan says they had to get creative with how they would put together the newscast.

“I was scraping the ice off of my car Tuesday morning and realized, ‘Hey, this would be some great nat sound!’ So I pulled out my iPhone and started recording. I was able to put it into Oasis straight from my phone, and we — and other stations — used it for the newscasts that day.”

Once she got going, Morgan said it just made sense to continue.

“Everything I did, including whips, SOTs, etc., was done straight from my iPhone for three consecutive days.”

These days, mobile newsgathering is synonymous with social media sharing in many newsrooms.  Morgan says she was posting, sharing, retweeting and “just glued” to her phone for the duration of the story.

“This brought me more interaction with viewers via Twitter and Facebook than I’ve had since I started working here. They knew I was an up-to-second source for road closures, etc., so they began to tweet at me directly to ask info, and I was able to share it with them and the rest of the world.”

Morgan’s experience is a great example of the saying that, “Sometimes the best newsgathering tool is the one in your hand.”


TV News: Good news, bad news about audience growth

At Poynter’s Future of News Conference, the Pew Research Center’s Paul Taylor said that — once again — the younger they are, the less they watch.

…researchers in 2012 asked consumers how many minutes they devoted to taking in the news the day before. While the Silent Generation spent 84 minutes with the news, Boomers devoted 77 minutes and Gen Xers reported 66 minutes, Millennials said they spent just 46 minutes consuming news — a figure that hasn’t changed appreciably since 2004.

It’s long been assumed that once someone ages, he or she is more likely to get interested in news, but Taylor says this “life cycle” effect doesn’t actually have scientific support.

So, getting young people hooked on TV news may actually be getting harder, but additional research from Pew does make for some short-term optimism.

…the audience for local TV news grew in all three major time slots in 2013. Viewership climbed 6% in the morning (5 to 7 a.m.) and 3% in the early evening (5 to 7 p.m.) newscasts, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis. The audience barely edged up—by .1%—in the late night slot (11 p.m.), a newscast that had suffered the biggest decreases in recent years.

The repPewViewershiport suggests that significant news events during sweeps periods, such as tornadoes, floods and the health care website controversy in November, may have prompted some of the improvement in audience numbers.

Whatever the reason, TV news organizations have a reason to go into the February sweeps period with a bit cheerier outlook.

Television remains the No. 1 source of news for Americans with 71 percent indicating that they watch local newscasts, according to Pew.

Graphic courtesy of




How journalists track what’s new in social media tools

Social Media ExaminerEvery time you turn around, it seems like there are new social media tools to try out.  From Rebel Mouse to Storyful Multisearch, they just seem to keep coming.  For journalists, it’s important to keep up with what’s going on in the social media space and to do it as efficiently as possible.

At Hearst Television, Judy Stone has the title of executive digital media product manager.  Part of her team’s job is to be sure they’re not missing a social media opportunity.

“We like Mashable, Inside Facebook, and Social Media Examiner. Mashable especially is a dependable resource for news business, technology, social media, etc.,” Stone said.

At Townsquare Media, digital managing editor Lauren Zimmerman agrees on the relevance of Mashable, but has a few more strategies for staying current.

“I also find it helpful to follow the game-changers in social media,” Zimmerman said.  “I follow Mark Zuckerberg and Vadim Lavrusik on Facebook because they often post about changes they’re making to the site. Although the founders and employees of other social media companies aren’t as well-known, if you can manage to find and follow the decision makers, it’s helpful to get a first-hand account of changes.”

Steve Safran is a social media consultant with a long career working in broadcasting and online.  He says he uses social media to monitor social media.

“Five years ago I would have listed the sites I visit in order to keep up on what’s happening in the news industry. Now I have no idea,” said Safran. “What I mean by that is that I visit stories, not sites. Social media points me toward stories I will find interesting. I don’t really care who has the information, as long as they’re credible.”

Stone says that, wherever you get your information, you need to make sure you’re thoughtful about which social media tools or strategies you buy into.

“We know doing our own research and testing is essential before making big changes.  Again, don’t jump at every shiny new social toy or you’ll wear yourself out and spread yourself thin.  When a promising new tool comes along and testing proves its helpfulness, indeed fast adaptation is critical.”



Storytelling the Bob Dotson way

Bob Dotson photo by Linda Dotson

NBC’s Bob Dotson has never been one to follow the herd. He’s built a career out of telling the stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things on his American Story franchise for the Today Show. How did he get where he is?  “I think almost every break I got in this business is something I started on my own time,” Dotson told News Photographer magazine.

He shot his first documentary for WKY television in Oklahoma on his own time. “They just gave me film,” he says. He wound up producing 19 docs before leaving the station for the network in 1975.

“Success in this business is not a question of being dealt a good hand,” Dotson says. “It’s playing a bad hand well over and over and over again.”

Dotson has played his hand so well he now has the kind of job many TV journalists envy. He has the luxury of time to discover and report feature stories. He gets more time on the air to tell them. But he firmly believes great stories can be told without those advantages. The key is to excel within the limitations you face, he says, whatever they are.

You may not have a chance or even the desire to be a feature reporter, but you can still apply Dotson’s approach to visual storytelling in your own work. Thanks to Bob Kaplitz of AR&D for annotating one of Dotson’s stories to spotlight his techniques.

Post originally published at NewsLab