Monday, February 25, 2008

On the TV Again in a Weird Way

Darrell on the TV
Originally uploaded by Spokesmodel
Somehow, I was tabbed to be the spokesmodel for my organization at a weekend event. Much to my surprise, two local TV stations actually interviewed me.
It was a strange feeling to have the tables turned. Certainly, I stuck a microphone in countless faces countless times. I felt almost like a politician, responding to the question while getting my "pitch" in.
The good news is, it seems like the health system was presented in a positive light and the front man didn't do anything to mess that up.
This has happened just once before, when I was interviewed in the context of being radio boy for the local Arena Football team. In that case, the subject matter was second nature and there was no real pressure. This time, the interview involved terms like "arthroscopy" and "miniscus" instead of "touchdown" and "field goal."
The best part was that I've been gone from the local TeeVee for so long (or there has been so much turnover at the local stations) that neither of the interviewers had any idea I have a TV news background. They patiently explained how to stand and where to look. I was happy to oblige.
Hold onto your videoarthroscope.

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Unknown said...

How to stand and where to look...that cracked me up! Was it hard to be humble? LOL!

Darrell said...

Not really. I did have to fight against trying to produce the piece for them. Again, I had to keep in mind that these young folks had absolutely no idea that i had ever touched a TV camera. I also saw the kind of pressure they are under now that the industry is moving to "videojournalists."

Workman said...

Just stand right there, Mr. Ree-boo-chee. Now you don't have to look at the camera, you can just look at me. And why don't we start by you saying and spelling your name.

Darrell said...

EXACTLY! And of course I was made all the more insane by the fact that I HANDED EACH OF THEM A BUSINESS CARD. There's the spelling, the title, everything. God forbid we would take a note. We do our reporting on camera.

Anonymous said...

Actually it's much more efficient to have someone say and spell out their name on camera before an's why:
1. PRONUNCIATION: Is it Rebushe', ruhBOOSH-ay! or Rubbershew? That's why it's always best to get it straight from the "horse's mouth"...and not everyone is old enough to remember seeing ya on TeeVee thar bud!
2. VERIFICATION: Verify that you're talking to the same guy when you pull up the clips later on in the day... you wind up with a bunch of cards and notes...and it helps to CYA in the edit suite with a quick verbal I.D.
3. MULTI-TASKING: While I'm checking my page, listening to voicemails...trying to eat my lunch at 3pm...AND edit this package...I have everything I'se needs on tape/disc/ get the idea. Plus having you spell it makes life sooo much easier for tapping in the fonts in sync with your mellow voice.

I know you know this...I just was curious if you forgot the "wherefores and the whys" of schlepping a camcorder around. To take notes, a VJ would need 3 hands.

Darrell said...

I concede all of those points. I would like to point out the virtue of old-fashioned note taking, though.
You won't need the third hand if you take the time to do your "reporting" before you do your interview. Sit down or stand around with your interview subject and get the information. It is a tried, true and effective way to be a better interviewer.
As you talk, write things down. it helps you remember facts when you get to the computer and-or the edit bay.
I can tell you from my recent experience that a lack of basic reporting procedure led to some inaccuracies on the news. Nobody wants that.
Of course, I am acutely aware of the deadline and performance pressure "VJ's" are under. And, since these were run-and-gun VO-SOT's, it worked reasonably well.
I'm just concerned about the increasingly steep slope off off which basic reportorial skills are slipping.

Anonymous said...

Well...todays folks aren't note takers...unless it's on a blackberry..or iPhone. Guess the videocam is merely an extension of that. Paper and pencil...nobody uses much anymore as the electronic age has changed everything...even this blogsite is an example. And don't even get me started on reporting skills...

Darrell said...

I am a walking anachronism.

Workman said...

I'm going to have to agree with Anon. I never take notes, as much as I'd like to. Locking down the camera and picking up the notepad just isn't an option. People move around even when their sitting, and one small shift on weight in a chair can ruin the framing of a shot. Add to that the need to monitor the audio, and the notebook almost always stays in the car.

As for the pre-interview, apart from the time issue, I'm actually not that big a fan. You get some great information or awesome sound bite, then have to turn on the camera and try to recreate the moment. It rarely works as well as the first tme. I've found it works better to flip the camera on, get the small talk going, and by the time you have your real questions, many have gotten more comfortable with the idea of having a camera in front of them.

Being a one man band (the less dignified name for video journalist) is a tough game, but I've gotten used to it over the past several years. I don't even know what I'd do if I got to work with a photog. I'd probbly have to compromise on the radio station we listen to in the car. The horror, the horror.

Darrell said...

I've certainly done it yor way many times. So, like I said earlier, I concede the points. No one would want you to listen to anything pop or mainstream.

Anonymous said...

Yep...I'd agree workman..being a "One-Man-Band" many times reminds me of the guy on the Ed Sullivan Show who was spinning plates on tall sticks to the tune of "The Saber Dance" Take your eye off one or spend too much time on another and they begin to wobble and fall..crashing to the floor! (While some joker offstage tosses you another plate to spin!!)
Such is the case of the News/VJ. :O

VJ's have to scope the the interviewee's...politely ask nearby folks to please quiet down, put up a light-stand (if ya have one)...dress out the cords, label and load the tape, hook up the mic...(all while chatting up to the interviewee so as to warm-em up).....and then multi-task like a hungry monkey-in-heat sometimes. ( banana or Mrs Monkey? Mrs. Monkey or banana?)

Today's newsvideo workflow is pretty much the same as before except it's usually a one-person affair. Used to have 3-person crews back in "the day"... and reporters with steno pads writing a rough edit as they interview and as b-roll is being shot. Nawtennymoor!!

Reporters used to sync-record interviews with handheld tape recorders as they would playback the intvw during the drive back to the station to lift the sdbites out and construct their script. It's been years since I've seen that and with all the mini PDR's and iPhones...this could be handled with a breeze!!

Pre-interviews are often a "buzz-kill" as you'll get someone saying the perfect soundbite, in perfect context....only to have them "blow it" or "stammer and stumble on-camera" because they try to get the same bite exactly as they said the spontaneity is lost and so it comes off flat if at all.

As for reporting skills....well....the medium has always been the message and so TV folks have always gotten away with soo much with so little for soo long...not like print where you gotta do more than "slice 'n dice"...ya gotta have meat to your material and your attributions are there in print for all to see. Most TV types merely attribute to "unnamed sources" or use generic catch-phrases for as we all know, today's packages run less than :45 typically....they used to be 1:15 or longer back in the day. (The exception of course was KTBS' Assignment Education reporting years ago as those snoozers would run an eternity...with little to support the length..but that's another tale for another day.) the analogy of the spinning-plate maestro earlier...covering a newshoot is a lot for one-person to handle the technical,PR and story objective in one-fell swoop. Today's newsops are a lot like a Fast-Food Restaurant staffed by very anxious people.... the fish sandwich looks good...but it can often be frozen inside. Tough game but it's the way it is.

--Always keeping things in focus--