Ok- confession. My last blog promised ‘Standups Part 2’ because I
was sensing the snarl of maximum blog length. But I admit to being
overwhelmed by a faucet selection for a sink (don’t get me started) and
can’t find my notes.
Let’s talk about Live Standups. For those of you who haven’t had the opportunity to report live: make this your mission. It will be much tougher getting your next job without a few live hits on your reel. It’s akin to getting your first job: you needed that ND who trusted his/her gut. You now depend on someone trusting that same feeling- and you- to send you to your first breaking story. I had a client who was an education reporter. When we had an intensely violent and controversial police shooting here in NYC [Amadou Diallo- it became a Bruce Springsteen song- American Skin (41 Shots)] – her ND asked her to go uptown to report. Despite the fact that this wasn’t her beat- and she reminded management of this- she was chosen because they could trust what she would and would not say in her live hits.
It takes a brave manager to send you out for your first live. Now we’re talking business vs. journalism. Who made the decision to let you do it? Whose head might roll? Whom might you embarrass? What corrections may be forthcoming? It could even become a legal headache.
BUT I HAVE FAITH IN YOU. When you feel you’re ready: tell your ND.
When you’re in the field- use the Stop Technique- which I’ll explain in detail another time. For now: know it’s a behavioral method to temporarily push aside any mental or physical distractions. So in your case: “Stop- I can do this”.. or “Stop- Shoulders down”.. or “Stop- State the facts”. I suggest saying it aloud- in a whispered, quiet voice. Of vital importance: this is a positive strategy- ie. you are serving as your own coach! The word or phrase you use after the word ‘Stop’ must be encouraging or reassuring. I’d say about 93% of my clients use it for all sorts of reasons. Eg. “Stop- later” - for the infinite mental distractions you have at work.
Please please por favor do not use a starter crutch such as “Well…” or (the latest fad that drives me crazy) “And [anchor’s name]…”. Once you develop this habit it’s tough to break- believe me.
3 or 4 simple sentences should do the job. If the story is not particularly harrowing news- your first sentence might put the situation in context- eg. “This is the third house fire on Smith Street this week- and firefighters now suspect arson”.
Yes- it’s fine to hold and use your reporter’s notepad during your live standup! Do not write full sentences and do not attempt to memorize your sentences- other than your first one. You’ve chosen journalism because you have a strong capacity for language. Your brain will fill in the grammar and vocabulary. Your syntax is simple.
You always want to ‘start up’- meaning your eye contact with the camera (there’s a Reggae song here that always rattles in my head). Then it’s fine to refer to your notes to assure that you get names or numbers or charges correct. Viewers see your use of your pad as ‘wow- I’m getting the freshest news possible about this story- and my reporter cares about accuracy’. You are respected for this!
Final sentence or last half of your final sentence: eyes up as well.
Protect your pages.. particularly when it’s rainy or wet out! Turn your pad over until you’re ready. I’d also use indelible ink.. and you might consider a fatter felt-tipped pen so that your words are easier to glance at.
Your content: facts.. facts.. facts. It’s simple- straight forward. Years ago I recall watching a cut-in from a gas explosion on the outskirts of Mexico City. The ‘reporter’ struck me as someone pretty fresh out of school.. and most likely someone in production. She stood on a mound of rubble.. used her notes.. looked into the camera when she could.. and told us in a series of simple sentences what she knew.. what she saw.. what she smelled. It seemed like 20 sentences or so.. and she was terrific!!
Stop- you’re smart. Stop- you can do it.
And no- I still haven’t settled on a faucet yet- but I’m now at a deadline- and that feels… great!
Previously featured on the Radio Television Digital News Association as the News Coach blog series.