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How To Be A Reporter

Or “everything I've learned since I joined STN condensed in a handy PowerPoint”.

Rachel Cisto

on 23 April 2015

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Transcript of How To Be A Reporter

Or “everything I've learned since I got here condensed in a PowerPoint”.
How To Be A Reporter
(so you can talk about news like one of the pros!)
News Terms
PKG: package. This is your story. Usually one or two minutes in length, this is the typical reporter's story. There are NATs, SOTs, tracks, and usually a tag. All of these terms will be explained later.
SLUG: This is the story's headline or title, It's usually only a few words, like HIGH GAS PRICES.
RDR: reader. This is when the anchor reads a story to the camera. There is no video here, just the anchor. This is usually about 15 seconds.
VO: voice-over. This is when the anchor talks and the viewers see video footage.
PHOTOG: short for photographer. This is your cameraperson. They'll go with you to shoot interviews and B-Roll and will edit your story when you're done.
B-Roll: This is the video that is played during VOs and throughout the reporter's package.
TRACK: the reporter narrating the story. Tracks are used to transition between SOTs and different parts of the story,
SOT: sound on tape. This is a piece of your interview that you choose to include in your story.
VOSOTVO: Voiceover, SOT, voiceover. Anchor talks over b-roll, person speaking on camera, more talking over b-roll.
TAG: The last track in your package. It credits you as the reporter. Example: "ResLife says that once the students get used to the process, registration will be a lot easier. Rachel Cisto, STN Channel 2 News."
STAND-UP: When the reporter is on camera during the package. Usually 10-15 seconds, you demonstrate something or are in a significant area. Stand-ups are your spot to be creative! You can also use the standup as your tag.
NAT: natural sounds. Crickets chirping, construction sounds, phones ringing, etc.
News Terms (cont)
DONUT or WRAP-AROUND: the reporter is live outside the studio and they voice over b-roll or live video. Live on the outside, VO in the middle. This has been used in STN for breaking news.
OTS: over-the-shoulder. This graphic appears over the anchor's shoulder during a reader or the intro of a package,
SHADOW: when an inexperienced reporter follows an experienced reporter like their shadow. They observe (and sometimes help) the experienced reporter do their job.
SUPER: short for super-imposed. This is also called a "lower third", and it usually shows a location, the date of file footage, or a person's name and title.
FILE FOOTAGE: b-roll pulled from the archives.
BANNER: this is a few words seen at the bottom of the screen that describes what is being seen. If the viewer has the volume down, the banner is an attention-grabber - like during hurricane coverage, the banner might read "MONSTER STORM DOWNGRADED".
BUG: This is a little box of text seen in the top corner of the screen, crediting other stations if the footage isn't STN's own, or to specify the date of file footage. It can also be used to show if the video is live.
News Terms (cont.)
LIVE SHOT: when the reporter appears live on location. Here, the reporter is TOSSED to by the anchors and they read a LIVE INTRO and LIVE TAG. Live at the wall works the same way, except the reporter is at the green screen.
TOSS: the anchors introduce a reporter, either live on location or live at the wall.
ANCHOR INTRO: The reporter writes this for the anchors to introduce their package. It ends with something like, "And STN's Ellie O'Donnell uncovered the details."
ANCHOR TAG: also written by the reporter, this sums up the package. If there's any extra info, that can be listed here too.
TC: timecode. This is on the tape deck and it's used for logging so that you and your photog are clear on what SOTs you've written in to your package.
TRT: total running time. Varies from story to story. Will be given to you by the producer.
RUNDOWN: The entire show, listed on paper. The producer creates it and it lists everything you need to know about the show. You can see the rundown at any time in EZNews.
Assignment Board: The whiteboard on the office wall with all the stories for the week listed on it. Update this board with your photographer step by step. The News Director, and Chief Photographer rely on this board to keep track of how stories are progressing during the week.
News Terms (cont.)
General Meetings vs. Departmental Meetings
Sunday Meetings
General Meetings are held every other Sunday at 3 PM on the third floor of GSU. The general meeting is when we go over any upcoming events, concerns that people may have, and we watch and critique the latest newscast. Occasionally we invite speakers, including STN alumni that are currently working in the TV industry.
Departmental Meetings will be announced at that time. General members are encouraged to attend ANY departmental meeting they might be interested in!
(times subject to change)
News Meetings
News meetings are where reporters get together to go over last week's packages. We also assign the new stories for next week.
Reporters find out who will cover what and whether it will be a package or a VOSOT.
Reporters are highly, HIGHLY encouraged to bring their own story ideas.
News meetings are generally held on Sunday nights at 7 PM in Hawk Hall 115. You will be informed of any changes via text message, so MAKE SURE I HAVE YOUR NUMBER!
(so you think you want to join the news department)
Well, the first step is "shadowing" a reporter. This is your chance to ask questions, observe, and most likely help out too! You'll be assigned to shadow a reporter during the news meeting.

Get their contact information, because you'll be following them to their interviews and watching the story come together.

Don't be shy - the senior reporters have been doing this for a while and can answer just about any question you may have!
For Girls:
Dress Code

NO spaghetti straps, short shorts, flip flops or clothes with visible brand names or any writing!
Button down or conservative top
A blazer
Dress pants or khakis or skirts (no shorter than knee-length) or capris
Face makeup - even if you don't wear it normally!
(even if you're only doing an interview!)
Dress Code
Dress appropriately any time you'll be representing STN. Try to dress like the reporters you see on television. If it's questionable, you probably shouldn't wear it. (if you have questions about an outfit, ask me. I will gladly help with clothing and make-up.)
For Guys:
Dress Code
Button down or polo shirt
Dress pants or khakis
Tie when appropriate
Dress shoes

NO baseball caps, shorts, flip flops or clothes with visible brand names or any writing!
Deadlines vary between departments and are at the discretion of the department head.
The deadline for the news department is 12 noon on Thursday.
Deadline extensions can be granted by the department head in emergency situations or for breaking news.

If you don't think you can make deadline TELL ME RIGHT AWAY. I won't be very nice if you ask for an extension Thursday morning.
(now you have a story, here's what you do next)
Getting Started
Ben Wilcox (bwilcox@stn2.tv) General Manager

Rachel Cisto (rcisto@stn2.tv) News Director

Scott Roberts (sroberts@stn2.tv) Assistant News Director

Marshall Ross (mross@stn2.tv) Chief Photographer

Nick Drago (ndrago@stn2.tv) Sports Director

Ja'Shell Smith (jsmith@stn2.tv) Senior Producer

Andrew Maninno (amannino@stn2.tv) Chief Engineer
People To Know
STN Newsroom: 860-768-5213

STN Edit Suite: 860-768-5213

TV Studio Control Room: 860-768-4099

TV Studio Media 100: 860-768-5278

Rachel's Cell Phone: 603-203-9167

Rachel's Home: 603-529-0838
Phone Numbers
Setting Up Interviews:
Make sure you review your schedule with your photographer's schedule, so you know when you're both available.
You should start trying to contact people Sunday night or Monday morning.
Keep emailing or calling until the person answers you. If you want this interview, you need to be persistent.
Phone Interviews
Sometimes people will only be willing to give you a SOT over the phone. While you *can* do this, it's a last resort.
Other times, you'll need to interview someone who is in a completely different area.
Or you might want a previously recorded phone message. For example, in spring 2007, STN used audio from a Kraft consumer message related to a chicken recall that ran over an "on the phone" graphic.
Phone interviews are done in the edit suite. Ask the current chief photographer for permission and technical assistance.
Make sure you are calling your subject from a quiet place where you can hear them and you know you won't be interrupted.
Have a pen and paper ready to take down any notes.
Remember to set up your story for your potential interviewee - tell them who you are and where you're calling from, explain your story and describe what they would be asked in the interview.
If they don't want to talk, ask them if they know someone else who would be willing.
Don't forget to say "thank you" at the end of the conversation!
Phone Etiquette
Arrive 5-10 minutes before the scheduled start time. This gives you time to do anything you need before the interview starts (fix makeup, go over questions, etc.) and gives your photographer time to set up the equipment.
You should have questions in mind for your subject, but you should avoid writing them out word for word (try a bulleted list instead). This makes your interview more conversational.
Once your subject has a microphone on and tape is rolling, ask them to say and spell their name and state their title so that you can correctly put them on the supers. (this also gives your photog a chance to do a sound check before the interview starts.
Ask your subject open-ended questions:
During Your Interview
How did you feel about that?
What's being done about this?
What's going on?
What did you do about this?
Avoid simple yes-no questions:
Did you feel angry?
Do you like how Public Safety handled the situation?
If your subject stumbles over their words or says "um" during what could be a great SOT, ask the question again to give them another chance to answer it, or ask differently so it's easier to answer.
During the interview, your subject may say something that raises an interesting point or changes the direction of your story. Feel free to ask any follow-up questions or any other questions that may arise.
Towards the end of the interview, you'll want to get a good closing SOT. These questions should inquire about the future or sum up your subject's overall feelings on the subject.
When you've finished asking questions, ask the interview subject if they would like to say anything else. You can often use this as a good closing SOT.
During Your Interview
Ask your subject if it would be okay to get in contact with them again for any follow-up questions - you may think of something later in the day or while you're writing, so it's good to make sure you have that source available in the future.
Make sure you get their card (if they have one).
Thank them for taking the time to sit down with you.
Ending Your Interview
This is the part of the package where the reporter is on camera.
Usually 5 to 10 seconds long
Usually one in a package.
Remember: a stand-up is used to demonstrate an idea better than a track would.
! Move around and demonstrate something.
If you're doing an action, say your stand-up while you do it.
Similar to a track, before you start saying your stand-up, announce what take you're on and give a countdown.
Once you've finished saying your stand-up, be sure to stay still for 5 to 10 seconds.
Choosing Your SOTs:
Writing Your Script
Log any SOTs you think you can use in your story. They're usually 5 - 15 seconds long.
Note the timecodes at the beginning and ending of each SOT. Calculate the difference between the beginning and ending SOT - that is the length of your SOT. The timecodes also make it easier for your photog to locate which SOTs you planned to use.
Choose SOTs that display and evoke emotion. You want the viewers to react and be invested in the story.
If you can't understand the SOT, the viewers probably won't either. Use the information in a track.
If they stutter and stumble or mumble a lot, use the information in a track.
Next step: type up the subject's name and title.
Logging Supers
A student's title is NOT "student"!

If interviewing a student, be sure to ask them what year they are - freshman, sophomore, etc.

If a person is in your package more than once, you only have to super them the first time.
Before you start writing, think about:
Writing The Script
What is the focus of your story?
Why do people care about this?
What is the most important information to the audience?
Did you do enough research?
What kind of tone will your story have?
Do you have multiple sides of the story to avoid as much bias as possible?
Keep it conversational.
Avoid using any difficult vocabulary or anything you wouldn't use everyday dialogue.
Your viewer has one chance to understand what you're telling them, so make sure that it makes complete sense.
Avoid long sentences whenever possible.
Writing Your Script
Your story should have a smooth transition from SOT to track.
Tracks should introduce SOTs. not repeat them.
You also don't have to introduce each person before they start talking. That's why you have supers.
Don't give away all of the details in the beginning. You want the viewers to watch ALL of your story!
Keep them interested by suggesting they'll get new information throughout your story.
This is a technique you can use - at the beginning of the story, set up a situation, and in the next section, "reveal" something that might take the viewer by surprise.
The Reveal
What is your package about?
Know Your Focus
For example, you're assigned a story about a campus power outage. What are you going to talk about? How the University handled the situation? How students handled it? Why the power went out in the first place?
Make sure you know what the story is about and keep that in mind while you write.
You should also state the focus of your story in your anchor intro - draw their attention by stating what's in your story. (creativity here is good too...you can use a play on words if it fits.)
As you write your story, consider what you can put in the intro and tag. Sometimes the first line of your package would be a better intro, and the last line would make a better tag. These things are just as important - if not MORE important! - than the actual story. They're written with the intention of keeping the viewer's attention on your story.
Intros And Tags
10-15 seconds, introduces the package.
Anchor Intro
You want to grab the attention of your viewers. You only get two sentences to convince them to keep watching. Use the intro to explain why the story affects your viewers - you want them to say "wait, I need to watch that!"

You should give yourself credit in the last sentence - and you can be creative with this (if it fits with the story.)
10-15 seconds, does not "sum up" the package.
Anchor Tag
The tag gives some extra information. Here you can include an important phone number, place or person, or you can plug the website (stn2.tv) and tease your web article.
A lead is the first few sentences of the script (your first track).
Writing A Lead
At the beginning of the story, you'll want to write a strong lead. Try grabbing the viewer's attention by mentioning what makes the story so interesting. Why should the viewer keep watching? However try to keep from revealing all of the details right in the beginning - otherwise the viewers will change the channel after the all the major facts have been given.
Write conversationally - the way you talk!
Writing For TV Tips
Contractions ("isn't", "don't", "won't", etc.) are OKAY! Don't write like you're writing a paper.
Make sure that whatever you have to say is easily understandable. Your viewers have one chance to catch what you're saying.
Put the key words you want the viewer to remember at the end of the sentence.
Your story is about a company with a lot of money complaining about spending extra on worker safety. You want the company's profit amount to stand out, so your sentence should go like this:
"This from a company that, last year alone, made 36 billion dollars."
Try not to start a story with a quote. The viewers won't know if the words are yours or someone else's.
Citing Your Sources
"Assistant Principal Brown said..."
Don't assume how the people you're quoting feel, believe or think. You can't be accused of wrongfully reporting information if you're just repeating what someone else SAID.
Your viewers tune in to the news to get THE NEWS - they want information, not questions. You're writing a story, not a quiz, so you shouldn't open your story with questions.

Questions can work later on, but definitely not as a lead.
This Is The News, Not A Game Show
Stick to short sentences, one idea each. If you can say the same thing with less words, take the extra ones out.

They'll just take up space and time.
Short & Sweet & Simple
The audience should be able to see what you're talking about in your track.
Match The Video
If you're talking about students in living in A Complex, the b-roll during that track should be students outside of A Complex.
Video that doesn't match tracks just doesn't make sense and looks like it doesn't fit.
Also, if the video matches the track, it's easier for the viewers to understand what you're trying to say.
Make sure the verb you're using matches the subject of the sentence.
Noun-Verb Match
If you're quoting American Airlines (the company), you should write "American Airlines says..." because there's only one American Airlines.
Be careful with using "is" in a contraction. You wouldn't say "there is controversies", so you wouldn't use "there's controversies" in your story.
When writing for TV, you're supposed to assume the viewer doesn't know certain things, so you explain them in a straightforward manner.
"Dumbing Down"
Don't make them feel stupid, though. This can be difficult.
You also don't want to say "like we expected" or "we saw it coming" because your viewers might not have seen it coming. And then they'll think they don't know enough. Give the facts but don't insult the viewers' intelligence.
Everyone knows that. So instead of making it seem like they don't, say something like "Rising gas prices are making it more difficult for college students..."

This way, you're inferring that the viewers already know about the gas prices. And if they didn't, well, they do now.
An example of this is saying "Gas prices are rising."
Getting Picky
"More than five students" not "over five students". You're counting students, not climbing on them.
From a CBS newsmagazine: "He knew enough to design a weapon that today is used by 35 different countries."
Obviously. All countries are different, so why would you explain that?
SOTs vs. Tracks
Don't repeat what the SOT is going to say in your track. There should be new information every 5 seconds to keep viewer attention.
Your Personal Opinion
Your viewers want to see the news, not your opinion of the news. Everyone has an opinion (me included) but that's not why people watch the news. As a reporter, your goal is to be as unbiased as possible. Giving your opinion doesn't accomplish that.
Once you're done writing your script in EZNews, TELL ME. I need to check over it first - before your photog takes it for editing.
If there are revisions, don't take it personally. I still love you, I just have to make the show the best it can be.

Don't be shy if you don't quite understand what needs to be revised and why. I'll be glad to explain.
While STN doesn't require reporters to edit their own packages, you should observe your photog (if they don't mind!)
Editing and Tracking
Most small TV stations require reporters to "one-man band" their own stories - write, report, photog AND edit! So if you want a job in TV, learning to edit might help you out!
When you track, be sure to announce the track number, which take it is, and then give a countdown before you start talking.
Emphasize important words, but avoid being monotone. Show your personality!
Little Details Count!
Sometimes, the news can get boring if you're just telling straight facts. So what do you do?

Tell the story through a character's perspective. Find someone who is affected by the story that you're covering. While reporting on a bunch of students' problems is a pretty effective technique, hearing the details of one person's story can be even more effective.
Establishment Shots
Camera Shots
This is a shot of you and the subject you're interviewing. Your photographer can shoot over either of your shoulders, or the two of you walking and talking. It is used to establish the interviewee and reporter's communication, and is a good choice when there might not be enough b-roll. It also makes your package look more professional.
Perspective Shots
A perspective shot is just another way to be creative with your package. So if you're doing a story on robbers running away from PS on foot - so you can have your photographer run with the camera through the grass so the viewers can envision the robbers running. Way more interesting than just a still shot of something.
A NAT is a natural sound, and the use of relevant sounds can make your package more interesting. For example, if you're doing a story on driving safely, you can use a NAT of a clicking seatbelt.

A NAT can be something as simple as a ringing phone and someone answering. An extra sound can really set your package apart.

(be aware this will add extra time to your package.)
NAT sounds
A graphic can be a moving graphic or a board with text.
If you're writing a "your health" package, you can use a graphic to better illustrate a bodily function better than b-roll could - kind of like a graphic in a biology textbook. An example would be a graphic of a human head to illustrate the parts that trigger fear.
Packages with a lot of numerical explanations would be better with a board that can illustrate them - your viewers stay interested and you get your point across.
Phone interviews or statements
if you can't get someone to go on camera, you can use their statement over a graphics board.
If you want to use graphics in your package, talk to me and to Steph Pelletier (she's the graphics director.)
It's really important to keep me up-to-date with everything that goes on.
If you have any issues during the week and I'm not around for whatever reason, talk to one of the other D-Board members. They'll help you the best they can - but we can only help if we know there's a problem!
Keep the board updated! It makes it easier to know who still needs to work on what.
Keep your photog updated - plans may change or interviews may move, and it's super important that you're both on the same page.
News can happen whenever and wherever. You don't HAVE to cover a breaking news story, but it's highly recommended. It's a great experience...and it's VERY exciting!

The news director decides which reporter will cover breaking news stories.

And yes, breaking news might involve you getting up and getting dressed to get interviews at 3 AM.

As long as you're up for the challenge, anything is possible!
Breaking News
The weekly producer will decide who will go "live at the wall" (if anyone).
Live At The Wall
If you're live at the wall, you'll be in the studio introducing and tagging your own pacakge.
You'll be live on camera in the studio in front of the green screen where the graphic will be super-imposed.
Therefore, *DON'T* wear green! You'll disappear!
Make sure you're dressed nicely from head to toe BECAUSE the viewers will see your top AND your pants/skirt!
When you're going live, you need to write an ANCHOR TOSS, LIVE INTRO and LIVE TAG, unless otherwise stated by the producer.
The news director decides where the live shot will take place. There is a specific list of where STN can and cannot do a liveshot.
Live Shot
Since there is no teleprompter (like in the real world), if you're going live, you need to have a pretty good idea of what you want to say.
(don't worry, you don't need to memorize your scripts!)
The live shot has all the same components of the "live at the wall", which is all approved by the news director BEFORE showtime!
Sometimes there will be students who try to harass you, distract you or get on camera in the background.

If this happens during the run-through, Public Safety is an option to keep things under control.

If this happens for the first time during the live show, ignore it the best you can.
Ususally first-year reporters don't anchor until their second semester. In order to anchor you must:
Report 3 (high-quality!) packages
Have done at least one live shot (on location)
Have anchored weather at least once
Do your best to avoid awkward silence. A second is super-long in TV time.
A story may not interest you or you may not agree with it. DO NOT give your opinion. It's okay to comment on what's being said, but not to the point where viewers think you're biased.
Sound genuine.
It's okay to chuckle, gasp, or make a noise that's not scripted. Showing your personality makes the show more interesting. Especially if you're talking about a fun story, you can comment on the video.
Always think ahead and anticipate which camera you'll be looking at next.
Always have a backup plan - you might have to say what the live reporter was going to say if the live shot doesn't work!
Watch the news! You can learn a lot by watching professional reporters and anchors.
It's okay if something doesn't quite work. Keep going, and don't be too hard on yourself.
Happy talk is light, fluffy, and HAPPY! Not scary! It's super easy, don't worry!
You can always ask experienced STN anchors for advice. We're more than willing to give it.
Anchoring Tips and Tricks
It might seem super-complicated, but once you do it a few times, you get the hang of it. It's fun!

And if you ever need help, don't hesitate to ask a senior reporter or D-Board member! We're more than willing!
Full transcript