Find News Stories Through Characters
By Dave Davis
For young broadcast journalists, nothing can be more frustrating than finding a topic you feel passionate about covering, but having no idea where to start. That is when a simple phrase can come in handy: Find a Character.
It sounds so simplistic, but within that phrase we find some journalistic wisdom. For the most part, news is people. While a building being imploded is visually stunning, the story is really the impact the loss of that building will have on people; the ones who used to live there, or shop there, or attend classes there, you get the idea.
Big stories are often told best by little stories. In other words, the drought the Midwest just experienced in the summer of 2012 is a huge story to tell. It will have long-ranging impact on millions of Americans. As a young journalist, you can often cover large topics like the drought by finding a great character. Tell the story through the eyes of a farmer, or a teenager whose family depends on agriculture, or the owner of a restaurant who fears her profits will dwindle this winter as her food costs rise.
Another thing about finding a character—they are often right in front of you. When you are in the field shooting, watch for the most passionate people involved. They often will give you great sound bites. It can be a cheering fan, a loud protester, anyone who seems particularly engaged. Ask them to talk. You may strike gold and find a wonderful character that can carry your story, and help you deliver a memorable piece to your viewers.
Dave Davis started “HTV Magazine” at Hillcrest High School in Springfield, MO in the fall of 1989, and still advises the award-winning program today. He is the director of the Academy of Scholastic Broadcasting’s teacher workshops, and contributes to training DVDs produced by ASB (www.scholasticbroadcasting.com).