The ten rules of newsgathering

b_lion3The ten rules of newsgathering are primarily for the benefit of TV reporters.  However, you are encouraged to apply them to your everyday life as well.

No-parking-sign-(resized-250)1.  If something happens “all the time,” it’s unlikely to happen when you deploy a camera to shoot it.

2.  When shooting “man on the street” interviews, always ask individuals.  Groups of people delight in telling goons with microphones to f#ck off.   Separate the individuals from the herd, as would the lion stalking a meal on the Serengeti.

3.  When searching for parking, and presented with a space specified as “NO PARKING,” park in that space.  “NO” stands for “news organization.”  (h/t HPY.)

4.  It’s the reporter’s responsibility to ensure that the photographer gets a meal during your shift.  Take that responsibility seriously.  You don’t have to buy the meal.  Just make sure there’s time allotted.

5.  Always offer to help the photographer carry gear.

6.  Don’t wander into your competitor’s shot.  Don’t absentmindedly (or deliberately) drive your shiny happy “NewsCenter 3!” live truck behind a competing reporter while that reporter is doing a live shot.  “What goes around, comes around.”  Speaking of…

7.  If you aren’t sure whether you’re writing a cliché, you probably are.  Write something else instead.

Quality currency:  Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA

Quality currency: Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA

8.  If the phone rings at five minutes after noon, beware.  It means that the newsroom managers have seen something on a competing TV station’s noon news that your station has overlooked.  The phone call means you’re being asked to recoup on a story with a rapidly fading pulse.  Consider waiting five minutes, then return the call.  The problem may solve itself.

9.  When covering hurricanes, always pack a cooler of beer.  Beer is not only a refreshing must-have for those 18 hour workdays, but it is also useful currency with disaster crews, displaced residents and other media.  Those folks can make or break your coverage and your well-being.  Make sure the beer goes on the expense report.  If questioned by a bean counter, refer the questioner to these rules.

10.  Never run, except for exercise or if somebody’s life is in jeopardy.  Running diminishes dignity.   Dignity is valuable and frequently in short supply in your industry.   Never, ever break into a trot within the boundaries of a newsroom.  Unless you’re running from an axe murderer or the like.  Which isn’t completely out of the question.

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About live apt fire

Doug Richards is a reporter at WXIA-TV. This is his personal blog. WXIA-TV has nothing whatsoever to do with this blog, under any circumstances, in any form. For anything written herein, Doug accepts sole credit and full blame. Follow him on Twitter: @richardsdoug. All rights reserved. Thanks for visiting.

25 thoughts on “The ten rules of newsgathering

  1. arky

    All very good points! I would make an addendum to number 1:

    If your photographer accidentally double-pumps when shooting something that’s critical to your story, that event you need on tape will never happen again in your lifetime.

    Reply
  2. Ray Darnott

    When covering hurricanes: Before the hurricane stand in front of a palm tree, they move more than trees with the wind therefore is a better shot specially in this days that newsrooms are covering the storms days before it actually happens.
    After the hurricane move to other vegetation, palm trees won’t fall but those other huge trees will and again they will create better “destruction” shots.

    Reply
  3. Garrick Utley

    Encourage Randy Travis not to waste time on the internet.
    Suggest to him gently it might be better line up an ambush interview on a sleeping garbageman for November.

    Reply
  4. Jane

    addendum to #1… If perchance, you are in position to get that money shot, your batteries will die or your tape will run out seconds beforehand.

    Reply
  5. scott hedeen

    Ah… hmm… Doug, 90 minute is a bit passe. Russian River’s “Pliny The Elder” is now the king of all beers. BUT… that 4 pack of DFH 90 was brewed by my brother in law in the great state of delaware. i’ll be bringing back some 120 back from my yearly crawl to the brewery in october…. want one?

    Reply
    1. live apt fire Post author

      YES to the 120. And YES to the “Elder,” though you didn’t offer. Glad to see you’ve returned. We missed you here at the LAF site, not to mention at your old employer.

      Reply
  6. scott hedeen

    i don’t think the “old employer” even slows to think about me. i learned that along time ago after leaving several tv stations. the wheels still turn on the go kart of news… and i was just a rider that got his “thanks in his paycheck”. and that’s a quote. BUT… i’m missing WXIA alot.. i miss being able to shoot news everyday. AVID editing is for bed wetters.

    good to see this blog still going…i’ll add you to the list of DFH deliveries… and a couple bottles of my homebrew. i’m very close to signing off on brew school in the spring after my olympic gig.

    email me Douglas! scott@totalvoltage.com

    Reply
  7. Pete Smith

    Yeah, this blog’s been there for a while, I’m a little slow. That rule number 5? Tripods are dangerous, I’ve carried my own since 1985, it helps with my balance and there’s at least one little old lady out there who still has her dentures.

    Reply
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