When I produced a sometimes-amusing feature segment in the late 90s, it was frequently derailed by inconvenient breaking news. When a madman decides to commit mass murder in Buckhead, nobody wants to hear about the guy who made jewelry out of Viagra. When tornadoes ravage nearby communities, no producer wants to include a segment in her newscast about cows sleeping on waterbeds in Tifton. When the US has a foreign policy event that is the talk of the world, nobody wants to see the story about the pig guzzling Pepsi-Cola in Jesup.
But as the Managing Editor of this blog, I no longer have to abide by the old-school norms of the Lamestream Media. Yeah, I wrote a post Monday about Bin Laden, and related it to my little stint during the invasion of Iraq. The post was weak, so I didn’t publish it (though I’ve stashed it here. Feel free to agree with my assessment.)
Instead of pulling something from today’s headlines, I’m delighted to inflict upon you the above video, shot in late April while Steve Flood and I visited Vidalia for a story about agricultural workers and immigration and the awesome Vidalia onion. While Flood had a field day (yes!) with the video, I tried to roughly assemble the story’s framework in my brain. Such assembly is necessary in order to execute a standup that actually enhances the storytelling.
This isn’t as easy as it sounds. I discard about one in ten standups I perform (as I do blog posts) because they don’t fit or I just don’t like them upon review.
Though you’re not supposed to write a story before completing the newsgathering process, it’s OK to write a framework. Sometimes I’ll actually do it on paper, in the field. More often, I do it in my head. For a standup, I’ll try to find a part of the story that
- needs editorial emphasis
- transitions visually or editorially between one point and another
- covers copy that isn’t supported by video
- demonstrates something or shows a relationship between two locations (usually within walking distance.)
Standups can also be done to fulfill promotional or formatting needs. The standup close is often helpful when a deadline is tight — it helps conclude the story quickly in editing.
But enough about that. The above video is about technique. As I pondered a standup for my onion / immigration story, this Suspicious Package piece burst into my head instead. It’s the first one I’ve produced spontaneously, without a script. Flood graciously shot it. In so doing, I also managed to execute a standup (“the network standup”) for our onion field story.
And it actually worked.
The photo was lifted from Feeding the Beast, a cool blog about old-old school motion-picture newsgathering.