Most lines of work have day-to-day routines, which the worker seeks to break. Mine is no different.
Go do a story about how cold it is outside. There is no more “routine” story than the cold-weather story. If my employer wants a cold weather story, I’ll cheerfully do it, and make it as awesome as I possibly can. But to amuse myself, I will strive to avoid using the word “cold” in my copy.
Why? I like synonyms. It’s a challenge, albeit a 6th grade level one. It amuses me.
Wednesday, I was told to do a story about Clayton County’s interest in providing a site for a new Falcons stadium. The story had apparently appeared on another news outlet several hours earlier. I rang up Clayton County’s newly-elected commission chairman, Jeff Turner, and we met and chatted.
(I love me some Jeff Turner. Aside from being an amusing and accessible guy, I love Turner’s story. Fired by the Clayton County Board of Commissioners as Clayton County’s police chief, he beat the incumbent chairman in the last election — and now runs the board that fired him.)
Turner directed Jon Samuels and me to a gnarly plot of land along Old Dixie Highway east of I-75, the spot Turner thinks would be ideal for a football stadium. I knew the area to be in the landing path at Hartsfield-Jackson airport. “It’d be like Shea Stadium there,” I observed during a two-shot, and Turner concurred with a laugh.
Samuels and I arrived on site to shoot the real estate. Shooting real estate is almost always a grim task. The video is static and tends to be dull.
Planes were flying overhead constantly, landing at the airport’s three runways.
“Every shot should have an airplane in it,” I suggested to Jon.
“That’s gonna take awhile,” he said.
Some time ago, Pete Smith and I produced a story about a church in Avondale Estates. It was a weekday. The church was closed. Video-wise, we had real estate.
The church was alongside a MARTA line. Pete and I decided each shot of the church should have a MARTA train in it, solely to keep our day interesting. Turned out, the piece looked interesting too.
As we prowled the undeveloped / abandoned property described by Turner, Jon documented it with an eye skyward. Fortunately, it was a busy afternoon at Hartsfield-Jackson.
The edited story wasn’t about aircraft, but the planes provided a visual thread that the piece badly needed.
In the copy, I didn’t make any reference to the planes until the middle-to-end of the story. It underplayed the aircraft element, while providing a potential payoff for anybody who was actually watching the story closely. Funnily enough, nobody at my station made note of it.
But a competitor — part of our vast 7pm viewing audience — sent me a note on the Facebooks, complimenting “the creativity.”
What creativity? It was about amusing ourselves.