Category Archives: suspicious package

Standup options, outlined here

Vodpod videos no longer available.
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.)

Outstanding in their field: Predecessors of Flood and Richards

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.

An awkward moment

My illustrious career as a TV reporter has been chock-full of awkward moments. Here’s one you may appreciate. It centers on a question posed to me by a state trooper in McRae, Georgia some years ago.

McRae is a town best known for its delightful reproduction of the Statue of Liberty. A conscientious trooper with the Georgia State Patrol pulled my vehicle over after claiming that it had exceeded the speed limit.

He began to question me. What are you doing here in McRae? he asked, as if it was any of his business.

I explained that I was driving my children to southeast Georgia to visit Cumberland Island. Sir.

What do you do for a living? he asked.

I hesitated. Some people hold lifelong grudges against the news media. If this guy was one of them, he could throw me into jail and put my children into DFCS custody.

I’m a TV reporter in Atlanta, sir. I started to squirm.

His eyebrows shot up.  And he asked a question that’s pretty impossible to answer:  Oh yeah? What kind of reporter are you?

Of course the question made no sense. What he wanted to know was:

Are you the kind of reporter who noses around into stuff they shouldn’t?  Or are you the kind of reporter who makes the police look bad?

The honest answer was yes, I occasionally nose around into stuff that some people — perhaps even police officers — would prefer stayed out of the public eye. And yes, when police officers do things they shouldn’t, it’s absolutely one of the type of stories I would tell in a heartbeat. So that’s what kind of reporter I am.  Most of us are like that.

But I didn’t give him an honest answer. Instead, I said “huh?”

Then the awkward moment shifted back to our conscientious state trooper.

You’ve got some fine lookin’ young uns, he said, viewing my two kids strapped into the car. You’re probably one of the good reporters.

I sure am, sir, I answered. He wrote me a warning instead of a speeding ticket.   My well-timed “huh?” kept me out of trouble.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

…with thanks to WXIA photog Richard Crabbe for lending his eye and re-enactment skills to this piece.