January 19, 2017

Seeing, for many viewers, is believing. But to really “understand” requires explanation and context. That is a key role journalists fill. When you’re interviewing a person, you want to capture more than the interview. Here are some tips for b-roll and other ways to add context to your story.

  • Capture as much video of a person as you can before the interview. The more you know, the more productive the interview will be. And the person will be more relaxed in the interview if she has spent time showing you whatever it is that makes her newsworthy.
  • Interview the main subject of your story in at least two settings. One setting is a more formal sit-down interview with a tripod-steadied shot. It is the “what” part of the story.
  • The second main interview is “off the shoulder” with the camera moving as the person is in a more relaxed setting. This setting does not include the distraction of TV lights and often elicits the most heartfelt sound bites, the emotional part of the story.
  • If you cut between these interviews and the b-roll, it gives viewers the idea that you have spent a lot of time with the the person because we experience her in more than one setting.
  • Be careful: Avoid asking people to act for the camera, unless you make it clear that you asked them to show you “how it happened.” Instead, ask the person what she would be doing if you were not there. Try to capture that. Then use exteriors of houses and office buildings to give viewers a sense of place.

Taken from Reporting, Writing for TV and the Web: Aim for the Heart, a self-directed course by Poynter’s Al Tompkins at Poynter NewsU.

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Vicki Krueger has worked with The Poynter Institute for more than 20 years in roles from editor to director of interactive learning and her current…
Vicki Krueger

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