Sunday, September 06, 2009

Dear St. Petersburg Times

I applaud you for offering video coverage of high school football largely abandoned by the local television stations, but your efforts demonstrate why you can't just hand a microphone to anyone and expect professional results.

To get to the first game story in the example below, a viewer must suffer through two bits of on-camera awkwardness, the first of which even a cameo by the classy Tony Dungy can't rescue.

I hope other viewers got through more of that than I did. I know times are tough and you don't have the budget to hire professionals to tell video stories. So I offer some consulting tips to your reporters free of charge.

  1. Microphones may seem too sophisticated for a novice to operate but they are not. Simply point them toward the person speaking. I did not realize that this took practice to master but you have not yet perfected this skill.
  2. If you are not funny, do not try to be funny. Oh, people will laugh. But for the wrong reasons.
  3. If you are not funny, do not ask celebrities willing to do cameos to play along with your bits. Viewers will feel embarrassed for the guest and antipathy toward you.
  4. If you are not funny, do not ask the athletes you are covering to play along with your bits. Viewers will feel embarrassed for the athletes and antipathy toward you.*
  5. If you are not funny — and even if you are, which is not an immediate danger here — keep the bits short. They won't be any less painful to watch but at least the discomfort will end sooner.
  6. Don't mumble your narration over the highlights. I understand that the whole video thing was probably not your idea and you're only doing it because your editor told you that there are a hundred hungry journalists waiting in line for your job if you don't want it and that the effort you put into writing and recording the narration is whatever you have left after writing the version of the game story that will appear in the paper. But it doesn't have to sound like that.
    *Also, there are no circumstances under which you should do a bit in which your legs are spread and your crotch is pointed at the camera.

I'm sure more thoughts would have occurred to me had I been able to watch more but to share them I'd have to charge a consulting fee. You don't want to pay consultants.

That would make you just like TV stations, who have to pay people to tell their reporters how to do their jobs because they are too cheap to hire professionals who already know.

If you get nothing else out of this, please, please remember the crotch at the camera thing.

1 comment:

Gwen said...

Agh! What IS with that crotch thing? That is so not right.

My eyes, they hurt.