Thursday, January 27, 2005

Live Shots For Dummies - To Script Or Not To Script Questions

Do you ever watch a reporter do a story, end it, then an anchor asks him or her a question? In this market, it is often times scripted. In the prompter. That's why if the question is too long or clunky it sounds stilted when asked. Worse yet, the answer is in the prompter.

There are lots of reasons for doing this... anchor interaction, giving the reporter credibility etc... all stuff consultants like to push and there's a place for this. Unfortunately, in many cases it comes off as robotic. What's also unfortunate is that sometimes reporters are forced to leave stuff out of their story and turn it into a question/answer, but unchecked, it becomes something obvious that should have been in the story in the first place.

When I moved to Monterey, I'd end a live shot and the anchor there, Dan Green, would just ask me a question. Related to the story, yes, but a question I didn't know was coming. I thought, "What the heck (I wasn't thinking heck, but I'm trying to keep my blog clean) is he doing?"

But after a week I realized how good this was for me. He was asking me something I should know if I covered the story well that day. He was making me think on my feet. He was asking a question he just felt like asking, one that a viewer might ask if they could... one that might give the story a little something extra and he made me give an answer that I had to formulate in my mind in an instant.

The resume tape I had when I left was stronger because of this. When he'd do this with a lighter story, my sense of humor came to the surface and I knew I hit a home run so to speak, when my spontaneous answer got a good laugh out of him or his co-anchor Erin. It wasn't always perfect by any means, but a good exercise nonetheless.

We saw some unscripted Q & A from Gina tonight, but we don't see a lot of it as a whole in MARKET 117. I'd like to see more. I know there's some thought to not doing it when you don't think a reporter can handle it, but some people teach kids to swim by throwing them in the pool. Sink or swim, right?

Thanks, Dan.


Chris C. said...

Unscripted questions only work if the anchor watches the story. If an anchor asks a question just to look authoritative and you just addressed it 10 seconds ago, then it looks bad. I've been fortunate to work with anchors like Sam Merrill and Craig McMorris who knew what to ask. It was never scripted. The only warning I had was from a producer in my ear during the PKG. Yes, it made me a better reporter, too.

Edgar said...

Thankfully, Dan and Erin were pros and really only did this if it was going to be worthwhile.