Lessons in Storytelling-Enduring the Recession

Click on image to watch the video

By Alexandra Zavis
Photos by Katie Falkenberg

The Los Angeles Times followed three families struggling to regain their footing. The Petersens, the Longs and the Tuckers have different backgrounds but each have had to struggle through the  the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Read the text piece

Read online comments (hundreds of them)

Portraits From a Recession

Click on the photos to read each family’s story

As journalists, there are many lessons in this piece.

-How does the use of Black and White images affect the way you feel about the story?

-Notice that the editor uses “straight-cuts” rather than slow emotional dissolves. While cuts had a harder edge to the story, it is a way of avoiding the feeling that the storyteller is trying to lead the viewer to feel a certain way.

-Notice that the piece does not use any added music or sound, only those elements that happened in the environment as the image of video was captured.

-The editor does not drift in on photos (the Ken Burns effect.)  Slow pushes on still images adds an emotional element.

-How does the length of the piece affect your experience? At 11 minutes, it could deter some viewers from playing the piece, especially if they have less than great connections.

-How do you feel about focusing on three families in one piece rather than breaking them up into smaller pieces? On one hand it gives us a wider understanding of the problem, on the other the more diffuse focus keeps us from feeling as much as we might if the story arc was about one family.

-If you watched the video, would you bother reading the breakout stories above?


Al’s Writing Workshop (that you can take wearing your Pj’s)

Multimedia and TV reporters, photojournalists and producers can participate in a self-directed course on video storytelling.

News University, a Poynter Institute e-learning project, offers the self-directed course “Reporting, Writing for TV and the Web: Aim for the Heart.”

Led by senior faculty member at the Poynter Institute, Al Tompkins, the course covers video essentials, characteristics of stories that engage readers, fusing words and images, using sound to tell a compelling story and other storytelling techniques.

The course costs US$14.95.

For more information, click here.

How Twitter Affects TV Ratings

Lost Remote reports the latest data proving Twitter traffic can affect TV ratings, depending largely on when the Tweets run and how close to newstime or airtime they peak.


But in recent weeks, Twitter has provided Nielsenwith loads of data to measure its impact on ratings.

On a conference call today, Nielsen’s Radha Subramanyam showed a couple slides mapping Twitter’s impact on ratings against time. While their earlier study found that social buzz can impact ratings weeks in advance, Twitter’s biggest impact is closest to airtime (above).


The AP Holiday Stylebook

From  AP.org

The Associated Press has compiled a Holiday Style Guide of words, phrases and definitions to help its members and subscribers with spelling and usage of traditional terms for religious and cultural holidays in December and January. The guidance, compiled by the AP Stylebook and Lifestyles teams, encompasses Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and New Year’s festivities. Some terms are taken from the AP Stylebook. Others are common usage in holiday stories transmitted by AP.
Here is a partial list.  Click to see the full one.

The four Sundays preceding Christmas.

“Auld Lang Syne”
Sung to greet the New Year, poem by Robert Burns set to Scottish music.

Capitalize in reference to the Scriptures; lowercase biblical in all uses.

Boxing Day
Post-Christmas holiday Dec. 26 In British Commonwealth countries.

Capitalize sparkling wine from the French region uncorked to celebrate New Year’s.

Christmas Eve, Christmas Day
Capitalize Dec. 24 and Dec. 25 Christian feast marking the birth of Jesus.

One word.

Christmas tree
Lowercase tree and other seasonal terms with Christmas: card, wreath, carol, etc. Exception: National Christmas Tree.
Lowercase the biblical praise to God, but capitalize in composition titles: Handel’s “Hallelujah” chorus.

Eight-day Jewish Festival of Lights starting Dec. 20 this year.

Jesus, Jesus Christ
Pronouns referring to him are lowercase, as is savior.

happy holidays, merry Christmas, season’s greetings
Such phrases are generally spelled lowercase, though Christmas is always capitalized.

Holy Land
Capitalize the biblical region.

Kriss Kringle
Not Kris. Derived from the German word, Christkindl, or baby Jesus.

African-American and Pan-African celebration of family, community and culture, Dec. 26-Jan. 1.

Three wise men who brought gifts to the infant Jesus at Epiphany, celebrated Jan. 6.

Candelabrum with nine branches used for Hanukkah.

Capitalized in references to Jesus or to the promised deliverer in Judaism.

Nativity scene
Only the first word is capitalized.

New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day
Capitalized for Dec. 31 and Jan. 1.

North Pole
Mythical home of Santa Claus.

“The Twelve Days of Christmas”
Spell the numeral in the Christmas carol

Don’t use this abbreviation for Christmas.

Station Falsely Reports Billy Graham’s Death


Here is a posting on the station’s website.  Good for them for owning the mistake and fixing it.


On Saturday during its early morning newscast,  WBTV News mistakenly reported the passing of the Rev. Billy Graham. Our show producer read what he thought was a breaking news crawl about Rev. Graham on an off- air network feed.

He made the decision to air the information without checking it first. That was a mistake.

Within minutes, other staff members contacted the hospital where Rev. Graham is being treated, to find out that he is doing well in his recovery from pneumonia.

We made an on-air correction immediately.

Accuracy is the most important ingredient of any newscast. We at WBTV strive every day to make sure that the news we deliver is accurate, fair and useful to our viewers.

Today we made an unfortunate mistake.

We apologize to Rev. Graham, his family, the staff of Mission Hospital in Asheville where he is being treated and most of all our viewers.

We will be reviewing exactly what happened and we will take steps to make sure that it does not happen again.

— Dennis Milligan, News Director, WBTV

8 Things New Comm Grads Have to Know

From Mashable:

Click on the Mashable link to get details and hotlinks to examples

8 Must-Have Traits of Tomorrow’s Journalist

As the news industry looks to reconstruct its suffering business model, the journalists of today must reconstruct their skill sets for the growing world of online media. Because of cutbacks at many news organizations, the jobs available are highly competitive. News companies are seeking journalists who are jacks of all trades, yet still masters of one (or more).
These skills are presented in no particular order.

1. Entrepreneurial and Business Savvy

2. Programmer

3. Open-minded Experimente

4. Multimedia Storyteller

5. The Social Journalist and Community Builder

6. Blogger and Curator

7. Multi-skilled

8. Fundamental Journalism Skills


Sexting Nowhere Near as Widespread as Reported

Your common sense tells you that not many kids would do this-post pictures of themselves in overtly sexy positions online. But that didn’t stop media from reporting it as the next big thing. Now we have data.
USA Today reports on a study in the Journal Pediatrics:

“Many of these are very benign pictures” — of kids who might strike a sexual pose, but who remain clothed, often wearing bathing suits or underwear, says lead author Kimberly Mitchell, a researcher at the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire-Durham.

Parents might worry about those photos, but should know that there’s no epidemic of teens “unwittingly producing child pornography,” co-author Janis Wolak says.

Researchers conducted phone interviews with 1,560 youths nationwide and asked about exchanges of “nude or nearly nude” images of minors in the past year. They found:

•1.8% created such images of themselves; just five kids (0.3%) said they appeared in someone else’s photos; and six (0.4%) said they photographed someone else.

•1.3% said they appeared in or created images that showed naked breasts, genitals or bottoms.

•7% said that they have received such images.

“If their findings are true and the extent of this is less than previous studies have shown, it’s a very good thing,” says Bill Albert, chief program officer at the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.