Let's Talk Storytelling


This guest blog was written by Michelle Turner, Adviser of "Blue Jay Journal," the student-produced broadcast at Washington High School in Washington, MO.

Another day. Another question. That same annoying question. Yes, I am once again asked to describe my studio set up, equipment available, and what not.

Seriously? Of ALL the things to pick my brain about after 16 years of teaching Broadcast, THAT is the question I am most often asked?

More and more in the gizmo gadgetry high-tech world, all Broadcast teachers seem to want to talk about is the equipment, the technology, the budget, the this, the that... and I find myself utterly annoyed.

What do I want to discuss?

I want to talk about finding good stories. I want to discuss dealing with hurdles like trying to promote a JOURNALISM class and not a Public Relations course (seems like once video gets involved, it's all about "PR"). I want to talk about how to recruit and retain strong students. I want to discuss which story was the most challenging for your students to tell and how did they rise (or fall) to occasion. I want to talk about how to really drive home the importance of strong visuals and NAT sound. I want to talk about the process not the gadgets.

I know that cameras, and lighting systems, and these things called TriCasters apparently really matter to a lot of folks, but in the end I can honestly say not one of my former students who now work in Television, Radio, Advertising, and (yes, I dare say it) Public Relations go on and on about how their education was horrid by not having a digital-set or a teleprompter.

What my former students go on and on about are these things: they learned to find good characters and dig deep into topics that they found a passion for while reporting on them; writing is important; and being honest in your reporting is critical. Good stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end... and often it is really hard to do that attention-getting opening, and the end can be just as much of a challenge. They go on and on about the stories, the characters, the lessons learned in and out of the edit bay while constructing the story, and more. They rarely bring up what computer was used or video camera make/model.

Our lower thirds stink. I admit it. We can't use a green screen to talk in front of a graphic about the Polar Vortex. I know that's true. So what? We try and try again and again to find memorable characters, tell strong compelling stories, and create a television show that people feel was worth their time to watch. Do we always succeed? No. But when we do pull that all off, it's a feeling like no other.

So, all these discussions, forums, applications, and forms that constantly ask about budgets, equipment, and studio set up (what's a studio? I have a classroom!), slightly get on my nerves.Isn't it time to ditch those questions and go a little "old school" and get back to basics in Broadcast? Did Edward Murrow need all those graphics to report? Do people even remember who Edward Murrow was? Do our students know who he was? Let's talk about that next time we gather around to talk shop. Please. Maybe I'll be the only one excited to jump in the conversation...but maybe I won't.