Choosing a visual story…

What the heck is a “visual” story. In my humble (yet expert) opinion, it is a story that doesn’t just depend on talking heads…the visuals carry the story rather serving just to cover audio. The real advantange the print media has over broadcast is print – the ability to cover a story thoroughly with words, using art/graphics to clarify. Broadcast can rarely turn out a non-visual complex story as well as newspapers. Lord knows I’ve tried…but have had to resort to shooting pages of text spinning on a turntable…using special fx and lighting tricks…all to try to make the viewer “get” it. TV reporters/photogs/vjs are stuck when a nonvisual story is assigned. They do the best they can. Newspapers can go with the print version and make choices about whether to go with video or not. So much for the down side of this subject.
I’ve been perusing quite a few newspaper sites lately, checking out their video and some of the strangest stories have made me stop and think again. A charitable fundraising community walk – just folks walking by the camera, yet I bet the paper got a lot of hits on that one. People watch for people they know. A visual story generally has strong interviews or strong visuals. A strong character with a compelling story is a visual story. Stories that make people care.
Newspapers converting to video must think beyond the obvious and about how to incorporate visuals onto their sites. MOS/opinion of the day….poll your community. Yes, those Friday night football games (or basketball or volleyball) will bring in a hefty audience. Check your hits each day and see what the folks in your community want to see. But beware – do not fall into the trap many broadcast news programs have fallen into.
On the other end of visual stories are those that attract voyeurs or the voyeur in each of us. Fight videos. The OJ (or any police) chase. The Hussein execution. T&A. Stories that may or may not be news, but attract an audience. Think – is this the audience you want? If you get this audience, will you pander to it – give it more of what it wants?
News walks a fine line between giving the audience want it needs (responsible stories that inform and educate) and what it may want (titillating stories that simply amaze or entertain). There is a balance of each in a good newspaper or program…but thought and care must be given to making sure the balance in heavily weighted to responsible stories.

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