I work as a reporter for 10News in San Diego, and it’s pretty amazing.
Perfect weather, beautiful beaches, and the amazing food still have me in disbelief I work here even though it’s been almost two years. You never know what you’re going to cover day to day.
It’s never boring; but it does get exhausting. Burnout is real. How many times can you cover murder, rape, theft, and assault and not be affected? I broke down and cried when neighbors of a Navy man shot and killed accused me of “victimizing” his family all over again by doing a story on what happened. You can only listen to the wails of a mother learning her son had been murdered so many times before your soul feels tired.
I was ready to quit when June rolled around, and that’s when one of my best friends and greatest storytellers in the country Joe Little convinced me to go to the Rocky Mountain Storytelling Workshop and NPPA Video Awards in Salt Lake City.
NPPA is the National Press Photographers Association and the organization challenges journalist to not just report, but to tell STORIES. Get to the heart of the matter, and make people FEEL something. Don’t just lay facts down, tell people WHY they matter.
The first night was the awards ceremony, where I’m proud to say my station won West General Station of the Year.
I had tears in my eyes as I watched some of the best and most moving work in the country. Something that had been put to sleep inside me from months of being beat down, woke up! I wanted to make people feel what I was feeling through my storytelling.
The most energizing thing was to be surrounded by talented people who are just as passionate as you are and who think the same way you do. I didn’t think there was that many of us!
All weekend we heard the best in the country teach us how to become better storytellers, through our words and through sound and video. I fan-girled when I met Boyd Huppert. His stuff will make you cry and feel every time. Having tissues on hand is a must when you watch his stories.
I’m going to speak in “news” for one second for all my TV people reading this about some of the best things I learned from this weekend.
- When you get to your scene, always look for what’s making sound around or in the story. You might be able to build your story around it.
- Pause for a second to help with transitions, pacing, and to let things sink in. Don’t be afraid of silence when you’re tracking and editing.
- When you can, print out pictures and shoot them at the scene so you don’t jar the viewer out of the moment.
- On the way to your shoot, plan your opening and closing shots, and think about the transitions to and from scenes.
- Pick a theme for your story and tie everything together. The theme is your “tree trunk” and the moments are the “branches” that attach the viewer to your story.
- Always ask “why?” Possibly the most important question to get to the heart of the matter.
Here are some stories where I implemented these practices when I got back:
- The time we covered a meeting but didn’t actually go to the meeting to break down the issue.
- The time we decided our theme was falling down and getting back up to tell a crime story.
- The time we used natural sound to book end our story and make people feel connected to the neighborhood with a problem.
- The time we printed out a picture to help transition from one scene to another in our story.
None of these stories are perfect by any means; however, getting critiqued, picked apart, and advised by some of the best in the business that weekend changed my approach to telling stories. It brought back my passion and excitement.
I was lucky enough to have almost all of the photographers I work with for our 11pm newscast go with me. We were close before; now we are inseparable. We call ourselves the “10Beards.” I can’t imagine why haha!
It’s more than a funny nickname to us though; it’s our mascot, the drive to do better, the soul of storytelling.
I’m glad I went, because I was seriously considering my future career as a bartender or stay-at-home dog mom.
If anyone is struggling with burnout, meeting people passionate about NPPA is a good way to get a fresh start. You are not alone.