During a recent project for factual television producers, one of the participants asked if there was any way to “break out” of the same old beginning/middle/end – character/conflict/resolution story structure that has held away for producers and their audiences since Aristotle first articulated it all those years ago. He wanted to know if there is something he called “chaos storytelling” – a way to tell stories for television which don’t always have the rigid character/conflict structure and a neat and complete ending.
A critical function of leadership is successfully moving organizations toward change, especially in times of crisis and volatility. But what are the key components of that narrative? How do leaders “frame” what’s at stake effectively? How do they explain what is to be gained from the change and even more importantly, explain how to get there?
There are two different, mutually exclusive approaches to television journalism – giving the viewers what they need or giving them what they want. Giving them more of what they want is perhaps the greatest change in television journalism in the past 25 years. The people who came to TV news in the sixties and seventies came out of the newspaper business. They understood the necessity of selling papers, but their first loyalty was to journalism. That means, they had strong views on what was, and wasn’t news. They were the ones who decided what was newsworthy and what wasn’t.
Do you know what the news is? If you are a journalist doing your job, you’re trying to find out everything you can about the big stories of the day – climate change, the pandemic, poverty, crime, terrorism, corporate corruption, pollution, stress, violence, the family, education, the ups and downs to the stock market, and so on.
A visit to the ancient city of Girona, Spain resulted in an unexpected, amazing experience. After the all-important cafe’ cortado in the plaza in the shadow of the gothic Cathedral of St Mary, I wandered down the hill through the old town, crossed the river on one of the many footbridges and walked into what turned out to be one of the most moving, even emotional experiences of my life. The Museu del Cinema in Girona has the world’s foremost collection of the evolution of the technology that led to what we call the cinema – who knew???
TV networks and stations with national or regional audiences for their news and factual programming seem like ripe targets for online content creators. There is a dynamic market demand among broadcast news organizations (both public service broadcasters and private stations, television and radio) for online content. And while all have their own in-house “digital team” putting out content on social media and their websites, those internal teams may or may not be delivering the results the station needs. That’s where outside production teams specializing in creating compelling online content come in.
How “reporter involvement” works for audiences and why it’s making reporting on tough stories more difficult
One of the most interesting trends in working with clients in news and factual programming is the increased focus on “personal” storytelling and the technique of reporter involvement: the reporter “showing” something, describing something, in the middle of things as they are happening.
To define effective visual language online, look at the most common method how images are organized to express ideas visually: a sequence. The classical sequence is a series of three shots: wide/medium/tight leading to a “payoff” or result.
Why do some civic organizations succeed in their political and social goals and others don’t? Consider that organizations with a powerful narrative (such the National Rifle Association) achieve their political goals more readily than those that don’t.
The first rule of office politics is also the simplest: stay out. In business, you’ve got to survive to succeed. If you play politics, eventually you will end up on the wrong side. Unfortunately, office politics is a fact of life, and it will affect any good businessperson from time to time. Even if you don’t play politics (always the best way), other people do.
In times of changing audience tastes and viewing habits, the continual pressure to increase audience share with scarce or limited resources in an environment where “nothing seems to work anymore” the demand for innovation increases. But how can creators of factual television create an environment making innovation possible? A top client in factual programming suggested a practical approach: establishing a “development mentality.” And here it is:
With changing audience tastes and audiences increasingly preferring their content when they want it and how they want it, there’s a lot of talk about “the new storytelling”… innovations in story structures, new technologies and new visual approaches that will win back audiences which have moved on.
A long-time client in factual television came to me with a problem those of us in the television business know all too well. A successful program was losing audience share, and he wasn’t sure 1) why, 2) how to turn things around, and 3) how he should respond to the situation.
I do a lot of work with scientists and researchers, and many of them want to know how to make a short film about their research for their presentations, the websites of their institutions and research centers and for online platforms. My message to scientists is, telling the story of your research in a short film or video is possible. It’s a LOT of work and it takes a lot of time. But it is a fun process, and helps you think differently about your work (which is good). Your audience will respond.
To report on all platforms at all times demands different storytelling approaches: here’s how giving different news “mediums” what they want makes stories better for audiences. No matter what the country or the culture, the days when the “news media” is a single, monolithic entity are long gone. To succeed in the news business now, the demand is to be on all platforms, at all times.