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Doug Drew

How Six Seconds Can Make a Newscast Special

Highlights:
-Let natural sound breathe to create a special moment
-Great video or sound? Do something special with it

I did tuned in last week to see LeBron James return to Cleveland. It wasnt the game I wanted to see. I simply wanted to see how the Cleveland fans would react. I knew they would probably boo him, but I wanted to see to what extent they would “let him have it.” I figured the most interesting moment would probably come prior to the tipoff when the arena announcer introduces each player.

So, there I sat, in front of my TV, waiting for that big moment. But the moment came, and the moment went, and just like that, it was over. Gone. “That was it?” I said to myself. Really? It’s not that the moment didnt happen, it’s just that it didnt become a magic moment, either in the arena or on TV. It could have happened, but why didn’t it?

As the player introductions began, I could hear the boos already starting. When James was introduced, the fans really opened up, but you never really got the drama of it by watching the TNT broadcast. The magic moment never really happened, and I blame two producers for this: the person producing the opening ceremonies and the producer of the TNT broadcast. They had to know this would have been a huge moment, that many viewers were tuning in just to see it. All it would take to make this come alive for those in the arena and for those sitting at home was for the announcer to just pause for a few additional seconds after saying James’ name. There should have been just a short breath, a moment where the announcer said nothing. But that didn’t happen. Instead, the announcer said his name, and as we saw James run onto the court, the announcer was already announcing the next player. Couldn’t they have just taken six seconds to let the natural sound of the fans booing be heard? Instead, the fans jeered, but the announcer kept talking, so it became anti-climatic.

As I said, they HAD to know this was going to be an incredible moment. They had promoted it for a week leading up to the game. All it would take for it to be memorable was a little planning. The producer of the arena operations and the TNT producer should have agreed to let that moment breathe.

Natural sound in newscasts
This same technique applies to newscasts. If you have a special piece of video, sound, or copy, do something special with it. Too often in the haste of putting a story or a newscast together, we just go about doing it the way we always do. That’s what happened in Cleveland. They did the player introductions the same way they did it the night before, and the same way they will do it for the next game. They had something special, but they didnt do anything special with it.

When someone asks me “Doug, what makes one producer or reporter better than another,” this is what I talk about. The most talented people are the ones who recognize they have something special and do something special with it.

Conclusion
Sometimes the best technique is to simply let something in the story or newscast breath for a moment. Not every second has to be filled with copy. If you have something special, give it special attention.

Doug Drew is a morning news specialist with 602 Communications. He can be reached at ddrew@602communications.com. Follow Doug on facebook http://www.facebook.com/dougdrew and on twitter at http://twitter.com/dougdrew

How to Increase Viewer Interaction

- Sex up your copy
– Go for the emotional juggler
-Zero in on something specific

Why can one status report on facebook get 53 people to respond within minutes, while another will sit there for hours with little or no response? The same thing happens to morning newscasts when you ask viewers to participate in a poll or question. Some days you get great reaction, other days its like no one’s watching!

Asking viewers to stop what they are doing and send you a text, twitter or facebook reaction is asking a lot of people. Especially in the mornings. Viewers are busy in the morning, getting dressed, getting the kids out the door to school, getting ready for work, etc. So why is it that some stations have so much success with viewer feedback while others fail miserably? There are several keys to getting viewers to respond.

Sex up your questions
This is not a time to be conservative. You really need to get the viewers attention, so dont be shy. Have some fun with the copy and how you ask the question. Dont phrase the question in standard new style.

Weak: What do you think of President Obamas plan to freeze federal wages?

Stronger: Whats the craziest thing your boss has ever asked you to do?

WPIX in New York is a master at this. For instance, they showed posters about binge drinking, and then posed this question:

“Would these posters make you stop two drinks shy of sloppy drunk? Guys? Gals?”

Or when it was announced that Eva Longoria was leaving Tony Parker, WPIX posted this question:

“Whose behavior is worse? Tiger Woods (who slept with everything under the sun) or Tony Parker–who allegedly slept with a teammate’s wife.”

Be specific
Don’t talk in broad terms or generically when asking viewers to respond. The more specific you can be the more impact the question will have on viewers. For instance:

Weak: “Did you go shopping on Black Friday, tell us your experience.”
Stronger: “Tell us the best deal you got on Black Friday!”

Weak: “Are you considering giving a child a pet as a Christmas present?”
Stronger: “Tell us something a new pet did that you’ll never forget!”

Weak: “What do you think of Prince William getting married to Kate Middleton?”
Stronger: “Prince William proposed to his girlfriend giving her Diana’s engagement ring. Romantic or macabre?”

Pick topics that affect a broad audience
Picking a topic that is too narrow is one of the deadliest traps. Find topics that most everyone will take a stand on such as “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” or the TSA full body pat downs. For instance, everyone has an opinion about guns, so a good question this week would be to ask viewers what they think of the new law that will let riders on Amtrak bring an unloaded gun onto the trains. Go for topics that people affect viewers emotionally. Emotion entices viewers to participate as they want to express their feelings, such as anger, frustration, humor, sadness, love, surprise, disgust, contempt, etc.

Be relentless
Keep asking the question over the course of the show. Usually the topic is the talker of the day, so don’t be afraid to ask it each half hour, and have your anchors “talk it up.” They can, and should, react to it as well. If the question is about the craziest thing a boss has ever asked you to do, let the anchors tell their own stories of something that happened to them at some point in their lives. You can’t just ask the question as a 10 second full screen graphic and move on. You have to work at getting the viewers to participate.

Bottom line
This is one of the few times you can have fun with your copy. Get creative and get your viewers attention. Pick topics that viewers are sure to have an opinion on, and ask it repeatedly through the show. The more your anchors talk about it and react to it, the more likely your viewers will want to participate.

Doug Drew is a morning news specialist with 602 Communications. He can be reached at ddrew@602communications.com. Follow Doug on facebook http://www.facebook.com/dougdrew and on twitter at http://twitter.com/dougdrew

Feeding Viewer’s Appetite for New Information

  • Find out what’s new and put it at the top.
  • Viewers want to know what’s happening right now.

Whether you are writing a story or producing a newscast, one of the keys to success is to make sure that you are immediately getting to the most up to date information. What’s new and whats fresh must come first. Viewers today are more informed than ever, and the first whiff that they get of old news, they are gone.

Priority on new developments
Veteran News Director Keith Connors is a master at getting reporters and producers to get right to the new developments. “Tell people what’s new and push the story forward,” says Connors. “People want to know what’s happening right now. Find out whats new and put it at the top of the show,” he says.

We are in the update business
“We live in a very immediate age. Information is readily available,” says Scott Tallal of Insite Media Research, “Viewers now live in a constant stream of news and information. There are so many sources and so many delivery platforms that we are literally immersed in it,” he adds.
Tallal says “the-newscast-of-record model has long since been broken by the combination of real-time delivery systems. As a result, most viewers now want their local TV stations to be in the reaction and update business.”
“With the exception of news which is truly breaking at the time it’s being reported, most viewers want coverage which brings them the very latest on the stories they’ve been following all day (if not longer). The last thing they want is yet another rehash of what they’ve already seen and heard countless times before,” says Tallal.

Happening Now
Significant stories that are breaking or “happening now,” no matter where they are occurring, almost always trump a less immediate local story. That doesn’t mean you need to devote significant amounts of time to these stories, but viewers expect to see them right off the top, or to break in with them. When viewers tune in, they want to know what is going on right now as compared to what happened earlier in the day.

Tell viewers it’s new
Don’t be shy in telling viewers you have new information. Viewers aren’t paying nearly the attention we think they are. You have to tell viewers that you have something new or some interesting new video. You have to work hard to get the viewers attention.

Bottom line
Start with what’s new. Don’t back into a story. Begin with the latest and make sure your viewers know it’s the freshest information available.

Doug Drew is a morning news specialist with 602 Communications. He can be reached at ddrew@602communications.com. Follow Doug on facebook http://www.facebook.com/dougdrew and on twitter at http://twitter.com/dougdrew

Producing for the Distracted Viewer

Highlights:

  • Start with your best video, soundbite or most interesting piece of information.
  • When doing interviews, start with the key question.

Viewers are not paying nearly the attention we think they are. They are usually doing something else while watching the news and that means we have to work extremely hard to capture their attention. And that magic moment has to happen within the first 20 seconds, maybe even 10 seconds!

Compelling video and sound
If you have great video, don’t back into it. Get right to it. Often reporters will go into the field and get some great sound or pictures, and then try and save it for their story. But if it’s that good, you want viewers to see it right off the top of the show.

Start the show and the story with the great material. It’s okay to repeat it. Used in the lead-in, it’s just a set up for the story; it’s the magic moment that grabs the viewers. It’s then up to the reporter to put it all into context.

Interviews
The same theory applies with interviews. Get right to it. Don’t start off with a long-winded set-up. Just get right to the most important information. The Today Show recently interviewed Florida Representative Kendrick Meeks to find out if former President Clinton had talked to Meeks about dropping out of the election. The first question from Meredith Viera to Meeks: “Did Bill Clinton ever ask you explicitly or implicitly to drop out of the race for Senator?” No dilly dallying there. Viera started with the key question and the interview was off and running.

If you have a guest coming on to talk about the cancer-walk, talk first about cancer and get the person’s story, then mention the event at the end.

Live shots
If you are a reporter live at a boat show, don’t start talking about how many boats there are, instead, show me the coolest boat.

Hollywood movie trailers
Movie trailers are like this. They just get right to the most compelling content. Check out the trailer for the new movie about a morning newscast called Morning Glory. The whole trailer is full of magic moments and very little background information about the movie. The Hollywood trailer writers and producers just get right to the best lines, moments and video. Do you not want to see the movie because you have seen some of the key content? In fact, just the opposite. It’s the juicy content that wets your appetite for more!

Bottom Line
So whether you are a producer putting a newscast together, a reporter writing a package, a writer scripting a vo, or a segment producer putting together a guest segment, make sure you have a magic moment right off the top. If you don’t grab viewers within the first 20 seconds, you are going to lose them.

Doug Drew is a morning news specialist with 602 Communications. He can be reached at ddrew@602communications.com. Follow Doug on facebook http://www.facebook.com/dougdrew and on twitter at http://twitter.com/dougdrew

Producing for the Distracted Viewer

Highlights:

  • Start with your best video, soundbite or most interesting piece of information.
  • When doing interviews, start with the key question.

Viewers are not paying nearly the attention we think they are. They are usually doing something else while watching the news and that means we have to work extremely hard to capture their attention. And that magic moment has to happen within the first 20 seconds, maybe even 10 seconds!

Compelling video and sound
If you have great video, don’t back into it. Get right to it. Often reporters will go into the field and get some great sound or pictures, and then try and save it for their story. But if it’s that good, you want viewers to see it right off the top of the show.

Start the show and the story with the great material. It’s okay to repeat it. Used in the lead-in, it’s just a set up for the story; it’s the magic moment that grabs the viewers. It’s then up to the reporter to put it all into context.

Interviews
The same theory applies with interviews. Get right to it. Don’t start off with a long-winded set-up. Just get right to the most important information. On Friday, The Today Show had Florida Representative Kendrick Meeks as a guest to find out if former President Clinton had talked to Meek about dropping out of the election. The first question from Meredith Viera to Meeks: Did Bill Clinton ever ask you explicitly or implicitly to drop out of the race for Senator? No dilly dallying there. Viera started with the key question and the interview was off and running.

If you have a guest coming on to talk about the cancer-walk, talk first about cancer and get the person’s story, then mention the event at the end.

Live shots
If you are a reporter live at a boat show, don’t start talking about how many boats there are, instead, show me the coolest boat.

Hollywood movie trailers
Movie trailers are like this. They just get right to the most compelling content. Check out the trailer for the new movie about a morning newscast called Morning Glory. The whole trailer is full of magic moments and very little background information about the movie. The Hollywood trailer writers and producers just get right to the best lines, moments and video. Do you not want to see the movie because you have seen some of the key content? In fact, just the opposite. Its the juicy content that wets your appetite for more!

Bottom Line
So whether you are a producer putting a newscast together, a reporter writing a package, a writer scripting a vo, or a segment producer putting together a guest segment, make sure you have a magic moment right off the top. If you dont grab viewers within the first 20 seconds, you are going to lose them.

Doug Drew is a morning news specialist with 602 Communications. He can be reached at ddrew@602communications.com. Follow Doug on facebook http://www.facebook.com/dougdrew and on twitter at http://twitter.com/dougdrew

Keys to Booking Guests

Highlights:

  • Press releases pitching guests are only a starting point for producers who book segments.
  • Guests are often trying to promote something other than your primary objective.

The producer of the Howard Stern show, Gary Dell’Abate, recently appeared on David Letterman’s The Late Show, telling Dave that if Stern was a good guy on the radio “we would have no where to work.” It was a great interview with lots of insight into Howard Stern and his shock radio show. It was about an 8 minute interview, lengthy by late night talk show standards, and not until the very end did Letterman let Dell’Abate plug the real reason he was on the show, to promote his new book They Call Me Baba Booey.

The plug goes at the end of the segment
I am sure Dell’Abate’s agent or publisher pitched The Late Show to book Dell’ Abate as a guest. In fact, most guests who appear on television are booked through a PR agency who sent a press release to the station. Television stations are inundated with people trying to get on TV to promote their product, their book, their movie, their concert, their community event, their restaurant, etc. Some of these make great guests, but just remember whose show it is. Accomplish your goals first, and get them to hold their plug for the end of the interview.

It’s easy to book a guest who comes in the door through an agency or a press release. You simply call the contact person on the release, and select a date for the appearance.

Guests are given valuable airtime
But too often that is where the planning stops, and it can’t be that way. Too many producers simply pick up the press release, call the contact person, agree on a date, and viola, the segment is booked! But it’s not just about filling time. You are giving these people incredible amounts of airtime. It’s time they very likely couldn’t afford to buy if they were going through the sales department. So, they should be willing to do whatever it is you want, within reason.

Dan Aykroyd is making the local TV circuit, his agent offering him as a guest to pitch his new Vodka. Aykroyd is a great guest, but if not planned properly he will simply come in and do a commercial. Instead, think why you would want to have him as a guest. You’d want to talk to him about his movie career, and about the new Ghostbusters movie that is in the works. You have to make it clear to the contact, that you’d love to have Aykroyd as a guest, but that you will start off talking about his movies, and at the end, he can talk about his new Vodka. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Charities must follow the same rule
If the Cancer Society wants to come in and talk about it’s upcoming fundraiser, that’s fine, but you don’t want the Executive Director on as a guest. You want a cancer survivor on to talk about what it’s like to deal with the devastating disease. Remember, what you want are real people with interesting stories to tell, while the charities are trying to promote an event. It’s your show, demand a real person and promise you will promote the event at the end.

Make the PR agency do all the work
Put the people who write the press releases and the PR agencies who are pitching guests to work. Tell them that their clients can come on the show, but only if they do it your way. If they don’t want to play, then they don’t get on. Believe me, most will agree to your requests. Have the agency do all the work. If they are pitching new toys for kids, tell them that they have to have all the toys on set, plus they need 5 kids to test the toys and are willing to talk to your hosts about what they like or don’t like about the toys. Make the PR agency come up with all the props and children.

Bottom line
Make the guests and their agencies do the heavy lifting. They do the work, and you get a great segment. These guests don’t get on your show unless they do it they way you want. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Doug Drew is a morning news specialist with 602 Communications. He can be reached at ddrew@602communications.com. Follow Doug on facebook http://www.facebook.com/dougdrew and on twitter at http://twitter.com/dougdrew

Morning News Viewers are Reconnecting with the World

  • Leading with a “happening now” story almost always trumps a lesser important geographically local story.
  • If the story is of interest to your viewers, no matter where it occurred, it’s a story of local interest.

When I woke up Wednesday morning, there were only two stories that caught my eye. One was the baby stroller recall and the other was the news that former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had been hospitalized overnight.

Why did those two stories grab my attention? I noticed them because I saw them as being “significant” and because they were new.

Morning viewers are reconnecting
Viewers wake up in the morning wanting to know what’s happening right now, what significant stories happened over night, and what’s going to be the big “talkers” later in the day.

About the only time viewers are out of touch with the news these days is when they are sleeping. When they turn on the morning news, they are wanting to reconnect with the world.

The lead stories you select are incredibly important. Yesterday’s news, even if written with a “forward slant,” probably doesn’t make for a very good lead story. Too many producers get hung up thinking “hyper local.” A vacant house fire that happened geographically within your region is not a better lead story than the baby stroller recall. The recall is new, affects more people, and your local viewers are interested in that, so it actually is a local story.

An issue of interest
It’s not an issue of geography, it’s an issue of interest. If the story is of interest to your local viewers, no matter where it actually occurred, then it’s a story of local interest.

The news also broke Wednesday morning that two Americans had been selected by the Pope as Cardinals. That’s a story of significant interest to the Catholics in your viewership, and it’s new. That should have been considered a significant story Wednesday morning by any local morning news show.

Don’t just dump national and international stories into those “around the nation” or “around the world” segments. Sometimes the most significant stories are pushed into the back of a show, simply because they are from somewhere else.

Bottom Line:
Remember, it’s not what happened within your region, it is what is of interest within your region.

Doug Drew is a morning news specialist with 602 Communications. He can be reached at ddrew@602communications.com. Follow Doug on facebook http://www.facebook.com/dougdrew and on twitter at http://twitter.com/dougdrew

Bring Ideas to the Morning Meeting

One of the keys to a successful newscast occurs hours before the show. Maybe as much as 8 hours before the show. It’s the morning meeting. A good morning meeting usually leads to interesting and compelling content later in the day. Come to the meeting with ideas and don’t automatically shut down others just because they suggest stories that don’t interest you. It’s amazing how one negative person can keep others from speaking up.

What to bring to the morning meeting
Each station organizes and formats it’s morning meeting differently, but there is one thing all successful newsrooms have in common: EVERYONE who attends the morning meeting brings AT LEAST one story idea with them. Two is better, three is fantastic. These should not be “pie in the sky” ideas. These should be stories the newsroom could turn today, for tonight’s newscasts.

Brainstorming leads to great content
This is NOT a meeting where you sit and listen and write down lists of stories that will be covered that day as announced by the assignment editor. The BEST morning meetings are brainstorming sessions. You can’t have a brainstorming session unless each person in the meeting shares ideas.

And don’t clam up in disgust if no one in the room likes your idea. News people are hard to please and are often quick to shut down others’ ideas. I don’t know why that is, but it’s true. Even if they don’t have their own ideas, many news people are quick to criticize others. News people are naturally skeptical. So, don’t give up easily if you get shot down, and if you aren’t successful with one idea that’s why you need a few others. Also, don’t expect to be able to do your idea THAT DAY. It may be a great story, but if it doesn’t fit the mix of what’s needed that day, maybe it’s a story for another day.

What the boss wants
Don’t be afraid to speak up. Share your thoughts. The news management will appreciate this. Even if you are just an intern. Pipe up! You are probably part of the demographic that station is trying to reach. Your ideas are important! Your ideas represent a portion of the audience that the news department is trying to reach.

I can’t impress upon you how appreciative news directors are of employees who bring a good attitude and story ideas to the morning meeting. Whether you are an editor, photographer, or part-time writer, if you want to make an impression at work, attending the morning meeting and participating is going to win you some points, and will help make the newscasts more interesting for viewers.

Have an idea for a column, I’d like to hear from you!

Doug Drew is a morning news specialist with 602 Communications. He can be reached at ddrew@602communications.com. Follow Doug on facebook http://www.facebook.com/dougdrew and on twitter at http://twitter.com/dougdrew

Headlines Are Ads

Most every producer in the country has to write a pre-show tease or headline at the top of the newscast. Most everyone does them the same way, usually three top stories, each with a piece of video, with wipes between each one.

Usually it’s the producer who picks these stories, and most everyone starts with whatever the lead story is, followed by two other big stories of the day.

But the reality is that these headlines are there for one purpose and one purpose only: to get people into the newscast. Whether we like it or not, they are simply ads for the newscast.

Anyone who has gone through the 602 Communications tease writing course has heard this before, but many news people still have a difficult time accepting this concept.

A successful producer has to wear two hats. One is the journalism hat that we wear 90 percent of the time. But every good producer also needs to know when to take off that hat and put on the promo hat. The promo hat you wear when writing those headlines or pre-show teases, or any tease for that matter.

You have to face the fact that the pre-show tease or top of the show headline is an advertisement for your newscast. Pick the best stories that will draw people into the newscast. Pick the most interesting, unique, compelling stories that fall anywhere within your newscast.

Good Morning America and The Today Show are experts at this. Watch the top of their programs and you will see the great job they do including the big news story of the day, plus those incredible stories that you just have to see.

One of the most important themes of the 602 Communications tease workshop is that teases should SELL a story, not TELL a story. So when writing those pre-show teases or top of the show opens, keep that in mind. This is where you SELL the newscast. The purpose is to get viewers into the newscast.

Doug Drew is a morning news specialist with 602 Communications. He can be reached at ddrew@602communications.com. Follow Doug on facebook http://www.facebook.com/dougdrew and on twitter at http://twitter.com/dougdrew

Variety Required in Morning News Leads

We’ve trained our viewers to tune in at the top and bottom of the hour in a morning newscast. Viewers are busy in the morning getting ready for work or school. They tend to turn on a newscast, leave it on, and then drift in and out as they prepare for the day.

Unless there is a major breaking story going on, it’s best to select different leads for each half hour. Leading with the same story just shouts out: “IT’S GOING TO BE THE SAME OLD STUFF REPEATED ONCE AGAIN.” As soon as the viewer sees nothing different has happened, they are likely to feel satisfied that they can move away from the television.

One of the most consistent comments in focus groups about television news is: “It’s all the same stuff just repeated over and over again.” Repetition is one of the most significant reasons viewers tune out. Once they think that it’s just going to be the same repeated material they are less likely to stick with you.

Don’t let the old line about “viewers only watch about 15 minutes in the mornings” get you into a trap. Produce a newscast that simply repeats news, weather, traffic every 15 minutes, and what will you get? You’ll get a newscast that viewers will only watch for 15 minutes! Is that really what you want? What you want is to get viewers to watch longer, and they will, if you produce your morning show with fresh content that is constantly being updated. Once they feel it’s just the same old stuff, then off to work they go!

Doug Drew is a morning news specialist with 602 Communications. He can be reached at ddrew@602communications.com. Follow Doug on facebook http://www.facebook.com/dougdrew and on twitter at http://twitter.com/dougdrew

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