Writing for a Visual Medium

This past Saturday, I attended a workshop taught by KARE 11’s Boyd Huppert. Normally, I wouldn’t be conscious at 9 am on a weekend. But when an Edward R. Murrow and Emmy-winning news-reporter comes to my school offering advice and hands-on practice on writing for a visual medium, I can’t miss it. The first three hours of the workshop were centered on reporting for broadcast and convergence, tactics used to obtain active interviews, how to set the focus of your story, and interactive critiques of Huppert’s portfolio.

Although the first half was helpful, I was truly fascinated by Huppert’s second half of the workshop: writing for the visual medium, namely broadcast and convergence journalism. Huppert talked about writing not in the traditional manner of an inverted pyramid. Instead, he drew an outline of a Christmas tree on the board, explaining that you are developing layers to the story that build on each other, motivating the piece and moving it forward. Huppert suggested that smaller moments in your piece must be tied together in the story. The key role of the journalist it seems, besides reporting, is writing successful and relevant transitions between the layers to move the story along. Huppert recommended extensive logging right after you report. Then, construct an outline identifying the layers you will use to advance the story. Remember, all layers must be tied to your underlying focus, which is the purpose of your story and what you want your viewer to come away with. Huppert suggested writing a focus statement before you ever go out to report, remembering of course that this statement will undoubtedly evolve as you report and gather information.

Huppert also emphasized writing TO video, not over video. He stresses that one must never write what is already being shown, as it is repetitive and leaves no room for further explanation. He said that the best print writing is descriptive, whereas the best broadcast writing is interpretive.



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