Make Sure It’s Purposeful TV

Rusty Ray is the morning anchor at WBTW in Myrtle Beach, SC. He’s been in the market more than a decade.

Think about that stand-up you did that one time. Were you walking in front of the jail, careful to start and stop just inside the frame of your lens (or, if you have a photographer, where he or she tells you to stop?) Were you flashing handfuls of white paper as you spoke, assuring the audience that those were the documents you said they were—and that their contents were as important as you said they were?  Maybe you were picking up something or closing or opening something as you spoke. Did that serve any purpose?

Does anything we do on-camera, whether it’s something we say, some graphic that we use, or a sound bite we choose to include in our stories have purpose?

It should.

Otherwise, whose time are we wasting more—ours, or, worse, our viewers’?

Everything we do has to have a purpose.

Don’t move in your stand-up unless it’s critical to the story, unless you can’t tell me what you need to tell me without moving, or unless it advances the story in a meaningful (purposeful) manner. The dreaded “walk to nowhere” is a huge example of this. If we’re watching your stand-up, and your inexplicably walking slowly—dare I say seductively—toward us, what are we supposed to think?

“Gee..he/she is getting kind of close…oh…crap…what was he/she saying again?”

If you’re looking to prove you can walk and talk, try being a crossing guard or something else. You don’t have to prove that to be successful in TV news, or even to have a good resume’ reel.

Likewise, waving white papers in our faces during live shots and stand-ups may be the least purposeful thing on TV.  Are we really supposed to believe those are the documents you say? If they’re really that critical to your story, why not shoot video of the words?

Otherwise, it seems you’re double-checking that we trust you when you tell us the documents say what you say they do.

If we didn’t trust you, we wouldn’t still be watching.

These are just two examples of how we can—hopefully—better think our choices.

It’s not just reporters/MMJs. Producers can make the same critical decisions about graphics, shot placement, or story placement.  

Don’t do anything to distract from what we’re doing—passing along information we hope is vital to our viewers in big and small ways.



Rusty also wrote about: approaching the grieving and how to make a fast start in a small market


2 thoughts on “Make Sure It’s Purposeful TV

  1. I would go one further and ask yourself why should I do a standup in this story? Why do I need to be in it? The only times I did standups was if I needed to show a location or it were to transition from one part of the story to another, but it if was a visual story that I could fill with Nats and great video, then why should I waste the viewers’ time with my mug?


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