What’s In It For Me? (W.I.I.F.M?)

 Guest post from: Jeff  Butera

He is a three-time Emmy Award-winning journalist. A summa cum laude graduate of the University of Florida, he has reported for stations across the county, including in Phoenix and Tampa. He is currently the primary news anchor at WZVN-TV (ABC) In Fort Myers, where his work earned him a coveted Murrow Award for Hard News Reporting.

The most important sentence you write is the first one. Your lead sentence often decides whether the viewer watches your story or changes the channel. That’s why you have to make sure it’s a good one.

A strong lead accomplishes three things:

1) Gets the viewer’s attention and makes them want more

2) Sells the story, letting the viewer know why they should care

3) Gives the story direction so the viewer knows what’s coming next

All three are vitally important, but let’s focus on the second one. If we’ve decided to include a story in our newscast, we’re suggesting to our viewer that they should care about it. So, you have to answer the question: Why should they care?

Or, put another way: What’s In It For Me? (W.I.I.F.M?). That’s what the viewer is thinking. People want to know how the news impacts them. They care, first and foremost, about their own lives and their own families. If you want their attention, tell them how this story matters to them right away.

How does this story impact their life?
What are the questions they might have about the story?
How can we make it more relevant to them?

Those are the questions you should be asking yourself as you decide what to include in your story, and specifically what to focus on in your lead sentence. Remember, W.I.I.F.M? 


NO: The public utility company has won approval for $54 million dollars in rate increases. YES: Your electric bill will be going up a dollar-and-a-half a month.

NO: The president has proposed 12 billion dollars in tax cuts.
YES: The president’s new tax plan would save you about 50 bucks a year.

NO: The city of Tampa has passed a new dog leash ordinance.
YES: If you live in Tampa, you must now use a leash when you walk your dog.

NO: State lawmakers have passed a law making the process of getting a driver’s license more efficient.
YES: If should soon take you less time to get a driver’s license in Florida.

Jeff Butera is the author of “Write Like You Talk: A Guide To Broadcast News Writing.” It is available at www.WriteLikeYouTalk.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @WriteLikeUTalk.

Other posts by Jeff: Top Ten Words and Phrases To Avoid


The “NO Selfie” Zone

By: Mandy Mitchell


We are all under a lot of pressure to post stuff on social media these days. I’ve heard many stations even have quotas for the number of times you have to post to twitter or Facebook or Instagram. It’s become a huge part of the job.

I also understand a lot of us are in a journalism bubble when we are out covering stories. We see old colleagues during coverage of big stories and it’s always nice to see old friends even when it’s not the best of circumstances.

I think we can all learn something about what happened this past week in Orlando. An old colleague of mine, Suzanne Boyd, posted this selfie to her twitter page. She used the picture to tease live  coverage of the Orlando massacre coming up at 6! The point was to show she is in Orlando with so many other reporters from around the state. The problem is, she is clearly smiling in the picture.


You can  see the response that photo got—not from viewers–but other journalists.


I have known Suzanne for a very long time and I think she is a tremendous journalist. Just to give you an idea of what a veteran she is, she’s has been at WPEC in West Palm Beach since I worked there in High School. This was a poor choice and just goes to show you even the most seasoned among us can make mistakes on social media.

NBC Weatherman Al Roker is another recent example of a TV personality who lost his sense of tone. He posted this picture during the floods in Columbia, SC last year. I’m betting the driver of that car behind him, and the people who lost homes, were not joining him in the joy.


Roker later apologized for the post calling it “insensitive.”

We must remember where we are when we decide to put ourselves in the picture. If you are seeing old friends on the scene, and using that to bring some joy to a bad situation, that’s great! Take a selfie for YOU and don’t share it with the masses. I would argue not taking a selfie at all on a crime scene, but you get the point…

Too many journalists get caught in the bubble and the rush to provide content, that we forget why we are doing this in the first place. There are PEOPLE behind every story we do. 49 PEOPLE died in Orlando in that nightclub. People lost brothers, friends, and sons.

Many PEOPLE lost everything during that flood in South Carolina.

Before you take a selfie, take a few minutes to think about the people behind the story you are covering. Think about the tone you wish to set on air and consider whether a selfie is appropriate for the occasion.

There are many options for pictures on social media that do not include you. Try to remember when you are in a “No Selfie” zone.

NPPA Workshop Notes: Part 3

By: Mandy Mitchell


I really enjoyed listening to Chris Vanderveen speak at the NPPA workshop. Chris is an investigative reporter at KUSA in Denver and has really made a name for himself in the investigative world even though he’s only been in that arena for a short period of time.

Chris is a real storyteller and doesn’t do the stereotypical stuff like holding up documents or screaming about how exclusive his interview is. He tries to stay away from investigative clichés like “PARENT’S WORST NIGHTMARE!!” and “SHOCKING DETAILS!!!”…

The really cool part about Chris’ reporting is that it has led to some major change. His story on helicopter crashes got the attention of Congress!

He based his entire presentation around the old Wendy’s commercial “Where’s the beef?!”

That’s a great place to start for any us who work in this business. We need to do more with the meat and less with the other crap.

So here are my raw notes. Once again, feel free to ask for more context in the comment section or on the Facebook page. I encourage you to follow Chris on Twitter: @Chrisvanderveen

3 C’s of Storytelling:

  • Character
  • Conflict
  • Consistency of Theme

-We need these three things for a great story.

Let’s stay away from these phrases: “He is 85 years young”…”Makeshift memorial”…”More questions than answers..” (YUCK!)

-There are cameras everywhere these days. If you are working on a story, ask for surveillance video. You would be surprised how many things are actually caught on tape. Can truly add to a story. (Chris used this in a hit and run story)…

-None of us got in to this business to cover stories on the surface level. We do too much surface level reporting in TV news and that is CRUSHING US.

-It’s important to have curiosity. Ask a question no one else is asking.

-We have all become “fact regurgitators”

-Interesting fact. KUSA has very little b-roll of the Aurora shooting. Why? They were going live the entire time. We need to think about that when something big happens. Yes…cover the “now” but also think about what’s next.

The Art of following up…

  • We cover too much crime on the front end. Follow up and find out how cases end.
  • Keep a list of stories that could have follow ups.
  • Monitor court cases
  • tell stories others have forgotten.




NPPA Workshop Notes: Part 2

Boyd Huppert of KARE 11 in Minneapolis was the keynote speaker at the NPPA Southeast Storytelling workshop. Huppert has become a bit of a celebrity for those of us who truly appreciate great storytelling.

If you have never seen his work, do take the time to check it out here. He does a series called “Land of 10,000 stories,” and is given three days a week to work on those features. He is also a general assignment reporter two days of the week.

This segment with Boyd was great because he brought his photog up on stage to tell his perspective of the story. Very educational on both ends.

Here are my raw notes from the workshop. Please feel free to shoot me a note and ask for more context if you would like. MandyTV@Gmail.com. Or just comment on the Facebook page.

You catch watch the story we studied here. It will help you with the notes. If you missed Part 1, you can check that out here.


The most important thing is having a commitment to finding a focus of the story. This is something to build your story around.

The idea of a handshake shot. We form impressions about people the instant we meet them. Find the right shot to introduce people…This means finding a shot that truly shows the person’s personality in a second. Not a wide shot. Not a creative shot. A tv “handshake”…

analogies- “Wasted more bucks then a Kardashian on rodeo drive”…this was a line about a video game for shooting deer. Bucks and bucks. Fun play on words.

If it’s not special, it’s not done. (What a great quote! May print this one out for my desk)

Try to make your soundbites hold hands with your tracks….something he learned from news director Jill Geisler

“I hate your stories because I can’t cut them down.” -greatest compliment given from a morning producer. Should be a goal for all of us. Everything is so connected it CAN’T be a vosot.

It’s not accidental.

Detail- “tragic” or “shocking” or “horrifying” is not detail. You don’t have enough detail if you need to use those words. Try to have actually details. “A town so small they didn’t bother counting.”

every shot in a PKG should have purpose.

Put the wireless mic safely beside to the road. You want the texture. Crisp audio…

Little things are what change stories.

Write with a colon. “She did pretty well…” leading in to a soundbite about how she won. Boyd didn’t reveal she had won. He set up the bite.

Action/reaction…Daughter reacting to mom’s bite. Pay attention and be ready for this.

If you know what your focus is, it makes it easier to write your story.

Shot gets less interesting when you use it over and over (interviews). Work for different shots.

Not telling them to do anything, not staging. Just being smart about how we do our jobs.

Don’t tell someone to walk down the hall because they are now actors and they are waiting for your direction.

unfold—don’t just dump info. He didn’t lose two wives. He lost one and then a second. (this was from another story)

The most important part of finding a focus is to look for it.We have to look for it.



NPPA Workshop notes: Part 1

By: Mandy Mitchell

I got a chance to attend the NPPA southeast storytelling workshop this week and it was really outstanding. I am going to post all of my raw notes here so you can learn some of the great stuff we learned.

One big piece of advice: GO TO WORKSHOPS if you get the chance. It’s a great chance to meet people who are passionate about the business like you are. NPPA, Poynter, RTDNA all offer chances to learn from other people. Don’t be afraid to ask your station to pay for education and don’t be hesitant to spend your own money. You never know who you may meet or what you may learn that will lead to your next job.It’s also a chance to get motivated if you have lost your “spark.”

A look at the landscape: Panel discussion with TEGNA VP of news Ellen Crooke and Sinclair Broadcasting VP Scott Livingstone.

Livingstone: “It’s not just the what, it’s the so what”…we spend too much time just scratching the surface of stories on TV news right now. The biggest challenge we have is to dig deeper and research shows people want that.

-Crooke’s three keys to succeeding in this new TV news world

  • Be Curious
  • Be brave—willing to stand up for ideas and try new things
  • Embrace ambiguity—We have no idea what new things are going to work, but we have to have fun trying new things and seeing what sticks.

What do you do if your station isn’t really “interested” in long-form reporting and your great story ideas and they just want you to get things on air now and quickly?

Crooke: The best way to deal with management conflict is to come with a solution. What can you offer me for what you want? Can you do a VOSOT instead of a live PKG so you have more time to craft the great pkg? Don’t just say “I can’t.”

Crooke: “News people are good at coming up with reasons why we shouldn’t do something” (I laughed out loud when I heard this. HOW TRUE!)

Sinclair broadcasting is working a website to be more “transparent”…they are experimenting with posting raw interviews to the web to create context to soundbites.(Interesting idea. How can I use this?)

Crooke (talking about young journalists): talking like a reporter or anchor with your “news voice”…people are sick of it and can smell it a mile away. BE MORE REAL!


What I took away from this session:

There are innovative managers in high positions at media companies who are interested in new ideas and changing the way we do things in local TV.

Crooke talked a lot about how the business is broken and the format of how we do the news each day needs to change completely.

I am going to check out this project from TEGNA station WXIA. It is a completely digitally released documentary on heroin use in Atlanta and was a chance to experiment with new forms of journalism.