When the reporter appears on camera during a news package, this is a stand-up.
The information included in the stand-up is a vital part of the story, and the photographer and reporter must work together to conceive and shoot the stand-up at the scene of the story.
The most familiar use of the stand-up is a closing statement by the reporter and an outcue—when the reporter identifies herself and the station at the end of the story: This is Susan Smith reporting for WXXX News. Newsrooms refer to their SOC, or the standard outcue—the order and specific wording for identifying the reporter and the station at the end of a package. For example, one reporter closes her story with a stand-up, a brief on-camera appearance.
A newsroom may have all reporters end their packages by saying, This is Susan Smith. . . Eyewitness News. Another newsroom may require something different, such as, Susan Smith reporting for Newscenter 5. News departments want their reporters to become familiar to the audience and may require stand-ups to help achieve that goal.
The stand-up should always include valuable information about the story in addition to the outcue. The reporter should develop some idea in advance about how the story will be written so he or she can tape an appropriate informative stand-up before returning to the station.
Increasingly, reporter stand-ups come within the story. Some experts advise reporters never to end a package with a stand-up. Because the last visual image of a package is most likely the one viewers will remember, the story should end with a picture that summarizes the story, not the reporter. However, news directors often want viewers to have a strong visual memory of the reporter, because this helps to build the station's image among viewers.
Reasons for Stand-Ups
Whether the stand-up is in the middle of the package or at the end, one requirement remains undisputed: anytime a reporter appears on camera, the appearance should be for a reason, and the shot should be composed accordingly. Image (Left) shows stand-ups being taped. Some legitimate uses for stand-ups include:
To show you were there
Stand-ups can emphasize the location of the story. A reporter who goes to Russia to do a series of stories on the Russian economy will surely want to have a standup with the Kremlin in the background; likewise, the Eiffel Tower if you're in Paris, the Capitol in Washington, or Times Square or the Statue of Liberty in New York City.
In some cases, shots that show the reporter's presence can detract from the story. In a report on a schoolyard shooting, the video of the school building and the emergency personnel is more important than seeing the reporter standing with the scene in the background.
To reveal something
The reporter may do a stand-up to reveal important information. Two people are dead in a murder–suicide; the story begins with the who, what, when and where. Then, the reporter appears on camera holding a parking ticket and reports, Police say the argument began over a parking ticket like this one. In a story about drunk driving, the reporter says that Joe Shuman and his two friends began their evening at the basketball game, followed by a stop at the local bar. In the stand-up, the reporter says, The evening ended here when police say the car crashed into this telephone pole while traveling at 90 miles per hour
In a very dramatic stand-up, Baltimore reporter Mike Schuh of WJZ-TV began talking about a parolee who had reportedly killed someone. Viewers could see only some blue sky in the background. As the photographer pulled out to a wide shot, the audience realized that Schuh was standing on top of the jail. To illustrate the length of the parolee's rap sheet, Schuh held the top of the list of past crimes and let it unroll—all the way to the ground.
To show participation
Reporters are not actors and should not attempt to become the focus of the story. However, reporter participation can help the viewer understand the story, if the action is realistic. If a story is about people who are afraid to drive through the Lincoln Tunnel, the reporter may give information about how many people request someone to drive them through the tunnel each week—while driving in the tunnel.
The reporter's participation should be real and believable. It would not make sense for a reporter to be passing sandbags as a community attempts to hold back rising flood water, but it might be appropriate for the reporter to be standing in line to buy a lottery ticket in a story about the rush to buy chances on the state's biggest jackpot. A reporter would be more believable taking cans from a grocery shelf while she talks about fat content in canned goods than pushing a grocery cart and adding cans from the shelf. It is not believable that a reporter would be grocery shopping while preparing a news story.
Reporter participation can add depth and can also remind the audience that the reporter is close to the subject and learning about the story that will be related to the viewers. In a story about a blight that is damaging a corn crop, the audience would not believe that the reporter needed to be helping the farmer water the crop. On the other hand, having the reporter shuck one ear of corn to see the underdeveloped growth could be quite appropriate.
To provide transition
The stand-up may be used as a transition, or a way to move the story from one part to another. After introducing a farmer whose property taxes are going up, the reporter might do a stand-up in the cornfield, explaining that the tax rates are not determined on the farm—instead, they're decided at city hail. The next section of the story would focus on what lawmakers say about the new tax rate. The stand-up helps move the story easily from one part to another. If the story is about a drought and begins with the personal struggles of one farm family, the next part of the story may be about the state legislature's efforts to deal with the problem. The reporter may do a stand-up in the dry, dusty field and report that the legislature may be looking at a proposal to buy water from an adjoining state. Then the story would move to a legislator's office and proceed with that aspect of the story. A story about health care might begin at the headquarters of an HMO, followed by a reporter stand-up outside the building explaining that the new health care policy will change the way nursing homes bill their patients. The next part of the story takes place at a nursing home. Or a reporter might do a stand-up in front of the courthouse to make the transition between the prosecution's case and the defense. Reporter stand-ups can help the audience understand that the story is moving from one topic to another.
No appropriate video
The reporter may do a stand-up when there is no appropriate video. When covering a courtroom story where the camera is not allowed inside, the reporter may stand on the courtroom steps and describe the defendant's testimony. At the scene of an accident, the reporter may stand on the bank where the car became airborne and describe the way police say the accident happened. When someone is arrested for setting a fire that damages the school, the story would include pictures of the person and of the fire damage. The stand-up might be the place to report that the suspect had previously been charged with arson.
Stand-ups offer an opportunity for creativity. If the story is about a controversial religious plaque in the courthouse, the reporter might walk into the shot of the plaque. But remember that the purpose of the stand-up is to advance the story.
The Video Journalist/Backpack Journalist and the Stand-Up
As we have emphasized throughout this text, more and more newsrooms are hiring people who can work independently, both reporting and shooting the story. Independent video journalists will want to include stand-ups in their news packages. How can video journalists shoot stand-ups of themselves? Obviously, it is not possible to look through the viewfinder and stand in front of the camera at the same time. Although developing a good stand-up may be challenging and require creativity and resourcefulness, the backpack journalist can manage to shoot effective stand-ups.
Usually, VJ stand-ups will be very basic. Some of the previous examples of reporter participation or action within a stand-up might not be possible for the single-person operation. The reporter will most likely have to sacrifice creative angles and action within the shot in favor of a simple, well-composed shot. Solo stand-ups are often identifiable by the fact that the reporter appears in the middle of the shot, with a bit more headroom than would be typical of a photographer shooting video of a reporter. This composition is common not because it is the most desirable, but because setting up a more precise shot is very difficult. See Exhibit 8.15 for examples of a VJ set-up (A) and stand-up shot (B). In this example, the camera's viewfinder swivels 180° so the VJ can see his image while standing in front of the camera.
Some VJs have found a low-tech solution for managing the camera image for stand-ups: a stick, yardstick, or even two yardsticks taped together. By placing the stick upright in the location where you will be standing, you can frame up the shot and then move in front of the camera. You can also find something to stand in front of and note where your head and chest will appear in relation to the background. Then, you can frame the camera shot around the background where you will stand. For example, if you will stand in front of a stop sign, consider approximately where your head and chest will appear in relation to the sign. Then you can look at the sign and decide where to stand, and then get behind the camera and frame the shot appropriately.
Even the person working alone can exercise some creativity. For example, the VJ could frame a shot of a doorway and then walk out of the doorway during the stand-up. Be creative in using any available resources. For example, you might ask someone to stand in the spot where you want to do the stand-up. You would frame the shot and then take the place of your stand-in.
Setting up (A) and shooting (B) the VJ stand-up. Notice the reversable viewfinder.
Trial and error can help, because reviewing the tape and looking at what you've shot in the field is easy enough.