Broadcasters are increasingly called upon to use their professional voice and presentation skills in live telecasts.
The general skills that we will discuss below—using the voice properly with proper enunciation and varied, interesting delivery—remain the same for live broadcasting, but there are other considerations as well.
First, reporters need to understand the value of live shots. One of the primary reasons for the live shot is to take the audience to the scene of a story for the latest information. If a fire is burning or a bridge has collapsed, broadcast news can keep the viewer apprised of the most recent changes in a situation: "Two hundred more firefighters are arriving tonight to try to control this fire. Twenty people have been taken to the hospital and we understand that one man is in critical condition." Live coverage also gives the audience the feeling of experiencing the event firsthand.
Live shots also add variety to a newscast. If the anchor presents a series of reporter packages, the audience hears a series of similar introductions. "Joe Smith has the story." "Brook Holly reports." 'As John Seymore tells us, the trial should be winding up tomorrow." A live shot changes the pace. Finally, live shots allow the audience to become familiar with reporters in the same way they become acquainted with anchors.
In general, reporters doing live shots in the field need to have a clear understanding with producers and with the camera operator about what is expected. Will there be both an intro and a close to a pre-produced package, or just an intro? How much cross talk will there be with the anchor? Will the anchor ask a follow-up question, and what will it be? How much time is allotted? When everyone involved is clear on expectations, serious mistakes are less likely.
The reporter and camera operator must have an understanding of the composition of the shot. The reporter needs to know what the camera operator sees in the viewfinder and what the viewers at home will see. Clearly, the reporter would not want to tell viewers, 'As you can see....." if they can't see what the reporter is talking about. The reporter needs to know what is or is not visible in order to make decisions about pointing or gesturing. Similarly, the photographer needs to know about any movements the reporter is planning in order to follow smoothly with the camera.
You should not use gestures or movement within the live shot without a clear purpose. If a fire is blazing behind the reporter, there is no need to gesture and say, "As you can see, the fire is still blazing." If the fire is burning on the third floor, however, but started on the opposite side of the building on the ground floor, the reporter might point while explaining, "The fire started on the ground floor over there and moved quickly through the second floor. Blazes broke through the third floor about 30 minutes ago." If the camera angle does not show what the viewers need to see, the reporter might take a few steps while giving the account and let the camera operator follow the movement to reveal more of the building. In these examples, there is a reason for movement. Reporters who have a fondness for some particular action that is not motivated will be calling undue attention to themselves. One reporter became noticed in her market as the woman who always takes two steps and gestures at the end of her packages. Viewers would not have focused on the repeated action if there had been a reason for it.
The Wraparound and the Live Shot Interview make up most of the live presentations by broadcast reporters. Knowing what they are will help you prepare for live broadcasts.
A broadcast reporter's first experience in live broadcasting will most likely be a wraparound from the site of a news story. A wraparound is the reporter's live introduction and outcue to his or her own story. The presentation style is like that of a stand-up.
Wraparounds can be straightforward and simple, with the reporter standing still and speaking directly to the camera throughout. For example, if you cover a major city festival, the news director or producer may ask for a live shot from the scene. You should have been at the festival much earlier and should have already prepared a news package about the event, either in a field truck or back at the station. During the newscast, you will be back at the scene. The anchor will - announce that the festival is under way and tell the audience that you will be giving more information. The anchor then talks to you from the set, and you appear. You greet the anchor by speaking directly into the camera and proceed to introduce your package. The intro might be something like this
Good evening, Diane. I'm here at Funfest in Kingsport and organizers say the crowd is larger than ever this year—by ten thousand! They're not sure where everyone came from, but the city had a hard time handling the traffic. .
At this point the package rolls, showing traffic snarls and fender-benders from the hot afternoon. The story may go on to say that despite traffic problems, the skydiving show was a huge success, and a sellout crowd is expected for the concert tomorrow.
In a wraparound, the package will not end with the reporter's standard outcue ("Joe Smith reporting for Eyewitness News"). Instead, the story ends and the live shot returns to you in the field, where you add more information
The good news, Diane, is that city police say they will have the traffic problems solved for tomorrow.
At this point the anchor might ask a follow-up question, to which you respond. As we mentioned, you should plan follow-up questions in advance. Suppose that the anchor asks the reporter how much longer the festival lasts and the reporter doesn't know. Both the reporter and anchor are embarrassed. When the reporteris surprised with a question and doesn't know the answer, it's hard to pretend otherwise. Not knowing the dates of the festival would be a serious reporting error, but it is understandable that a reporter might not know the answer to a legal or technical question that the anchor might ask unexpectedly. In these situations, it's probably better to say something like, "That a good question and I'll work on it and let you know." As discussed earlier, if you don't know, you can't fake it, and trying to do so in a live shot is a formula for disaster.
Finally, the anchor thanks you, and you may respond. You will stand still and continue to look directly at the camera until you are sure the shot is no longer on you.
In preparing a package for a live wraparound, the reporter essentially writes two beginnings and two endings to the story. The package itself needs to be able to stand alone, perhaps to be used in a later newscast. In this case, the reporter's standard outcue will be added, most likely from a recording that editors have on hand for this purpose. See Exhibit (Right) for an example of a wraparound script.
Those who can communicate lots of information without giving up eye contact with the camera are fortunate, skilled or both. However, sometimes there is so much information with important detail that you don't want to risk leaving it out in the live shot. In this case, it is totally acceptable to hold a visible clipboard or notebook and to let the audience see you looking down for information. After all, the information is important.
The Live Shot Interview
The live shot will often include a short interview. Once again, simplicity and clarity are fundamental. Questions should be simple—and presented one at a time. The tone of the interview is important. The broadcaster always has the responsibility for making the conversation pleasant, or at least cordial, no matter how difficult the topic. Even if the person being interviewed is abrupt and sounds rude, the broadcaster must remain polite.
The major challenge of the interview in a live shot is working within the time limitations. You may have a maximum of two minutes to ask questions, and one or two may be all that time allows. Reporters quickly develop an acute sense of time with live-shot experience. On the other hand, the person being interviewed may not be as experienced and may either talk too long, or give very short, undeveloped answers. The reporter should prepare the interviewee before the interview by explaining exactly what will happen and how much time there will be. The interviewee will appreciate an explanation of where to stand, where to look and how much to say. If the reporter is holding a microphone, the interviewee should be advised not to try to hold the mic. For such short interviews, it may be acceptable to tell subjects what the questions will be, unless there is a reason to think they may avoid an issue if they have time to plan ahead. The reporter may warn them that time will go by more quickly than they expect, and determine a signal to let them know that it is time to quit talking. For example, the reporter may be able to touch the person on the arm, since they will be standing much closer together than people normally stand for the shot to look properly composed on camera. If the interviewee continues to talk when time is up, the reporter may need to interrupt the conversation—always politely. In more difficult cases, a polite, firm "Thank you" may require a little extra volume.
As always, action during a live shot requires special attention. The reporter must plan each movement in advance, and the subject and camera operator must be clear about the plan. The reporter may begin by talking directly into the camera and then turn toward the interviewee, being very careful that the camera doesn't capture a total profile. After asking the questions, the reporter may turn back around to talk into the camera. If the interviewee expects these movements, the interview will go more smoothly. An unexpected action by the reporter could surprise the subject and interfere with the flow of the interview. In live-shot interviews, careful planning puts everyone at ease so that the reporter can concentrate on the message and ask clear, simple questions and the interviewee can think about what he or she is saying rather than being distracted by unexpected activity.