CMMW 2018: Envisioning storytelling

Written by Kevin Sanchez

Often we are assigned stories that at the surface seem simple. For events, the expectation is to interview organizers, attendants and record interesting soundbites for a package. In the fast-paced realm of journalism, that becomes a reliable and timely structure. So much, that the way the story is told becomes generic. Instead of looking at yourself as just the reporter, begin envisioning yourself as the storyteller. Ask yourself, how are we able to take our viewers there? How are we able to make our viewers feel, instead of just hearing? Are we able to shift a current dialogue? And how are we able to craft a story that is different than previously seen? This is a discussion freelance reporter Greg Vandegrift introduced to us. The idea that every story is able to take viewers on a journey.

Written in large and said a number of times, Vandegrift highlighted the power of video to guide a viewer's experience. He went further calling it his plan of attack with voiceovers, b-roll and natural sound as elements to enrich the story. These fragments are obvious to journalists pursuing the field of broadcast, but its application marks a stark difference in how your story is received. We want people to feel connected to a larger discussion like a town hall, board meeting, or protest. Vandegrift says in broadcast, it is crucial to contextualized video instead of writing the obvious. Going further, he says if a video was not shot, it did not happen. This makes it critical to coordinate with your videographer and remain attentive while reporting. To supplement his vision, Vandegrift presented Como the Tiger, a story about the euthanization of a tiger who bit a girl and they were unsure if had rabies. From the beginning, the story introduces the sounds, landscape, and sentiments carried at the zoo. You can hear the mosquitos, feel the grief, and see the foreground that a loss awaits. The team was able to catch raw emotion, and Vandegrift wrote subtly to that. He allows others to speak for themselves. As it develops, the story does not fall short of building the passion expressed.

In addition to blending elements, Vandegrift introduced his style of storytelling which is distinct from the style that I was used to. As I was taught, the first few seconds of your package are, to begin with, either a standup or a sound bite that speaks from emotion. Vandegrift disregards both. Instead, he makes a strong appeal with visuals in the beginning and chooses to take viewers on a journey, making sure to leave pivotal moments in their respective area of the timeline. In doing so, viewers have the incentive to continue watching a story and not click out since they already have the important information. He introduces this by showing A work of art that follows a high school wrestler, Kevin Black, on his journey making history. The story could have easily been told with Kevin winning the wrestling match at the start. However, he chooses to open by setting the scene with fans waiting outside the venue. It then follows his journey as he prepares for the match. It builds suspense. Vandegrift frames the story to where even if you are not interested in sports, it would still be engaging since the story is about making history.