5 Things To Do When The Story You Were Assigned Isn't Coming Together

5 Things To Do When The
Story You Were Assigned
Isn't Coming Together

Written by News Gal
🕒 January 20, 2020

✨Reporters make magic happen every day.✨

Not only do they come in with stories to pitch, they go out and make them happen; and if you’re an MMJ, you do it all by yourself!

Some of us are lucky enough to have a photographer to help, but it’s not always easy to get people to agree to an on-camera interview. Not to mention how difficult it is to put together an entire story in 5 hours.

It isn’t easy to take a vague assignment, like follow up on yesterday’s shooting, and make it a masterpiece. Most days reporters and MMJs make the magic happen, but sometimes your initial assignment just doesn’t work out.

Don’t worry, it happens to all of us!

So what do you do when the story you were assigned isn’t coming together like you’d hoped? Well, here are a few things I’d suggest doing before you start to panic:

1. Be honest with your Team.

Let the newsroom know what’s going on. Reach out to your assignment editor and ask them for another story. If you ask early enough in the day, they might just have more than a few alternate story ideas they could pass along to you.

If you don’t have an assignment editor in your newsroom go directly to your producer, and let them know what’s going on with your story. I usually like to send them email updates, letting them know exactly what I have and/or if I might be struggling. That way, they know what to expect.

2. Does it need to be presented in a different format?

You were told this needs to be 1:30 package (PKG), but you only have one interview with two good soundbites to use. There’s no need to panic, because you can still make a good story out of two SOTs!

Ask your producer if you can put together a SOT/VO/SOT, instead of a package, or ask if it can be a live VO/SOT from the scene, especially if it’s visual. All you have to do is make the case that you have good information and/or video, but the sound just isn’t there.

You can still tell the entire story!

3. Have a backup

First, check to see if any of yesterday’s stories need a follow-up. Maybe the morning show previewed something you can cover that afternoon or evening.

Then, ask yourself, did someone else shoot something that was scheduled to be just a VO/SOT? Is there enough sound, information and video to make that your PKG instead?

It never hurts to ask to ask the other reporters, photographers or even the assignment editor working your shift. Someone might be willing to give you a story they didn’t have a lot of time to cover themselves. 

4. Think outside the box.

If no one is talking, why does your package have to have sound? Can you tell the story through great video and/or graphics instead? I once put an entire 1:30 PKG together using nothing but B-Roll over my VO, including graphics, and NAT POPs. 

Before you give up, ask yourself: Can you film a series of active stand-ups that engage viewers and explain the story? Are people talking about the subject on social media? If your station allows it, use social media posts to help tell the story!

5. Find sound in other ways.

If you can’t manage to land any interviews for your story, always remember: There are plenty of other ways to find SOTS to use in your story.

Is your story about a crime? You can use scanner audio or request the 911 call. Is this a follow-up story? You could also use sound from previous PKGs to help explain what was going on in the past while you  also offer an update.

So, if you’re still struggling to make the story you were assigned come together, don’t be discouraged, remember that there is always more than one way to tell a story (Get creative!). And if you’re really grasping at straws, never hesitate to ask your newsroom for help, because teamwork makes the dreamwork, right?! Good luck! 😉  

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