Today was my first try working as a solo MMJ. One of my KPIX colleagues, Mike Sugerman, recommends MMJs only go to two places for a story because time is so limited. When MMJs are driving, shooting video and editing, they’re not reporting, so the day goes by quickly.
Today’s story idea was ideal for MMJ work following Mike’s theory; it was the debate in the small town of Belvedere over increasing the police force from four officers to five. My video and interviews were all within the town, which sits just north of San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge. To get:
- A resident who wants to increase the force to increase the safety;
- A member of the police department to explain why not increasing the force doesn’t put residents in danger;
- Video of police cars and nice houses (this is a really ritzy place).
So that was the plan, and MMJs should always establish a plan so they know where they’re going. Executing the plan is another matter. Before leaving the station, I made several calls, but had to leave messages. So I hopped in the car, hoping to track someone down. After a 40-minute drive, I ended up knocking on doors, to no avail. Now the pressure started to increase, as the minutes ticked away, with no one to interview.
In the end, my messages were heard and I got the interviews I needed. Still, the stress of the unknown is something everyone in TV, and especially MMJs, needs to expect, deal with and truly thrive upon.
As I shot the story as an MMJ, I recalled some of the positives of being in total control of the story. When MMJs think of lines they want to include in their voice tracks, they’re able to shoot them right away – cutaways, broll, standups, whatever. And sometimes, the line comes to you as you're looking through the viewfinder.
Writing the story has proven to be the most difficult part of jumping back into the TV business after two years away. The thoughts don’t flow as easily as they do when one writes stories every day for weeks, months, years on end. The solution is to get back to basics and focus on what beginning reporters should turn to: What’s new? What’s different? What’s the latest? What surprised or impressed you? Those are all basic questions whose answers can help a writer reaching for a way to organize a story.
What does come back quickly is the technology. If you’ve gotten the shooting and non-linear editing down once, you can do it again. Yes, it is like riding a bike.
- Uncertainty is stressful and also to be expected. There’s no changing that.
- You can’t go wrong by focusing on what’s new, what’s different, what’s surprising. These are elementary principles that stand no matter which market you’re in.
- Get good at the technology. The better you are at pushing the buttons, the better your journalism will be because you’ll have more time to focus on storytelling.