Use all the resources at your disposal

Today’s story was on the effect of San Francisco proposing to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Particularly at restaurants, any increase in labor costs can be a big burden.

This was one of those ideal days, where the sun shines, there’s no traffic and all the people you call agree to an interview right away. In no time, I lined up the head of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association and a restaurant owner to explain how this increase would be bad for business. In fact, the restaurant owner said he was going to have to cut staff and replace employees with iPads customers could use to order their food.

Now the only thing remaining was get some video of the tablets in use. Hmmmm. The restaurant owner didn’t have them yet; the restaurant association lady’s suggestion didn’t pan out. Who do I know who might have a clue? My wife! She worked in the restaurant industry when we lived in San Francisco, and even though she was now all the way across the country, her recommendation came through. She led me to a San Francisco company that creates this specific kind of software. The lesson: rely on anyone you know as a source for leads – you never know when an idea from far away is even better than a close one.

Another resource that’s becoming more commonly used is the smart phone. Several of the long-time photographers I’m working with say the iPhone can take great still photos and video and they use them frequently as second and third cameras for their stories. You can drive a car over an iPhone for a story about potholes; you can walk over an iPhone for a cool cutaway shot with your interview subject. In today’s story, the iPhone allowed me to shoot a standup giving the viewer the perspective of the restaurant tablet (It’s a little difficult to explain, but you’ll get it if you watch the story).

Another reason today went well – all my interviews were within a five-block area in downtown San Francisco. This cut down my driving time, which gave me more reporting time. That time allowed for a creative standup as well as a video tease I Tweeted and posted to Facebook.

My final lesson for the day was to appreciate the professionals you work with. If you build relationships with the folks who shoot and edit and produce and assign stories, you can rely upon them to help you out in a pinch. My story was late getting to the server, and the super-experienced editor in charge of making sure my story was in the right place at the right time took the time to make me look good. She tweaked and adjusted and exported with the sole goal of making the story shine. It didn’t have to be this way. Prima donna reporters who think colleagues are their servants don’t always get a helping hand when they need it most. Just remember, on camera doesn’t mean on top; others in the newsroom have important jobs, too. When you need them the most, they can be lifesavers.



  1. Leave no stone unturned when you’re trying to track down sources and leads. Someone who’s not even in the same time zone can open doors you never thought of.
  2. New technologies, such as smart phones, can be useful tools to help tell a compelling story. They’re not replacements for professional video cameras, but they can augment traditional storytelling equipment.
  3. When you can economize on the time you spend driving, shooting and editing, use what’s left over to promote your story and make it different.
  4. Respect your colleagues and build bridges. You may be a self-sufficient reporter who can shoot and edit with aplomb. But there will come a time – you can count on it – when you need help. That’s not the time to try to make friends. Do it ahead of time, so in the moment of crisis, your co-workers are more than willing to save you.