"Show me, don't tell me."

On my first day back on the air I got to work with a photographer, and good thing, too. The assignment was to drive an hour north from San Francisco to Sonoma County to track down a teenager accused of using stolen credit cards to rent a sports car for $13,000 and a luxury home for $28,000.

With a photographer driving, I was able to make calls to the swindled rental car company and to the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office. Both calls helped me build a solid understanding of the background to the story and also allowed me to set up an on-camera interview with the sheriff’s investigator. Had I been working as an MMJ on my own, none of those calls would have been made ahead of time, and the interviews might have been missed.

While the elements to the story were intriguing – a high-rolling teenager who deputies say faked his way into some pretty nice stuff – there was a problem: hardly any video. The basic elements were interviews with the authorities and still photos of the car. No houses, no credit cards, no arrest, no court appearance.

In the end, we fleshed out the package with a little Ferris Buehler movie video (kid bluffs his way into driving a killer car) and broll at the suspect’s neighborhood. But the lesson I was reminded of is a key element to working in local TV news: you must have video to cover everything you say. In other words: “show me, don’t’ tell me.”

I found writing the story a little trying as many of the lines I wanted to use didn’t work because there was no video. Video is the beauty of TV that often allows you to be really creative, but it's also limiting. Without video you just cannot say certain things.


  1. “Show me, don’t tell me” is an inviolable tenet of TV reporting. No video? Figure out another way to say it or leave it for the live shot or leave it out.
  2. Use drive time to your advantage when you’re with a photographer by fleshing out potential leads. As a solo MMJ, you don’t have that luxury.