The early bird gets to be creative

In TV news, the clock is always ticking. It's a strange sensation knowing every minute, every second that passes is one moment closer to deadline. But that's the life of an MMJ. So it really pays to get started as soon as you can. If you can come up with an idea and make calls and line up interviews early, then that leaves more time for creativity later in the day.

Day 2, pack 2. A little less stressed; one piece left.

Day 2, pack 2. A little less stressed; one piece left.

Today's story was about a battle between local mom and pop bike rental companies versus a brand new bike sharing company. The rental companies focus on tourists who rent for the whole day and visit the Golden Gate Bridge and other spots.  The bike sharing company focuses on San Franciscans who want to get from one neighborhood to another or from a public transit drop off to work.

In the last week, the bike sharing folks came up with the idea of offering a three-hour pass, which would have been really attractive to the tourists the bike rental companies depend on. So the rental folks complained and the sharing folks backed down. With that as the background, the three basic elements I tell my students to look for in a TV story are:

  • So what (what difference does it make): local, high-profile businesses (bike rentals) fear they'll go under if this plan doesn't change putting dozens of people out of work.

  • Real people: one of the owners of the bike rental companies.

  • Show me, don't tell me (video): bikes, bikes and more bikes.

Rather than going into the office for the morning meeting today, I pitched my idea from home and got approval at 8:17 a.m. Immediately I started emailing and calling contacts and by 10:00 a.m. I had lined up a real person, the "other side" with the bike share company and permission to shoot lots and lots of bikes.

Now we're in business. Heading out the door at 10 a.m. with interviews already lined up meant a super early start on the day. With my interviews finished and logged by 2 p.m. I had some time to do a creative standup and include a lot of nat sound in the package. That's the luxury you have when the clock starts ticking early in the day.

The standup was a pretty basic one that students find easy to execute. But it's important to note how the standup is a great tool to transition between two places or two ideas. In this case, the idea was to transition between two ideas: bike sharing companies go after one type of customer, while bike rental companies go after another. Here's the raw video of the two-part standup:

Again, this was possible because I had the time to two different places to shoot a standup. This is a luxury that doesn't happen without having started early. Check out the finished product in the story at the end of the post.


  1. Start early when you can. It gives you a lot more flexibility later in the day. Trust me, you'll need it.

  2. Standups are an important part of TV storytelling. They're the one thing the reporter has complete control over. You can use it to transition, point out something interesting, be funny. Give yourself the opportunity by heeding point 1.