JO 351 Syllabus, Writing and Reporting with Audio and Video

JO 351 Writing and Reporting with Audio and Video

Fall 2012, Thursday 1-4
Professor Anne Donohue
Work phone: 617-353-3418
Home phone: 617-489-4334 (emergency only)
Office: COM Room 302. Hours: Tuesday 10-12 and 2-4 ,Wednesdays 1-3, Thursday 9-11 and Monday by appointment.

Course Description:
Welcome to the world of broadcast news!
The purpose of this class is to introduce you to writing and reporting using audio, video and the web. We will spend the first third of the semester on audio, the rest of the term will be spent on video. In both cases, the emphasis is on the writing, reporting, accuracy and fairness of the story. I will treat this class as a professional newsroom, i.e. with real deadlines and seemingly impossible expectations of getting a news production done — with little time, few resources, and technical snafus all around. It should be fun! Two essential ingredients are required to make this course (and a career in journalism) a success: preparedness and a sense of humor.
You will be using digital audio recorders and HD cameras, Audacity audio editing and Final Cut Video editing to produce your assignments. This class will also provide you with experience using the APENPS software used in many television and radio newsrooms today.

Course Outcomes: Students finishing this course should be able to research, report, write, record, shoot, and edit news stories using audio and video. Students will be able to write accurately on deadline. Students will study the fundamentals of journalism and interview a practicing journalist about the profession.

Be prepared! I was never a Boy Scout, but that is the motto of every good journalist. You never know what story you will be assigned, so you MUST have a working knowledge of everything in the news. You are required to read a daily newspaper and monitor radio and television newscasts and news websites throughout the day, every day.
There will be frequent quizzes at the start of class on current events. You will be treated as professionals and are expected to meet all deadlines and complete assignments on time.

Required reading/viewing/listening:
–Daily newspapers, The Boston Globe and/or New York Times. READ.
–Daily radio — NPR/WBUR 90.9 Morning Edition 6-9 am, All Things Considered 4-7 pm., Listen every day for at least a half hour. Or WBZ all news radio. Set your alarm clocks! or get the iphone app and LISTEN.
–Daily television – one local and one network newscast every day. WATCH.
The Elements of Journalism by Rosensteil and Kovach. If you haven’t read it, please do.

TEXT:  Aim For The Heart, second edition, Al Tompkins
An external hard drive to save all your material
A 2G SD card to record Audio onto
An 8G SD Class 6 card to record video onto.

Oral Report:
Interview a journalist whose job you aspire to have some day and write a brief summary (one page typed) about that person. You must interview them in person, or on the phone (no email). You must have a confirmed subject/person by the end of September. We will have oral reports sprinkled throughout the semester. Everyone should be ready to roll after Halloween. Five minutes max. You should ask them how they got into the business, what is good and bad about being a broadcast journalist, what was their best and wost stories/experiences, where is the profession headed, etc.

Tardiness and absenteeism are not acceptable. In the event of a personal or family emergency, please notify me that you will not be in class BEFORE CLASS BEGINS and make arrangements with me to make up the time/work. Work missed during unexcused absences will be given an F grade.

NO LATE WORK will be accepted. NO excuses. This is the news business. Deadlines are very real. I will however, consider a re-write or re-production of a completed piece that was handed in on time, for a POSSIBLE upgrade.

In class writing, participation, commitment, attitude, teamwork: 10%
Quiz/test grades – 15% (your worst quiz grade may be dropped).
Audio/Video projects – 75%
Also, if you stumble upon spot news (fire, accident, crime) with your camera or audio recorder, ….record and report it. That can replace any of the canned assignments listed below.
Each of the assignments will be given three grades: the pitch, the script, and the final product.
The Pitch: 20% – how creative and well researched your story ideas are, who you will interview, what you will record (pictures and sound scenes). How well you sell the story — your editor will always ask, why should I care, why should an audience listen to this story? You need to have a compelling answer. KEEP A FILE OF POTENTIAL STORY IDEAS.
The script: 30% – editorial content: fairness, balance, accuracy, story structure, writing, use of tape, pacing.
The final product: 50% How did it all come together? Visuals, audio, pacing, story-telling, delivery.
TO PARTNER OR NOT TO PARTNER? I have tried this class both ways, working in partners and working as one-man-band. What seems to work best is a hybrid — ask a classmate to help you when you are shooting, especially interviews and stand-ups. But you must pass in a different story from your partner. You will get the grade for the entire story, it is your individual research, reporting, writing and editing that will be the primary basis of your grade. By the end of the semester your final assignments will hopefully be done solo. This is the way the world is evolving, for better or worse.

Please review Journalism Department guidelines carefully.
Do not copy the words, graphics, audio, video or music created by anyone else. Plagiarism of any kind will lead to serious consequences, including the possibility of expulsion.
Please do not use any one else’s audio or video, except with permission and attribution from me and from the source of the tape. Don’t ask friends or roommates to pose as interview subjects. Don’t “double-dip”, submitting an assignment produced for another class or media outlet. Your work must be your own, produced for this course.

Week 1 – 9/8 – Introductions, Syllabus, Terminology, APENPS. Your news diet, becoming a news junkie.
Developing a database of contacts. Story idea files: issues, profiles, features
In class workshop: Basic Audio Recording. Interview classmates, write and deliver story.
Homework: Read Tompkins Introduction, and Chapters 1, 4, 5 and 6. Assignment #1: Audio Story. Record interviews on a controversial, newsworthy topic with experts and/or MOS (man on the street) or I prefer the French VOX (voice of the people). Come to class next week with audio SD card and have your audio logged (transcribed).

Week 2- 9/15 – Writing for broadcast. Using expert and MOS tape. Go over book. Readers, voicers, wraps. Scripting around sound. Broadcast news writing – tight, bright, and right. Writing for 24 hour broadcast/web. Story idea file check.
Homework: Read Chapters 2, 3 and 11. Write Assignment #1 Audio: a wrap with interviews (SOT/Actuality)

Week 3 – 9/22 – Current events quiz. DUE: #1 Script for Reporter WRAP. Email it to me by 2PM WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON.
In class workshop: Basic audio editing, Audacity. AP Prime Cuts. Writing from wires, newspaper sources. Narration, delivery, unleashing your inner actor!

Homework: Read Chapter 14, 15, and 16. Edit wrap and put final tape of story into DONOHUE/351 folder BEFORE CLASS. Write up a pitch for #2 Video political story.

Week 4 – 9/29– Current Events quiz. #1 audio wrap DUE. Critique #1. Pitch #2 Video political story.
Introduction to the Camera: How to use the HD camera, what to shoot. Interviewing skills. Thinking visually. Scripting a two column Video Story. Access with a camera. Gathering Natural Sound
How not to get into legal trouble: Libel, copyright, wiretap laws, crime, and courts.

Homework: Working with a partner to help you with shooting, you each will report, shoot and Write #2 Video Political Story. Send two column scripts to me by 9am Thursday. Bring scripts and Video SD CARD to class. Read Chapters 7, 8 and 9.
Should have lined up subject for oral report: talk to someone whose job you want.

Week 5 – 10/6 – Current Events Quiz. DUE: Script for #2 Video Political Story.
In class: Final Cut Pro demo with Susan Walker: Importing Video, organizing and labeling files, basic edits into a timeline. In class copy editing.
Homework: Import, and do basic edits with video. Put a rough sequence of SOTS on the timeline. MUST VISIT FCP lab one night this week and have the TA check off that you were there and understand the basics. Put stories into Donohue folder BEFORE CLASS. Read chapters 12 and 17.

Week 6 – 10/13 – DUE: rough cut on Final Cut Pro
In class: FCP demo #2: Sandy Hooper: Recording Voice Tracks, audio levels, exporting.
Homework: Finish assignment #2 on FCP. VISIT THE FCP LAB!! Prepare pitch for #3
Read Book Chapter 10

Week 7 – 10/20 Current Events quiz. DUE: assignment #2 and Pitch for Assignment #3: Video controversial issue package and vo/sot story.
In class: VIEW #2. Sandy Hooper trouble shooting. Television terms, writing and scripting, anchor vo, vo/sot, vs. reporter package. The logistics of finding and covering television/video news. Ideas for next stories. Developing a beat/specialty: health, sports, business, consumer, politics.
Homework: With a partner helping you with the camera, Shoot #3 and write scripts for controversial news package and vo/sot. Send script to me via email by 9am Thursday. All oral reports should be complete and ready to share with the class in November. Five minutes max.

Week 8 – 10/27.
DUE: Script for  #3 Controversial story: Anchor vo/sot and Reporter Package
In class.Final Cut Pro demo: Sandy Hooper, graphics, lower 3rds, other effects.
Homework: finish editing #3 vo/sot and package tape. Put them in the DONOHUE/JO 351 folder BEFORE CLASS

Week 9 11/3 –  Current Events Quiz. DUE: #3 Controversial story, Anchor VO/SOT and Reporter Package.
In class: deliver vo/sot (possibly in studio). A few oral reports.
Specialty reporting: Business, (innumeracy). Medical (junk Science), Crime/law, consumer, politics, international (mid-east primer). Global-local connections. Environment.
Homework: Revisions of #3 if necessary. Prepare pitch for #4 the BEAT story.

Week 10 – 11/10 – Current Events/Writing/Book Terminology Test. DUE: Pitch #4 Beat Reporter Package. Mock or real Press conference. Covering LIVE events. A few oral reports.
Homework: If necessary, with the help of a partner, Shoot and Write #4 Beat Report  vo/sot and reporter package. Send me scripts via email by 9am Thursday (include anchor lead and tag on reporter package). Read chapter 13.

Week 11– 11/17 – DUE: Script for #4 Beat Story.
Current events quiz.
In class: Working Online. Possible guest.
Ethical issues: privacy, taste, decency, advocacy, crossing the line from observer to participant. More Oral reports
Homework: Read Chapter 18.
Edit #4 Beat Reporter package and anchor vo/sot. Put final package and vo/sot in DONOHUE/351 folder BEFORE CLASS. Pitch #5, the Feature, send via email.

11/24 THANKSGIVING! NO CLASS, but send pitch idea for feature via email before you leave town for Turkey. LOOK AHEAD. USE THIS TIME TO START REPORTING ON FEATURE STORY.

Week 12 – 12/1. Current events quiz. DUE: #4 Beat Reporter Package. Discuss Features, writing with style, characters, crazies and cool. Know the city you are working in: LOCAL HERO.
In class: More oral reports
Homework: Working solo, report, write and edit #5 Feature Story.

Week 13 – 12/8 –Last Class. NO QUIZ! Critique #5 Feature. Last oral reports. VACATION


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The Future of J-school

Please check out this article on the future of journalism education.

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TIPS: tape to tape linear editing

TIPS: Shooting and editing tips for tape to tape linear editing

LABEL YOUR TAPES: Before you leave home, put your name on all of your tapes. As soon as you eject tape from camera, label its content (i.e. Smith interview)
Don’t shoot into windows or have lights behind subject.
Make sure faces are well lit, have person move to brighter location for interview.
Use a tripod
Hold camera steady. Avoid pan-zoom frenzy. Treat it like a still camera first, then add movements
Use lavalier or hand held mic, not camera mics whenever possible
Make sure you shoot enough set up shots, sequences, cutaways, reversals.

Before editing
Log all field tapes carefully. Transcribe best soundbites. Write down best shots and mark them with a star or other ranking method.
Label your tapes. An unlabeled tape is a recipe for disaster. Label everything with your name and the content of the tape (i.e. DONOHUE – Smith interview, Harvard b-roll)
Have a well marked script before entering edit booth. Know where your shots are and what you will cover each track with. Mark where it is on the field tape so you don’t have to fast forward and rewind constantly trying to find the SOT or shot you want.

Preparing for Editing

1. Label tapes: field, master and track. At least three tapes (more if you have multiple field tapes).
2. Lay down Color bars/control track/black onto master tape.
3.Record your voice tracks/narration onto track tape. (preferably not on field/b-roll tape) then build piece. Take multiple takes to get best narration possible. Mark script “use take 3”
4. Field/Source tapes go in left machine
5. Record/Master/Final tape in right machine
6. Lay down countdown: audio and video onto master tape

1. PREVIEW. Check audio levels from TRACKS/NARRATION tape going to RECORD/MASTER/FINAL tape before making edit. Make sure levels are high enough. Adjust levels accordingly.
1a. If you want to start with nat sot up full, which I highly recommend, go in a few seconds before laying down first narration track.
2. Lay down first narration track. Audio only. Put main audio on channel one.
3. Then lay down first soundbite, again, PREVIEW, check levels to make sure they are the same level as first track, using same channel as first track. ***But you want audio and video this time. YOU WANT TO SEE THE PERSON TALKING.
4. Repeat: tracks –soundbites – tracks – and sign off, “for BUTV, I’m (name) in Boston”

ADD B-ROLL and nat sound SECOND
1.Then go back to the beginning and lay down pictures with Nat/sot under to fill in black holes and cover tracks. PREVIEW EVERY EDIT. BE CAREFUL TO SET OUT POINTS SO YOU DON’T ACCIDENTLY COVER UP SOUNDBITE.
In the future, after the first package, you will learn to use nat up full at tape and throughout piece. But for the first assignment, let’s keep it simple.
3. Don’t make an edit on a camera move, wait till pan or zoom stops.
Cut to the punctuation in the script.


1. Black Master tape, as above.
2. Time script to know EXACTLY how many seconds of b-roll you need.
3. Lay down a few shots to the EXACT time on script. Rule of thumb: edits last 3- 6 seconds. If you have a ten second vo, you’ll need about 3 shots. Ideally b-roll matches or complements words in script. All b-roll shots should have NAT SOT under low, not full, not silent.
4. Next, lay down SOTs, sound up full on channel one.
5. ON last SOT, at outcue, turn DOWN volume, but leave face on screen silent for at least five seconds pad.

Read script aloud in edit room as you roll tape to make sure you’ve timed it correctly. YOU DO NOT NEED TAPE TO COVER ANCHOR ON CAMERA LEAD. YOU DO NOT NEED TO RECORD YOUR VOICE TRACKS ON AN ANCHOR VO/SOT…..JUST ON REPORTER PACKAGE

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TV scripting

On the left hand side of the page: PICTURES/WHAT YOU SEE

You see anchor on set LIVE not on tape

Taped package begins with establishing shot of car or sporting event or office

b-roll, shots from your field tape, continues with pictures of whatever it is your story is about

You see the person who is talking in the SOT

More b-roll shot from field tape

right hand side of the script: SOUND/WHAT YOU HEAR

This is where the anchor says the most important thing about the story, the news of the day. Then the anchor tosses to the reporter i.e. WTBU’s Mary Smith has more.”

(this is a pop of sound, cars, cheering, water running, phone ringing)

This is where the reporter reiterates some of what the anchor said in the lead without being absolutely redundant. Reporter will give a bit more detail on the story and sets up the first soundbite.

This is a quick cut 7-15 SECS. from your interview building on the issue you’ve established in your first reporter track.
Incue:”First words
Outcue: last words.
Trt: (how long does it run)

Here you give more facts and figures about the issue, background. Then lead into the next soundbite…this might be a person with a different viewpoint than we heard in SOT one.


Track 3 OR STAND UP.
SOC- standard outcue “For WTBU
I’m Anne Donohue in Boston.

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Shooting Video


Shooting b-roll:
Plan ahead. What will you shoot, what time of day, what lighting, what locations best tell the story??

Set up the shot before you turn the camera on and stop recording between shots so you don’t have tons of useless tape.

Hold the shot STEADY, motionless, still, FROZEN, for at least 15 seconds. Pretend you are a still photographer and let the motion tell the story (cars, people do the moving, not the camera….unless there is a compelling reason to make a move).
– Remember with visual shots you need to shoot five seconds before and after shot you need in order to edit properly.

Shoot the same scene wide, medium, tight without changing camera position.
Then shoot same scene changing camera position, from the ground, from above, from the sides.

Then consider if a pan or a zoom would be useful to jazz up an ugly scene (building exterior) but AVOID the pan-zoom frenzy, or what my dear departed colleague Jim Thistle called the “Trombone” school of shooting.

Close-ups are better than generic wide shots, especially for web use. Get lots of specific tight shots. Look for visually stimulating images, not exteriors of buildings or signs. Activity, humans, nature are better than static boxes.

Look for visual metaphors: clocks for the passage of time, crucifix on the wall to indicate religious values, empty beer bottles to illustrate binge drinking.
Start thinking in moving pictures, what shots best tell a story, people-ize your story gives you video sequences.

Shoot reactions: fans cheering, not just the football game. Vendors selling hot dogs, the scene, the whole scene, not just the main event.

Nat sound: applause, musak at the mall, kids playing, school bell ringing. Keep your mouth silent while you are rolling. Get the birds, the crickets, everything, and use it to punctuate your story.

Shooting interviews:
Pre-interview over the phone so you know basically what the person will say on camera. Be efficient. Only ask them the questions that you need tape of. Get all the background data in the phone interview or before the camera is turned on. You do NOT want to log hours of tape that will never see the light of day.

You need pre-roll- start recording 10 seconds before shot or sound that you need. When during an interview you ask set-up questions- name title spelling etc.

Decide if you want your questions recorded or not.
Repeat questions to get them to answer in complete sentences if necessary.

-Sound bites – Interviews- usually ask subject to look at you with camera set up nearby- don’t decapitate, provide head room in framing, don’t center the interview subject unless he or she is looking directly at you.

Rule of thirds

– One third of frame above person’s eyes (headroom)
– One third face and shoulder
– One third – subject’s upper torso (room for title caption)

Use a hand held or lavalier microphone, don’t rely on the built-in mike on camera. Headphones (check sound before leaving interview).

Make sure background is not distracting, (poles or trees sticking out of head)
tighter framing better for Web (rule of thirds).

Use automatic focus, white balance in different light settings (indoors to outside).

Avoid backlighting- no bright light in back of interview. Keep interview facing light source such as a window.

Cutaways are shots of hands, reporter reversals etc. Usually shoot after interview is over and you need to these shots to cover jump cuts.

– When shooting action, parade, person walking, race, don’t cross the axis.

Avoid the jump cut- that’s when you butt two excerpts of a sound bite together or you edit two shots together without changing the framing or adding a cutaway

-Look for opening and closing shot. Open stories with best video visualizes central point of story. Also consider closing shot-memorable- often in symmetry with opening shot.

Breaking news, deadline situations- shortcuts, note the time code or tape counter on camera for best sound bite, shoot video first, also catch up to interviews later. Don’t overshoot- you won’t have time to capture and edit more than 10-15 minutes max of video for short package.

Make sure you shoot enough video to cover reporter’s track- don’t write a line of copy without thinking of the shot which accompanies it.
If working in Soundslides, make sure you record the accompanying sound to photographs.
Marriage of writing and visuals make for compelling, relevant story.

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Visual Storytelling Terms

Wide shot/Establishing shot: exterior of buidling, the entire football stadium, etc.

Medium Shot: front entry of building, a group of spectators a few rows deep at the stadium, etc.

Tight shot: door of building, sign above door, door handle, a single spectator, etc.

Extreme tight shot: hand on the handle of the door, the funny glasses, hats, face paint that the fan is wearing.

All together, the above makes up a sequence, a series of shots that gets you from one place (outside) to the next (presumably inside).

Camera angle, point of view. Consider putting the camera on the ground or up high, not always at eye level of a human being.

Set up shots: Get the person you are interviewing to do whatever they normally do, painting, hammering, or for someone in an office, get them to walk down the hall, pick up the phone, type on their keyboard. Get a few sequences of them doing these things to cover the portion of the track where you introduce them.

Cut Aways: shots of either the reporting nodding, or an alternate view of the person being interviewed: maybe a tight shot of their hands, a very wide shot so you can’t see the lips not synching with what they are saying. You need something that covers up “jump cuts” so that you can butt two sections of a soundbite together with out a jarring edit.

Jump Cut: When you butt two chunks of sound of the same person together so that their head “jumps” on the screen. Usually you avoid this with a cutaway, or an effect like a dissolve.

Pan: Steadily moving the camera from left to right, right to left, bottom to top, top to bottom.

Zoom: Steadily moving from wide to tight, or tight to wide.

Both of the above should be used sparingly, and only to make a point (ie, the factory is polluting the river, pan from factory to river).

Nat sound, nat sot, wild sound: The ambient sound at the scene, babbling brook, siren, phones ringing, fans cheering, musak at the mall, babies crying. Get lots of it, with every shot, and use it to punctuate the story.

Hand held vs. Tripod. Almost always use a tripod unless there is a really, really compelling reason not to: spot, breaking news, running after a corrupt politician, etc.

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Writing Tips from Poynter


From one of the best in business: Writing Tools from Roy Peter Clark

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