You know that news story you see done the same way every year?
Whether you’re part of the audience or the person telling the story, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
As news managers, how do we help new reporters tell these stories in new, interesting ways?
A group of high school sophomores may have helped me find the answer.
It happened while I was representing my station at an event where students get to explore different career “pathways,” called “My Success Event.” Basically, they learn what they need to do between now and the real world to become an accountant, a firefighter, a reporter, whatever.
I was explaining to a small group how important a good headline and photo are to get someone to click into a story.
“How can we write a good headline?,” one of them asked me.
I asked them to tell me the stories they were working on. They got really excited about “the docudrama.”
I laughed, because every year, I see us doing this story. It’s usually the new reporter. It’s always the same old thing: open with seemingly graphic video and a scary line, then let everyone know it’s not real…and fizzle out from there.
I laughed again because these high-school newspaper reporters were facing a problem that a new “real-life” TV-news reporter might face.
So, I asked, “Do you know someone at your school, or in your community that has been affected by a drunk-driving accident?”
Their first response was to interview a kid in their class who had been an actor in the docudrama.
“What about someone who has seen this in real-life?,” I asked.
“Sam’s mom is an EMT,” one of them said.
So, I recommended they tell two stories as one; parallel the story of their friend acting in the docudrama with the one of the EMT who has actually experienced this horror in real life.
The light bulbs clicked on. At least one reporter was born, I’m pretty sure.
It made me want to look at all these stories that we do year-in, year-out and make a real effort to reinvent rather than recycle.
Funny thing is, we figured out the story, but never wrote the headline. I hope I get to see what they decide on.