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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Keep Viewers Interested


Once it goes live, transmission signal will send our newscast to thousands of viewers. So does a reporter live shot. I've always been intrigued to see reporters doing live shots in extreme weather, natural disasters, stock exchange, and various accidents. They can always keep me interested, as a viewer, because live shots have an exceptional effect: they really emphasize "now" and "here." It means a live shot can bring viewers to a scene even if he is sitting on a couch eating Pringles. A story will need a live shot to reinforce each other if the story has the timeliness or importance of location to sell to its viewers.

"Now" is the most important element that makes a live shot successful. One of the most impressive live shots I've seen was done in New York when 9-11 happened. I can still remember that was midnight in China when a BBC reporter live reported from an office building in Manhattan. It was shocking because I knew the terrorist attack was taking place instantaneously on the other side of the planet as the reporter introduced updates and evacuation details. For our show, if we want to satifsy the requirement of "now" and appear to be timely on a story, it has to be a news story that broke in the late afternoon or a story that is supposed to happen from 6 to 7 p.m.

On the other hand, "here" is also a crucial element a live shot can provide. We send our reporter to a location if we think that specific location has something extremely visual or that location has important meaning in itself. For example, if there is another water main break in Hollywood, a live shot should worth a try because flooding, gridlock, and people being evacuated can be attractive visual elements. A live reporter can describe the flooding scene and maybe add some movement to the live shot by walking around. A live shot like this can effectively add to the story because it provide viewers with visual shock.

Another example of "here" would be that the location itself has significant meaning to the story. If we are covering the mayoral race and election result is supposed to come out tonight, sending a reporter to the City Hall could be an option. A reporter can say something like "I'm outside the Los Angeles City Hall. The new mayor of Los Angeles will be elected in less than 30 minutes." A live shot like this can make our viewers more visually interested than simply let a news anchor read a copy story.

There are even more technical issues than I can imagine in order to make a flawless live shot. We will need a reporter, a cameraman, and a producer who can cue our reporter - that's the least I can think of. From Monday producers' blog, I also learned that our reporter will have to deal with time issue because he/she needs to finish his/her news package before going out. So a live shot doesn't merely mean a simple decision. It involves a lot of tradeoffs: time, resource and labor, etc. Before incorporating a live shot into our show, we need to think of what will be sacrificed in order to do it.

So these are some of thoughts on live shots. We didn't have a chance to include a live shot in Tuesday's newscast because there wasn't a story that deserves one. But in the following weeks we will try to make one when situation permits. Of course a decision should be made based on considerations of whether a story needs a live shot enhancing "here" and "now."

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