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Tip Sheet: Ryan Thornburg

Assistant Professor
Multimedia University of North Carolina
Multimedia reporting is about the convergence of different storytelling tools all in service of a
single story. Audio or visual media are best for conveying human emotions, moments of conflict or
a story's environment. In newsrooms large and small, journalists must be familiar with techniques
that should be used to report a story through audio and visual recordings.

10 Tips for Taking News Photos

Rule 1: Have a working camera with you at all times.

Rule 2: Have one – and only one – clear subject to your photo. The subject should be
in focus and stand out from everything else in the photo.
Rule 3: Take a lot of photos. For every subject, take 10 photos.
Rule 4: Act natural. Journalists are in the business of recording the world as it is. You
want to capture the way your subject would look if you weren’t there. Capture
the subject “in action” and not looking at the camera.
Rule 5: Move around. Take pictures from far away, a “normal” distance, and very close.
Don’t use zoom as a substitute for getting close. Don’t violate Rule 4.
Rule 6: Don’t center your subject. Think of you photograph as a 3-x-3 grid, and then
place your subject at the intersection of those imaginary grid lines. This is known
as the “rule of thirds.”
Rule 7: Place subjects so that they are moving or looking into the photo. If a person
is pointing to the right, she is at the left of your photo. If the subject is a
helicopter approaching the landing pad, the helicopter is at the top of the photo.
Rule 8: Keep the light behind you. Make sure the subject’s face is fully lit. Never shoot
into the sun. Keep your own shadow out of the photo (see Rule 4).
Rule 9: Don’t use a flash if you can avoid it. Instead, take your camera off automatic
mode and learn how to use shutter speed and aperture settings of your camera to
make the lighting and focus look as you want.
Rule 10: Be aware of the background. You don’t want a tree right behind your subject
so that it looks like it’s growing out of her head. You don’t want to take a picture
of someone right up against a blank wall so that it looks literally like a mug shot
on her way to prison. Avoid taking a picture of a red flag in front of a red
6 Steps for Recording News Audio

Step 1. Use the right settings. Record in the WAV file format at 44.1 kHz and a bit depth
of 16. Convert to a 64 kbps MP3 file for publishing on the Web.
Step 2. Run a sound check before you begin. Use headphones. Watch any level
monitors that on your audio recorder; they should be moving, but not hitting the
extreme right or top of the bars.
Step 3. Reduce background noise. Use headphones. Are there any
buzzing vending machines, air conditioners, outside car traffic
noises, or light bulbs in the background?
Step 4. Hold the microphone carefully. You will hold the microphone about five or six
inches away from your subject’s mouth, slightly off-center. Move as little as
possible during the recording. Keep your grip loose. Never let your subject hold
the mic.
Step 5. Don’t interrupt. Don’t say “uh-huh.” Show interest by maintaining a
comfortable, but consistent, eye contact with the subject.
Step 6. Take notes and record time stamps. Notes are a valuable resource when you
edit the audio on deadline. Record in your notes the time stamp at which the
subject said each quote.

Primary Parts of a Podcast

Part 1. Introduction. Tell your audience what episode they’re about to hear, including
the date it was originally posted. Introduce yourself and the topics the podcast is
about to cover.
Part 2. The “lead” of the first segment. Leads need to both summarize the upcoming
story and grab the listener’s attention.
Part 3. The story. Use short sentences and repeat key points. A word or phrase that may
be perfectly clear in writing may need to be simplified and clarified in audio.
Part 4. Re-cap. You’ve told listeners what you’re going to tell them, then you told them,
and finally you should tell them what you told them.
Part 5. Teasing the next segment or episode. Let people know what they might be
hearing next and when they will be hearing it. Point people to your Web page or
other resources. Music between segments provides an aural break.
15 Video Tips
For interviews ...
1. Use a tripod. If you don’t have a tripod then lean on something that helps keep your
arms steady. Take slow breaths, keep your arms close to your body, put your feet
at shoulder-width and bend your knees slightly.
2. Do not pan.
3. Do not zoom.
4. Always use lights. Check to be sure there are no shadows on the subject’s face.
5. Put the camera at the eye level of the subject. Shooting up makes the subject look
“powerful.” Shooting down makes him look insignificant or helpless.
6. Shoot tight. Shoot very tight. You want your audience to see the expression on the
subject’s face even if they are watching the video on a mobile device. It’s OK to
cut off a bit of the subject’s forehead, even. But be careful not to frame the shot
so that the subject’s chin looks as if it’s resting on the bottom of the frame.
7. Have subject look at you, not the camera. If you place yourself slightly to the left or
right of the camera, the subject will look more natural.
8. Be quiet. When the subject is speaking, don’t interrupt. And don’t shuffle papers.
9. Shoot some environmental shots you can use as cutaways. Cutaways can “cover” a
long answer or be used as transitions. Iamges should match the subject’s words.
10. Don’t shoot too much. Unlike photographs, it takes a long time to capture and sift
through a lot of video during the editing process.

For environmental shots ...

11. Look, shoot, interview, re-shoot. Look at a setting from all angles before you shoot.
If you interview people in their environments, re-shoot it after the interview.
12. Move around between shots. Shoot from one angle, stop the camera and shoot again
from another angle. Shoot from different distances.
13. Think about shooting sequences. To tell a story that unfolds over time, you have to
visually show viewers what happens first, next and last.
14. Lead your target. If the subject of your video is moving, be sure to keep some space
in front of the subject at all times. Never let a subject move out of the frame.
15. If you must zoom ... First zoom all the way into your final shot and frame that. Then
zoom the camera back out and begin shooting. Zoom very slowly.

This tip sheet comes from Chapter 8 of Ryan Thornburg’s book Producing Online News, published by
CQPress. For more examples, exercises, ideas and case studies buy the book and subscribe to the related
online module at http://www.cqpress.com.