Not All Great Stories Need to be Written
After college, I pursued journalism to feed my love of writing and of telling great stories. Most of the time these two passions go hand in hand. But they don’t always have to.
As I started working in television news I realized sometimes the best way to tell a story isn’t through writing, it’s by helping give a voice to the people involved. On some occasions I would return from shooting a story with so many great soundbites and such compelling video, it seemed like a shame to waste any of my allotted time in the newscast on myself. I would choose instead to do a “trackless package” meaning my voice would not be heard in the story, it would be told completely through the voices of others.
The clip I have shared above is the first “trackless package” I did for my station in La Crosse, Wisconsin. It was for a “hometown hero” segment, telling how a group of students was working together to completely repaint a woman’s house for her in one day. I felt the story worked better to let the students, the homeowner, and the project organizer tell the story. It might have seemed strange to my news director to have a young reporter volunteer to give up airtime, but I loved the challenge of piecing together clips to creatively, and hopefully compellingly, let a story unfold.
In my post-journalism career, I have continued to look for opportunities to help people tell their own stories without the need for scripts, teleprompters, or narration. Most people aren’t comfortable reading from teleprompters or reciting memorized content. They are better off simply having a conversation and talking about their organization or their work. In the same way, there are times when a narrator can make a video seem less personal, and can drain the energy of a story.
This doesn’t mean writing isn’t important. Writing is still key to what I do. But effective storytelling doesn’t have to follow a set script. Sometimes if you ask the write questions and tap into someone’s passion, it’s best to get out of the way and let the story tell itself.