Reporting using Voice

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  • Put stress and emphasis on words to give them meaning
  • A reporter’s voice affects the meaning of a report. How a reporter says something creates a certain tone and clearly points out key facts.

    It is important for the reporter to give value and meaning to their words.

    Main points of the report may not be clear if the reporter does not put emphasis on key words by changing the pitch, tone, or inflection of their voice.

    Lowering your voice, or using a downward inflection, when saying a key word stresses certainty and conveys a more serious tone. Raising your voice, or using an upward inflection, when saying a key word conveys doubt, uncertainty or excitement.

    Speaking in a monotone voice will lose the audiences’ attention, as there is no variation or excitement portrayed in the report. If a reporter speaks in a monotone voice, viewers may perceive the reporter as uninterested in the story.

  • Use a conversational, but authoritative voice
  • Voice coach Ann Utterback recommends broadcasters to speak like they are talking to a good friend. This conversational tone creates a better relationship with the audience because the reporter sounds like he or she is engaging in a personal conversation with the viewer.

    Reporters should also speak with a lower pitch to sound more authoritative so audience members feel confident in their reporting abilities and credibility.

    However, be careful not to completely abandon your natural voice, because an obnoxious theatrical news voice can distract the viewer from the story, which is the main focus.

  • Vary speaking pace and always articulate
  • Talking quickly portrays an excited tone. Talking slowly portrays a more serious tone.
    A reporter’s pace should reflect the moods of a story.

    Broadcast reporters must be careful not talk too quickly that the audience does not understand what the reporter is saying or too slowly as they might sound boring.

    Broadcast reporters only have one chance to present their message because the viewer does not always have the option to watch the report again, unlike print where the reader can reread a sentence as many times as they desire.

    Articulating will help ensure viewers understand every word.

  • Example of good use of voice:
  • Reporter Elissa Harrington effectively uses her voice to emphasis certain words to highlight the intensity of the San Bruno gas line explosion in California.

    In Harrington’s live shot, she puts emphasis on the location and time of the explosion so it is clear to viewers where and when the explosion occurred, so they know if the explosion affects them or anyone they know.

    When she says the authorities are not letting anyone back into the area of the explosion, she raises her voice on the word “anyone.” By emphasizing the word “anyone,” Harrington has made it clear people should not return to the area as it is still unsafe.

    She also emphasizes words such as “huge,” “loud,” “giant, and the word “never” in the phrase “things will never be the same,” by slowing her pace of voice and using inflection, giving the viewers a clear understanding of the devastating magnitude of the explosion.

    Harrington effectively tells the urgency of the situation when she stresses the word “seconds” when she describes how much time people in the area had time to evacuate.

    Throughout the live shot Harrington speaks in an authoritative tone by using a lower pitch of voice, establishing herself as a credible source for information.

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    Reporting using Gestures

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  • Why motions and gestures are important
  • When reporters use motions and gestures to tell a story, they appeal to 65 percent of the population who are visual learners. These viewers better remember information when reporters use gestures that incorporate or emphasize key points of their story.

    Gestures and motions make the reporting feel more natural. People do not tend to stand completely stiff while talking to a friend. Moving and using natural antics during a report make the reporter more conversational, creating a better relationship with the audience.

    Reporter Joscelyn Moes demonstrates how to effectively use gestures and motions in her professional reel.

    Moes’ hand movements are natural and not over done. Her gestures are not too subtle that viewers question what she is doing, but are not too exaggerated that they look comedic.

  • How hand motions and gestures help guide the viewer through the story
  • In the first clip of her professional reel, Moes stands in front of the camera and then steps aside to let the viewers see debris from an explosion. By stepping aside to reveal the extent of the damage, it is more dramatic and therefore engaging.

    The tactic of delaying the viewer from seeing what the reporter is discussing should not be used in all reports, as it is not necessarily dramatic if she steps aside for the audience to see a library.

    In another segment from Moes’ professional reel, she sweeps her hand in front of her body to point out the fallen tree branches from a storm while the videographer simultaneously directs the camera to the broken branches. The audience naturally looks to where Moes directs them, allowing the story to flow.

    She successfully uses these motions to guide the viewer visually through her story, a quality that Joan Curtis, founder of Total Communication Coaching, says is effective in engaging your audience.

  • Pairing words with action
  • Putting action to words allows viewers to better understand and remember the story.

    Even when Moes doesn’t have something tangible to show the audience, she tends to move her hands when she says a key word or phrase to emphasize its importance, making the critical point clear to the viewer.

    Deborah Potter, executive director of NewsLab, mentions how important it is to match words to visuals for the audience to better understand and remember a story in the article, “Broadcast and Online Journalism.”

    Moes pairs actions with her words or touches an object related to the story she is covering, creating a more dynamic and memorable report.

  • Using movement to create a more engaging piece
  • In another segment of Moes’ professional reel, she kneels down to focus the audience’s attention on gravel like material planes drop to extinguish wild fires. She also picks up the material and tosses it at the camera.

    When she reports on the dangers of driving during winter, she picks up a chunk of ice to help visually explain why accidents occur.

    These actions make her report more creative, which Joe Little says is the most important thing in a stand-up because people have personalities and want to see something interesting versus a reporter who only stands and talks in the video.

    Reporting with Props

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    For live feature stories, props are a must. Props visually enhance the story. Instead of watching an ordinary talking head, viewers are entertained by a visual.

    Bringing props into a feature story adds another element to the story. Viewers see the reporter holding, wearing, or using a prop, making the scene more active.

    It’s more interesting to watch because the reporter is doing something. They are holding that free cup of coffee the local coffee shop is giving out, they are petting the cute puppy that is up for adoption, or playing a carnival game at the county fair. All these situations are more visually appealing than watching a reporter describe these things while the photographer films the scene.

    The reporter becomes more involved with the story when they use props, bringing another dimension to viewers. The story becomes more realistic to viewers when they see they can participate in what the reporter is covering.

    Cory McCloskey‘s feature story on archery demonstrates how to successfully employ props:

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    McCloskey holds the bow for viewers to see. He looks it up and down so the audience focus is on the bow. By focusing on a tangible aspect of the story, McCloskey diverts attention from himself, and directs it to the event he is covering.

    Viewers like visuals. A talking head does not always keep the audiences’ attention.

    He then feels and holds what is called the trigger and later shoots the bow and arrow. By actively using props, McCloskey makes the story more realistic to viewers because they can see what McCloskey is explaining.

    The viewer feels more engaged with the story because McCloskey is making his words come to life through actively using props.

    Using props also makes the storyteller more conversational.

    In Heather Ford’s live-shot The Wonderful World of Paintball, Ford dresses in paintball gear, making her more personable.

    Because Ford is willing to wear paintball gear and even join a game, she is no longer a serious reporter, but an ordinary person, with whom viewers can better relate. She probably got better interviews too, because the paintball participants viewed her as a friendly out-going person who they are more willing to talk to, rather than an intimidating reporter with a camera.

    By wearing the paintball gear and shooting the gun, Ford makes the story more visually entertaining. She is no longer a spectator, but puts herself into the story, making it more interactive.

    The bottom line is, use props when possible. Imagine if these two reporters didn’t use props and simply pointed to their surroundings. Actively using props in live feature stories adds visual entertainment, making it more enjoyable for viewers to watch.