Imagine you’re a morning TV program. Overnight there’s been another terrorist attack. Quick! Cancel all the scheduled segments and get ready for continuous live coverage from any journalist who happens to be in the area and whatever expert you can summon who hasn’t already been nabbed by a rival network!
Despite there being only a handful of facts and a few seconds of footage – very little to report just yet – the crew of journos is told to string it out. Back to our London correspondent. Cross now to Dr Xavier to get her thoughts on whatever scant facts we can get, and could she please please please speculate so we have something to roll around on the newsbar at the bottom of the screen.
This is the way it’s always been done.
But if the story so far is
Then we have, at best, a five-minute segment. Fine, repeat the story every half hour, allude to it, modify it when something happens. Repeat the cross from the man on the scene that you recorded earlier, and let him go out to do his job – to find out more. He’ll get back to you when he’s learned something. He doesn’t need to wait in the cold for the next cross so he can repeat what he said earlier for the benefit of those of us who just got up.
(Of course it's obvious why the continuous coverage has to happen: if you're not reporting it the viewer might switch channel. But who's going to be the first to display some chutzpah and buck the trend?)
As important/tragic/horrifying as the story might be, tell it quickly and clearly. There’s no need to string it out, nor unnecessarily waste people’s time going round in circles. Don’t fall for the ‘we’ve always done it this way’ trap.
Serious stories about communication
told in a silly voice.
Me: Bruce Ransley
I dig a little deeper than most comms folk. From science at university, to a cold-and-wet career as a commercial diver, to working underground, and for the past 13 years as a communicator-at-large, I've had my fair share of weird experiences in all sorts of situations. It's given me a fair-to-middling grounding in all things explanatory.