Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Decisions, decisions: Editing video stories

I was so pleased to see a video piece on the webcast this morning about what Chico State's response would be if a Virginia Tech- or Sandy Hook-type shooting happened on campus. The Huffington Post just ran a story that says one-in-four campus police departments report they aren't equipped to handle a similar shooting.

So the webcast video hits just the right note in its third paragraph by asking: "But how prepared is our school?"

The rest of the story, though, wasn't written very effectively, mostly because it was longer than it needed to be and didn't have the video footage it needed to tell the story well.

Here's the script (as I was able to transcribe it from the video):

Recent shootings across the nation have struck fear in schools everywhere.
The Cross-Cultural Leadership Center held an open session about gun control last week here in Chico.
But how prepared is our school?
(University Police Chief Robyn Hearn super)
IQ (:22): “You’ve got something going on inside a building…
OQ (:47): “…in the event of an emergency.”
For the last three years, Chico State campus has implemented an emergency P-A system that consists of 30 loudspeakers that can alert students and staff in case of an emergency anywhere on campus.
U-P-D has more than one training session each year in different buildings around campus, and also the Chico State campus emergency response team consists of 20 volunteers from Chico State faculty and staff.
They’re certified in C-P-R and First Aid in the chances that there’s an emergency.
You can read more on this story tomorrow in this week’s edition of The Orion.
The story violates the number-one rule about writing for broadcast: keep it simple. Viewers need to understand a radio or TV story the first time they hear it, so ruthlessly trimming copy to a story's bare essentials becomes essential.

In theorion.com story, the writer and producer needed to be a little more ruthless. Here are some changes that would have made it more effective:

- The first sentence could be streamlined just a little to say "Recent shootings have struck fear in schools across the nation."
- The first bit of non-essential detail is the second paragraph, a meeting held last week that isn't directly related to the point of the story: how prepared Chico State is for a campus shooting incident. It could be replaced by something more pertinent (the Huffington Post statistic would have worked) or been dropped altogether, with the key sentence adding the "where": Is Chico State prepared for a similar tragedy?
- At this point, I'd have moved the Hearne sound bite later so the information about the loudspeaker system could introduce it: Over the past three years, the university has installed an emergency P-A system (video of the speakers here). Thirty loudspeakers can alert students, faculty and staff to an emergency anywhere on campus.
- That would be followed by the most essential part of the Hearne bite: what people would hear and when. For me, it would start with (:29) "It might say something like...." and end with (:43) "..right now." At 14 seconds, the actuality from Hearne gives the viewer an expert who supplies important information about what would happen in an emergency without unnecessary context.
- The rest of the story can be summed up in a sentence and then superimposed as bullet points over a still photo of the bell tower.
Chief Hearne says:
     • Campus police also offer emergency training once a year
     • Faculty and staff volunteers trained in C-P-R and First Aid are available in an emergency.

After adding "(A) recent report shows about a quarter of university police departments in the U-S aren't ready for an armed attack" after the lead, the story clocks in at 46 seconds, about 24 seconds shorter than theorion.com version and much clearer.

The only thing missing for me, then, is a close that says something about how effective or ineffective these preparations might prove.

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