Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Staring down the deadline

Today, I filed.

Not that my project is completely finished. There’s still the usual work, such as answering editors’ endless questions and endlessly debating whether the nut graph really exists or is just a figment of their imaginations.

This was an attempt at putting together a multimedia package. I took a simple idea off the crime beat, one that I knew would lend itself well to video, got editors to buy into it and took off. It breaks no ground, and survived my stupid mistakes. But I pulled it off and learned a few lessons about my own workflow along the way.

After weeks of planning and a few days of reporting, I followed a three-day deadline to complete the Sunday project by Wednesday. I’d hoped that would give everyone time to look over the video clips and edit the story.

During reporting, I found myself making notes to myself, not so much on what the sources were saying, but rather organizing my material as I went, reminding myself what worked with video, and what would lend itself better to the written word. I’m starting to recognize that. I see a time when my notes could resemble a flow sheet, with video clips on one side and good quotes and story details on the other. Thinking this way, helped when it came time to put it all together.

Monday: I logged nearly four hours of audio and video. As I explained earlier, I collected audio both through the camera and on a separate audio recorder. It took me time to learn this, and our video teacher Stacey Jenkins hammered it into my thick head. Whatever else you may not do, always log your clips. Write down a summary of each clip and how long it is. It will make the edits much easier. I even graded some for quality. This is hard for me. I’m not a well-organized person. I also met with my editor and did a quick outline of what the print story would include and what the videos would add. I stuck the notes away and saved them for Wednesday.

Tuesday: My editor asked me if I could write the story now, before I do the videos. No, I said, I can’t. I wasn’t trying to be difficult. I’ve just learned that, for me, I have to get the multimedia end – audio, video – out of the way first. Writing is the easy part. Video is the fun part. I love doing it. I love having this story-telling tool available. I produced four short clips which, when put together, make a short documentary. That’s what I’m aiming for, at least. I went home, read one of Angela Grant’s video critiques, and realized I had to get rid of some text blocks. I even considered - yikes - doing the dreaded voice-over.

Today: Katie critiqued a video and as usual offered some great suggestions. I spent the morning fixing the clips, compressing them and getting them ready for Katie to post. And yes, Angela, I listened to you and recorded a voice-over. I needed the transition. The afternoon went to writing. Despite the new tools, the new toys, and all the time I’ve been spending of late learning how to do basic video and audio, writing the story comforts me. Over the past three decades, I’ve occasionally written some sentences that sing. I hope I continue to do that. I left thinking I’d accomplished something.

There’s still more to do. I want to write a refer for the newspaper explaining the videos available on-line. I have to write cutlines, because at this point the stills from my little point-and-shoot will illustrate the story. It's satisfying producing a self-contained package.

Then there are the arguments over the existence of nut graphs.

Everything could be better. That’s what I always say about every story, no matter what the medium. I just try to meet my deadlines and hope no one will notice.


  1. Yay!

    I really can't wait to see your project. :-)

    It sounds like it'll be great.

  2. Yeah, Mindy, it's a Sunday story, so I will post it as soon as it's available.