Blah Bites and Bland Shots = Howl!

In this story, reporter Stacey Weaver tells us about the plight of Moravian College students.  Starting next year, Moravian will force all non-commuting students to live on-campus and buy meal plans.  Now, there’s no doubt in my mind that this is newsworthy.  However, Weaver’s handling of the story itself and execution of the package is likely to induce some cringes from the discerning viewer.  From the script and soundbites, to terrible b-roll shots and interviews, this package is a total mess. 

Weaver opens on a relatable note, talking about the “rite of passage” when students become upperclassmen and move off-campus.  But the first soundbite sets the tone for the sub-par story:  “They’re allowed to have, like, whatever they want in their house without fear of somebody, like, walking in,” says Weaver’s first interviewee about off-campus freedom.  Whatever they want?  Yikes.  Why don’t we just say these students are doing drugs and rolling in kegs?

And the soundbites just get worse.  Weaver chose blah bites, some of which were too long or cut off.  But luckily Weaver doesn’t need to take all the blame for this monstrosity.  The videography in this package was terrible too.  Even if Weaver had put together a wonderful story, the images would’ve bogged her down.

Cameraman Steve Gresham (I’m assuming he is the cameraman for this package, as his name is listed alongside Weaver’s) cannot compose a good shot.  One after another, virtually every b-roll shot consisted of students walking on campus.  They weren’t even interesting walking shots…they were almost all wide. BORING!  This is where we as broadcast journalists are finally able to break free of the conforms of TV news and show our creativity! But Gresham chooses to be lazy.  Even worse, it seems that Gresham never took News Production 101.  His b-roll zooms looked unprofessional.  And when Gresham should have actually gotten closer, he didn’t.  Each one of his interview shots with students was TOO wide and poorly framed.  It was as if the entire student body had an infectious disease… he just did not want to get close.  It was awkward, jarring and gave us no intimacy with the interview subjects.  For our viewing pleasure, Gresham included another no-no: a double shot, where one person is speaking and the other looking bored in the distance.  Zoom in already! 

His cutaway shot leading up to Weaver’s interview with the Moravian official was the trite “walking-past-the-camera” shot, and the subject’s introductory bite (“Living on campus isn’t like what is was in the old days, where…”) was cut off.  Where… what?  We don’t know.  Either voiceover the b-roll or keep the bite intact before cutting away.

I even found it bothersome what the reporter was wearing in the shot.  She looked like a college student herself, throwing a colorful trench over drab pants and walking in casual boots.  Unless the reporter is braving inclement conditions, it is their job to always look put-together- and that means throwing on a pair of heels (for women) and toughing it out for the four-second cutaway!  In my opinion, clogs have no place in the news (or anywhere).

It’s also apparent that Weaver gave no thought to the set-up of her interview with the school rep.  She could have easily placed the subject near a recognizable spot on campus or shot in an indoor, more official-looking setting.  Instead the subject is placed in front of a street.  Enough!  It seems like this NBC 10 reporting duo was in a hurry to get in, shoot fast, and get out!

– Julie Gargotta

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