Reporter Stand-Ups

Stand-ups can help you connect with your viewers, or they can ruin your story if done poorly. Stand-ups should enhance the story, not slow it down with an uncomfortable walk to nowhere.

Some stand-ups are live, others are pre-taped. Some pre-taped stand-ups are called looklives because they’re meant to look like they’re live. Those are usually at the beginning (intro) and at the end (tag) of the package. Stand-ups in the middle of a package are called bridge stand-ups.

Here are some tips for shooting better reporter standups:

  • Use a wireless lav microphone so your hands are free.
  • Be active and demonstrative. Touch stuff. Pick stuff up.
  • Show your audience something that helps explain the story in a creative way.
  • Pay attention to what’s behind you. Your background must be relevant to the story. Your background shouldn’t distract the viewer from what you’re saying.
  • Pay attention to the sounds around you. Do they tell your story, or detract from it?
  • Switch up your angles. Get creative. Try putting your camera on something that’s not a tripod.
  • If you pan or tilt, there better be a good reason.
  • Don’t zoom while you’re recording *unless there’s a great reason.
  • Write conversationally so you sound natural. If you’re going to memorize your script, you better be a good actor, otherwise, just paraphrase.
  • Dress up or down depending on your story. If you’re wearing your suit while doing an active standup in the gym, it’s going to look super awkward. Unless your boss makes you wear professional attire at all times, I suggest matching your clothes to your topic.

Joe Little is one of my favorite MMJs. He is known for his creative stand-ups. Here are a few of his stand-ups to get you thinking creatively.

Shooting creative stand-ups starts before you get in front of the camera. Start planning your stand-ups as soon as possible. Few reporters can just wing it and make it look creative. You will notice a drastic improvement in the quality and creativity of your stand-ups when you start planning them ahead of time.

Yusuf Omar is incredible at being visually engaging. Check out how active he is in his reel from 2014.

Samuel Burke is one of my favorite international and bilingual reporters who does a great job thinking of active and creative stand-ups. He also enjoys experimenting with social media and tech.

My former student Zach Wilcox recorded this reporter reel less than a year after he graduated from USF.

Reporter stand-ups don’t have to be super complicated to be engaging. Take a look at an intro standup my student Josee Woble did for a pkg on the USF bookstore. It just takes a little planning and concise writing to create an active stand-up.

Watch these reporter stand-ups and keep in mind the planning that went into these scenes:

What not to do

Here are the biggest mistakes most young reporters make:

  • hold stick mics
  • shoot all standups from the exact same height and distance
  • fail to use conversational writing
  • stand in the shadow of a tree
  • fail to understand continuity in shooting and editing

Check out these stand-ups for what to avoid. This first one is very basic and lacks creativity.

This second one is “creative” but the planning and execution are lacking. There are lapses in continuity and some things just don’t make much sense.

A good reporter should also have the ability to appear authentic and comfortable regardless of what story they cover. Here’s an example of a reporter who asked bad questions and did a poor job of staging the live shot: Warning: The following news clip is so awkward you may never recover

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