This is the best advice we ever got. An EP in a large market where we worked told us to watch and critique our own work consistently. Sounds nuts, you already saw the package or newscast, right? Not really. You will be amazed at what you pick up looking at the work later on.
Practice makes perfect. In his book, “Outliers,” Malcolm Gladwell explains the 10,000 hour rule. Researchers have found that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to perfect a skill. So how does this apply to watching yourself? It’s another chance to practice. You relive the event and the elements you had available when you critique your own work.
You can also pick up on your own weaknesses, then work around them. Often you will see phrases or techniques you rely on too heavily, that can make your work seem stale and sometimes even goofy. You become a viewer and notice things that are not obvious when you are slamming on deadline. If you are on air talent, you will see hand or facial gestures that are difficult to watch. Play with your pen on set perhaps? Slouch during live shots? Chances are no one around will let you know if you do these things. Often in news, you can be fired for poor performance without ever being told to change simple fixable things.
Newsrooms are short staffed and disorganized. Most managers do not sit down and write notes about the newscasts regularly. Usually they only watch a newscast or reporter consistently just before the annual review writing period. So you are getting critiques once a year based on very little viewing of your work. Many shops have given up post-newscast meetings so you don’t get daily critiques of your work. If you want to get better, you have to do it yourself. Watching your own work is a great way to do this.
So what should you look for when watching your own work? As mentioned above, look for overused phrases, and strange gestures. If you are a photojournalist, do you mix up shots enough? Too many cover shots? Is your pacing good? Reporters, do you always start nats/copy/bite/bite/copy/nats? You might notice that you need to mix it up a little. Producers, are you using the same techniques too often? Things like plays on words and nat sound in teases so often that they are predictable? Everyone needs to look at use of nat sound. Remember, you write for the ear. Listen to your work with your eyes shut. Does it make sense? Anchors, do you read stories the same way all the time? Do your facial gestures change based on tone of the story? As you watch for these things you will pick up on other ways to improve your work.
This is where critiquing your work can help you change your career. Most of us have a dream place where we want to work. Watch newscasts from that station online, then try and tailor some of your work to that place. If you can alter your style to fit in with a certain station you can get a leg up when a job comes open. Remember, you just need enough for a killer video resume. By self-critiquing, you are able to see how to adjust your style. You figure out what your best techniques are and then you play them up to your advantage.