Apparently, a lot of producers think that they must showcase how they handle team coverage in order to impress. I am seeing a lot of team coverage newscasts both from potential clients and when judging EMMY award entries. So if you are going to show it off, make sure it is done well, and that you put your own stamp on the coverage in some way.
So let’s spell out expectations for team coverage.
How to execute team coverage
- Grab them
- Spell out each element clearly
- Do not assume viewers know story
- Button up, then push ahead
Team coverage demands special opens. These do not have to be 30 second mini packages with a lot of incredible wipes and sots and nats. (Although those are a blast to watch) You do have to showcase to the viewer, right away, that this is a big story that warrants their full attention. And you need to spell out why, right away, then expand on the impact.
So once you showcase why this is team coverage (a child is rescued from a kidnapper by a good samaritan, a police chase leads to a deadly crash and now officers must answer for it, or this storm could set off a bunch of tornadoess) you need to make sure each reporter involved has a clear angle. Very often the anchor says something, the reporter repeats the information, then the second reporter repeats the angle again. Viewers pick up on this and get frustrated. “You just said that!” “Do you know anything else?” “Move on!” Those are all phrases you will hear in focus groups. The viewer loves more more and more, as long as there really is more to say. Producers, you are supposed to explain to each crew what elements they are responsible for, and what to leave out. You are judged on that.
If this is a story you have covered for more than one day, or even from newscast to newscast make sure the viewer understands what happened. Too often I see team coverage where the viewer never gets the basics. You still have to provide an “overview” even if this is day 5 of coverage of the same story. How you do that is one way a producer can show some creativity. I have seen cool timelines with killer graphics, telestrating with video of a police chase and crash, mini anchor packages walking viewers through the up until now elements. Just going from live shot to live shot on a four box is not enough to own team coverage. That is easy to do. If you want to showcase your management of the team coverage, making sure the viewer is crystal clear on the timeline is a great place to start.
Another key element to team coverage is a button up. That entails a brief summary of the latest information you just presented and if at all possible a push ahead with a fresh angle on the station webpage and/or next newscast. These may seem mundane, but they are no different than the conclusion to a presentation. Viewers like conclusions. They are used to seeing them. Use them to make it clear, we gave you all the information you need right now. We are not letting go. We will keep pushing for more for you. You want viewers to see you do this. It is part of a journalists advocacy role. Do not blow off the button up.
Those are the basics for executing team coverage. But if you want to really stand apart, you need incredible images, crisp and powerful elements that put your anchor into the story as well, and excellent use of nats, images and sound to weave the viewer from element to element in a clear way. That is truly owning team coverage.