What’s your favorite movie?
What’s it about?
To be honest, the first question is a throw-away line. The second is the one that is aimed at getting the class thinking. So pick a movie. Any movie.
Now, what’s it about?
Your answer probably starts out something like, “This dude does something, then something happens to him and he has to fight to make things right.”
That, in a nutshell is what every story is about. . . this dude. See, a movie is never about a struggle, a fire, a fight, a journey, a relationship, an idea, or anything else. A movie is about the people in it. All these other things are merely incidents that reveal the character’s . . . uh . . . character to us.
The same goes for television news. First and foremost, the story is about people. Call them victims, subjects, protesters, disgruntled former employees, exes with an ax to grind. It doesn’t matter. They are the story.
They are what we identify with. Not the circumstances that have thrust them into public scrutiny and sent us to stick a camera in their face.
Without the character, Chet Dimplechin may as well stand in front of the camera and read from the phonebook.
In the movies they’re called characters for a reason. They are the seasoning of a good story. They add the flavor — the . . . uh . . . character, if you will.
So, if you want a good story? Find a good character, and give them a little space to let their character shine through. Otherwise you’re just reporting a story about some dude trying to do something.