Consider this: at many local television stations, reporters cover two or more stories a day and never turn a package. Former news director Geoff Roth, who now teaches at Hofstra University, says the trend toward covering the news with live shots and v/o’s or v/o-sots is not going away. At his last station in Fresno, Calif., reporters were expected to go live at 4 p.m. with a preview and tell the story three more times at 5, 6 and 6:30 using sound and video. No package required. And the network evening newscasts also use fewer traditional packages these days, relying instead on debriefs.
The TV package is definitely not the standard for online video at newspapers, said Hofstra’s Gregg Smith at last week’s Broadcast Education Association conference. A survey he conducted found that 75% of videos on newspaper sites are not narrated and most of those that were came from the AP.
So is there any good reason for young journalists to even learn how to produce a package? “We have to teach beyond it,” Roth said. “We can’t stop teaching the basics, how to write, how to be good storytellers but do it on the fly.” News directors less interested in whether applicants have a finely honed package on their resume reel, he said, and more at whether they can handle a breaking news live shot. “Thinking on the fly, organizing quickly. That’s what will be expected of them.”
Perhaps he’s right. But Peg Achterman of Northwest University, a former television photojournalist, argues that the package has not outlived its usefulness. “We encourage great story thinking when we encourage package production,” she says. “We don’t know where TV will be in 10 years. TV may go back to longer form because shorter form is on the Web. We have to teach them to write visually, communicate visually.”
I’d have to agree with Peg. Even if you work for a newsroom that doesn’t let you write packages, you still have to think about the elements you’d need for a finished product in order to collect the visuals and sound required to tell the story well in some other form. “Package-thinking” teaches shot selection and sequencing. It teaches listening skills and organization. And those are the fundamentals for visual journalists, like footwork and passing for a basketball player.
So what do you think? Is the package passé?