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Storytelling secrets from a 'one-woman band'

By Sarah Hoye, CNN

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iReport boot camp: Storytelling
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • In the final chapter of iReport boot camp, Sarah Hoye offers her tips for covering a story from start to finish
  • Finding the right angle, storyboarding and shooting to edit are all crucial to good storytelling
  • Journalists need to keep in mind that every good story has a beginning, middle and end
  • Perhaps the best advice is the simplest: Tell stories because you love to

Editor's Note: This piece is part of the iReport boot camp, a CNN.com series about sharpening reporting skills. In this edition, CNN All-Platform Journalist Sarah Hoye shares her advice on storytelling. Check out Hoye's tips, then give them a try in this week's iReport boot camp challenge.

(CNN) -- You have your assignment, you've gathered your elements. Now what?

It's time to put your story together.

As a CNN All-Platform Journalist, it's my responsibility to research stories and follow news events in a specific region. I am stationed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and cover both local and long-distance assignments. This unique, hybrid position is a combination of field and package producing, writing for television, shooting video and still photos, plus off-air or on-air reporting.

In essence, an APJ is a reporter, correspondent, producer and video editor in one. Otherwise known as a one-woman band.

Below are essential tips to keep in mind when out in the field.

Choosing a story: Although not all stories make for good multimedia production, the best multimedia stories are multidimensional. And that means there is enough action for video, strong emotions for still photographs and compelling sources for text to help better explain the topic.

Finding the angle: The key to a successful story is uncovering the reason audiences should care about it. When thinking about the story, ask yourself "So what?" or "Who cares?" Answering these questions will ultimately tell your story. Without an angle, without a reason for what you're covering, you're just left with moving pictures or words on a page.

Storyboarding: Before you head out the door, allow for some time to create a rough sketch of how to organize a story and a list of its contents. Determine what the story is about, who can explain the subject matter and how the story will look. Doing so will help focus and define the parameters of the story. Think of this as the directions for the recipe to your favorite casserole -- it tells you how to put the story together.

Shoot to edit: Regardless of your deadline, you want to shoot video and stills, or gather audio, of exactly what you need for your story. You do this so that when its time to edit, you will spend less time looking for what you need. When you have more time to work on a story, shoot multiple takes of the same subject for editing variety and for a more creative and narrative approach to the story. The basics for your story should include the subject, and any other elements that help explain the story, externals of a building, streets, the scene of an accident, etc.

Allow for silences; don't interrupt: This advice from mastering the art of interviewing also holds true for when it comes to doing on-camera interviews. Most people need some time to grapple with their thoughts and formulate responses. It's on you to give them that space. And when you're editing video, the last thing you want is to hear yourself on camera interrupting your subject. Respond with gestures and pause between questions. You want clear in and outs to sound-bites so you can more easily edit your package.

Pulling it together: It's important for you to decide the parts of a story, the flow of a story, and what's most important in each section of your story. Even the most seasoned journalists must be reminded that every good story has a beginning, middle and end.

"Even the most seasoned journalists must be reminded that every good story has a beginning, middle and end.
---- Sarah Hoye, All-Platform Journalist

Edit, edit, edit: You may love everything you've written, everything you've shot and everything else about your story. Heck, you may even love yourself for the great work you did. Now cut the fat. Pick out the strongest quotes and the strongest visuals.

Tell the story, don't be the story: It is your job to cover an event or profile an individual. Not become the story. This means, stay out of the way. There will be times you may want to shoot a standup because it helps move a complicated story along, or you may need to track a package because there is a lot of information that needs to be conveyed. That's all part of the job. What's not part of the job is making the story about you.

Don't force it: Let the story dictate your approach. If the video is limited or if the subject isn't compelling, move on. Some stories aren't easy to tell visually, but work well in print. If that's the case, do that. Just because you don't have video doesn't mean you failed. Interestingly enough, people will tolerate bad video, but they will not forgive poor audio.

Have fun: This one's a no-brainer. If you're not loving what you're doing, stop.

Ready to give this a try? Here's your challenge: Put all your boot camp knowledge to the test and create a can't-miss report about a local landmark where you live. Join us Thursday, October 21, at 3:30 p.m. to get tips on your story ideas from Hoye.

 
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