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Personal profiles in news stories

I've just wrapped up a story for Voice of America on the use of video games as teaching tools in American classrooms.

You can see the complete story here.

"In the last two decades, American students have fallen behind in critical subjects like math, science and reading. In 2005, the U.S. ranked ninth among some industrialized nations in the percentage of students graduating from secondary school.

American education officials are searching for novel ways to stimulate learning again. One tool that is getting some attention is the use of video games.The National Education Association says some schools across the country are now incorporating video into learning."

For this story, the fact that it's about a video game helps immensely with the question of b-roll. I used a mixture of provided digital files containing footage of the video game, and my own screen shots which I filmed from a flat screen panel to avoid strobing. To get the best results shooting a computer monitor I film the screen slightly dark and then brighten the picture when editing. I find this helps bring the colors out nicely.

But the more important point is to do with the scripting. It's one of those pieces that really requires a personal profile - no matter how short. Here I use a student that takes the course covered by the video game. Personal profiles are often key to humanizing a story so that viewers can relate to it.

Below you can see another example of this in a story I recently put together, also for VOA.

"Midwives are growing in popularity as the caregivers of choice among expectant mothers, with the number of midwife-attended births in the United States doubling between 1991 and 2008. Fueling the trend is the shortage of obstetricians and the low-cost of midwife services for women with no health insurance."

As you can see from this example, profiling subjects can be a useful way to make a story interesting and colorful when you have very few pictures to work with, as in this case.

Many news pieces require a personal story. If you're responsible for setting up interviews for your own pieces before shooting them, it's something worth thinking about.

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