By Lynn French
Photographer KPNX-TV Phoenix, AZ

Are reporters at your station fearing for their jobs, have you become the darling of the assignment desk, are you being considered for the 6PM anchor position? No, well, that is probably for the best. But I hope you are having some fun with your stories.

Here are a few last tips for survival when writing your own packages.

---Unless you have signed a contract or your paycheck has been significantly increased due to your writing, don't hesitate to use veto power. Not all stories (in fact a lot of them) are intended to be done by a one-man-band. If you are starting to feel pressure to perform without compensation, just say no if you are not comfortable with doing the story on your own.

---Ask for some educational opportunities centered on your new found talent. Granted, I don't know of anything tailored toward one-man-band photographers, but reporter seminars will serve you well. My recommendations are the Poynter Institute's Power Reporting and the NPPA Oklahoma Workshop (go to the reporters only seminars).

---Find some mentors to critique your stories who understand that you shoot it, write it and edit it. The NPPA has a great critique service, as well as there are always critique sessions at the short courses, conventions and seminars. Other organizations geared more toward reporting may also be a good source, such as the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the National Association of Black Journalists, the National Association of Asian Journalists, or the Society of Professional Journalists. You might look to a larger neighboring market for photographers or reporters who are willing to look at your tape every few months and chart your growth. The side benefit of this, when those stations go looking for someone new, your mentor may step up and throw your name out or if you apply, you are already a familiar face who has proven you are dedicated to growth and can handle criticism.

What is it we love most about our favorite reporters, in fact, our favorite people in general? They have style. (I love a few of my favorite reporters because they can run a live truck too!) Where do you get style? Well, you can't quite go down to the Gap and pick one off the shelf like a pair of Bootcut jeans, but you have already starting developing it. Look at your tape of great writing. Each of those reporters has a certain style that makes a story theirs. What is it about their writing that sets them apart? Some have formulas that every story follows. That formula may be the physical structure of the story---Nat pop, track, bite, nat pop, balancing bite, track, bite, standup, bite track bite, tag out. It maybe the storytelling structure: Once upon a time...Suddenly....Fortunately...As it turns out (thanks to Al Tompkins for that). Or it may be their approach in general, some reporters attack everything from a public policy standpoint, or with a scientific lens, some look for the humor and irony in everything.

Style comes from when you feel graceful or powerful. I will never "Wow!" you with incredible shooting. But I can interview folks like nobody's business. A lot of my style comes from making the viewer feel like they are having a conversation with the subject. If you are one of those lucky souls who always captures the natural moments, there is a style to be had in that. By learning to "write to the corners of the pictures", you can deliver those moments to the viewer in the most powerful way possible. (again, I owe credit to Al Tompkins for that concept). If you always work to get a creative shot that no one would ever think of, your style might be built on working that into the context of the story so the viewer understands just how creative it is. Some people's style is telling a story in a simple, understandable form that speaks to everyone; that is a great style.

Many of your questions dealt with the inspiration to start writing. Here are a few books I can recommend whole heartedly that I go to when I need a little kick in the keyboard (all of these are available at

Make it Memorable: Writing and Packaging TV News with Style by Bob Dotson
Bonus Books Chicago, IL 2000

Write for the Ear, Shoot for the Eye, Aim for the Heart by Al Tompkins
Bonus Books Chicago, IL 2002

Writing Broadcast News: Shorter, Sharper, Stronger by Mervin Block
Bonus Books Chicago, IL 1987 (it is the copy I bought in college---and did not read until two years after graduation---there may be a newer edition)

I am a big believer in reading good writing to create good writing. These are a few of my favorites for cadence, unique approaches to everyday subjects and writing for the ear (and they are funny too):

Lake Wobegon Days, Leaving Home, Wobegon Boy, Lake Wobegon Summer 1956 all by Garrison Keillor. Available through Minnesota Public Radio's Prairie Home Companion Store

See You on the Radio by Charles Osgood
Putnam New York, 1999

What I Saw at the Revolution by Peggy Noonan
Out of Print, but lots of copies floating around used book stores

Sailing Alone Around the Room by Billy Collins
Random House New York, 2001 (yeah, it's poetry, but it is really funny poetry, and his descriptions of otherwise boring things will help squash cheesy cliches and show you some original ways to narrate a situation)

A huge thanks to everyone who e-mailed with questions and your support of this project. The biggest "Thanks!" is to Kevin Johnson for giving me the forum to present this to you. I would love to hear about your continuing successes and frustrations with writing and answer any questions or concerns you have. I can be reached at or

Thanks and go get 'em!

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