On-Camera Talkbacks

As we discussed in Chapter 11, multimedia journalists may be called on to produce content on more than one platform. That means reporters who feel most comfortable working in print or online could be asked to appear on television in what's commonly called a talkback.

Some talkbacks are essentially question-and-answer sessions between an anchor and a reporter, but others are more highly produced, including video and audio.

Lindsay Field had been a reporter for the Opelika-Auburn News in Alabama for 4 years when her newspaper's convergence partner, WRBL-TV in Columbus, GA, asked her to appear on the 6 o'clock newscast with a follow-up story about E. coli bacteria in a local creek.

Field's reaction? "I'd never in my life done broadcast, but I thought, what the heck, I'll try it and give my grandparents a chance to see me on TV," Field says.

For her first talkback, Field says she relied heavily on the bureau reporter WRBL had stationed in her newsroom. Reporter-photographer Jamie Lakin shot the video for this story and helped Field write the script in broadcast style.

"Fifteen minutes later Jaime told me to sit up straight and I was on the air," Field said.

Although Field knows she has some things to learn about writing and presenting stories for TV, she said it was easier than she thought it would be. Her advice to other print or online reporters who plan to go on TV?

  • Know your story. Field broke the original story about the E. coli contamination, so she was very knowledgeable about her subject.
  • Rely on experts. Field says her broadcast colleague, Jamie Lakin, was invaluable in helping her prepare for the talkback.
  • Stay calm. Field says she's lucky she "doesn't get worked up or nervous about anything," but she realizes the situation can be nerve-racking for some people.

Field says her goals are to learn more about broadcast equipment--both shooting and editing--and to get to the point where she's comfortable writing her own broadcast scripts.