Show don’t tell.
That’s the advice given at creative writing classes and it also applies to journalism.
Why then does television, the medium best equipped to show, waste so much time telling us things?
An example that stuck in my mind was the reporter standing in the empty Wellington stadium telling us how full it had been for the football game the night before. When she’d finished talking we were shown the stadium from the night before and surprise, surprise, we could see that it was full.
One of the lessons drummed into me at journalism school was that we look before we listen and so whenever possible we should let the pictures tell the story.
That lesson must have by-passed whoever directs TV news these days. Not content with showing us the story, reporters have to start by telling us what we’re about to see and finish by telling us what we should think and how we should feel about it.
If the pictures and voice-over don’t convey everything that’s needed, the solution isn’t breathless to-camera reporting telling us the story from the journalist. It’s better pictures, showing us the story with the voice-over explanations kept to a minimum and without gratuitous comments and opinions at the end.
What we get now isn’t reporting, it’s an unhappy cross between amateur dramatics and propaganda.
TV needs to do less telling, more showing and leave the thinking and feeling to the viewers.