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Aim for the Heart
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Aim for the Heart
Write, Shoot, Report and Produce for TV and Multimedia

Third Edition

Other Titles in:
Journalism

January 2017 | 496 pages | CQ Press

Al Tompkins teaches students about broadcast journalism using a disarmingly simple truth—if you aim for the heart with the copy you write and the sound and video you capture, you will compel your viewers to keep watching. With humor, honesty, and directness, award-winning journalist and author Al Tompkins bottles his years of experience and insight in a new Third Edition that offers students the fundamentals they need to master journalism in today’s constantly evolving media environment, with practical know-how they can immediately put to use in their careers. Aim for the Heart is as close as you can get to spending a week in one of Tompkins’s training sessions that he has delivered in newsrooms around the world, from which students:

 

•       Learn how to build compelling characters who connect with the audience

•       Write inviting leads

•       Get memorable soundbites

•       See how to light, crop, frame, and edit compelling videos

•       Learn how to leverage social media to engage audiences

•       Gain critical thinking skills that move your story from telling the “what” to telling the “why”

 
PREFACE
 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
 
INTRODUCTION
 
CHAPTER 1. AIM FOR THE HEART
Can Great Storytelling Make You Sexier?  
All That Is Great, But I’m on a Deadline  
Finding Focus: Aim for the Heart of the Story  
Use Sound Bites That Connect to The Viewer’s Heart  
 
CHAPTER 2. THE SHAPE OF THE STORY
Stories Need Surprises: Give Viewers Gold Coin Moments  
Story Frames: Structure and Restructure  
The Big Close: Resolve the Story  
Sentences Have Shapes, Too: Power at the End  
 
CHAPTER 3. FIND MEMORABLE CHARACTERS
Put a Face on the Story: You Remember What You Feel  
Little Pictures, Big Stories: Focus on People, Not Events  
How Many Characters Do You Need in a Story?  
 
CHAPTER 4. WRITE INVITING LEADS
First Impressions: Get Them Hooked  
Some Do’s and Don’ts for Leads: Don’t Stall; Get On With It  
Kill the Clichés: Especially the Clichés of Thought  
 
CHAPTER 5. VERBS AND ADJECTIVES
The Thing About “ing”: A Passive, Verbless Style  
“To Be” or Not “To Be”: Verbs Drive Sentences  
Avoid “Fantastic, Unbelievable, Gut-Wrenching” Subjective Adjectives  
 
CHAPTER 6. THE ART OF THE INTERVIEW
Learning to Listen: Using Your Ears More Than Your Mouth  
Asking Better Questions  
Interviewing Reluctant Sources: Explain the Rationale  
Interviewing Juveniles and Other Vulnerable People  
A Few Interviewing Don’ts  
 
CHAPTER 7. WHY PICTURES ARE SO POWERFUL
A Little Bit of Visual Theory  
The Power of the Picture  
The Fannie Lou Hamer Story  
 
CHAPTER 8. THE VITAL ROLE OF LIGHTING
Lighting Sets an Editorial Tone  
Construct the Light and Go for the Shadow Side  
In Bright Sunlight Add Light  
Be Careful  
 
CHAPTER 9. VIDEO AND VISUAL TECHNIQUES
Let’s Get Visual: Capturing Compelling Video  
Principles and Techniques for Photographic Objectivity  
Special Effects Are “Special”: Use With Care  
 
CHAPTER 10. CAUTION, THIS MAY GET GRAPHIC: THINKING VISUALLY
Think “Shapes”: A Checklist for Effective Graphics  
Get It Right: Graphics Are Precision Work  
 
CHAPTER 11. THE SOUND OF THE STORY
Capturing Powerful Sound  
Ethical Concerns With Adding Music and Sound Effects  
Do Not Rearrange Audio or Sound Bites  
 
CHAPTER 12. WHAT EVERY JOURNALIST SHOULD KNOW ABOUT GUNS, AMMUNITION AND ARMED VIOLENCE
What Is a Caliber/Gauge and Why Does It Matter?  
Guns in Crime  
Buying and Selling Guns  
 
CHAPTER 13. FIELD TRICKS FROM THE PROS
First Things First in the Field  
Story Ideas  
Assessing Threats and Staying Safe  
 
CHAPTER 14. TELL THE STORY WITH SOCIAL MEDIA AND ONLINE
Why Online and Social Media Are Important to Local TV  
Reporting and Writing for Online  
Ethics and Social Networks  
Online Skills You Need to Get Hired or to Keep Your Job  
 
CHAPTER 15. ETHICS AND BROADCAST JOURNALISTS: SEEK TRUTH AND REPORT IT AS FULLY AS POSSIBLE
Seek Truth and Report It as Fully as Possible  
Who Said That: Evaluating Sources for Your Stories  
Be Honest With Viewers About Your Reporting and Your Mistakes  
Attack Dogs, Watchdogs and Guide Dogs: A Journalist’s Commitment to Seeking Truth  
File Tape: Truthful Reporting or Lazy Journalism?  
 
CHAPTER 16. ETHICS AND BROADCAST JOURNALISTS: ACT INDEPENDENTLY
Avoid Conflicts of Interest  
 
CHAPTER 17. ETHICS AND BROADCAST JOURNALISTS: MINIMIZE HARM
Rights to Privacy for Private People and Public Officials  
Covering Criminals and Criminal Acts  
Identifying Suspects, Covering “Off-Limits” Stories and Other Tough Ethics Calls  
Questions Before You “Go Live”  
 
CHAPTER 18. LET’S GET CRITICAL
Kill the Zombie Stats  
Critical Thinking and Polling  
Using Critical Thinking to Investigate Charities  
Al Gets Duped: Be Skeptical  
 
CHAPTER 19. THE POWER OF ENTERPRISE REPORTING
Enterprise From the Start: Morning Meetings  
How to Generate Enterprise Stories  
Look for the Story Behind the Story  
 
CHAPTER 20. SURVIVING AND THRIVING IN TODAY’S TV NEWSROOM
How to Succeed  
Surviving Layoffs, Cutbacks and Reassignment  
Stressed and Overworked  
Time Management  
Avoid Office Gossip and Politics  
Leaders in the Newsroom  
The Meaning of Life  
 
INDEX

"For those of us in journalism, our world is quickly changing beneath our feet. Aim for the Heart will give you something solid to stand on, with insights on how to be a better storyteller and how to make the most of the newest technology.”  

Byron Pitts
ABC News Nightline Anchor

 "In the midst of a changing industry, Aim for the Heart is more important than ever. It reminds journalists that no matter what the platform, the story is still key. Writing matters. Every manager should have this in their library; it is a great way to inspire newsrooms.”

Carolyn Mungo
News Director WFAA Dallas, Texas

 “Aim for the Heart offers outstanding lessons for students at all levels. Tompkins’ approach is smart and engaging, bringing multimedia stories into focus through effective and ethical practices. His emphasis on improving technique in writing, shot composition and the marriage of the two moves students forward.” 

Kathleen Culver
University of Wisconsin-Madison

"Knowing about ‘the next big thing' is meaningless without thinking carefully about how those 'big things' enhance the fundamentals of journalism—the fundamentals that give our audiences stories that are ethically sound, engaging and informative.  Al Tompkins gets that connection, and he stands for journalism that matters. Anyone who has ever attended one of Al Tompkins’ workshops knows that he brings amazing insight, energy and passion into the classroom. What’s even more amazing is how he manages to convey that energy and passion in print. Aim for the Heart inspired ordinary journalists to do extraordinary work.”  

Lisa Taylor
Ryerson University

"Aim for the Heart is the book I wish I could have read 20 years sooner. Al Tompkins reveals the secrets of compelling visual stories. As an award winning broadcast journalist, Al taught himself the ‘magic” years ago. His willingness to share and teach is his gift to the rest of us.”

Boyd Huppert
Reporter, KARE-11, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1

Chapter 16


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Al Tompkins

Al Tompkins is one of America's best-known and most-requested journalism trainers. Tompkins has taught professional journalists at conferences, conventions, seminars and newsrooms in 46 states and five countries. Tompkins is the Broadcast and Online Group Leader for The Poynter Institute and has been awarded most of broadcast journalism's top honors, including The National Emmy, The Peabody, two Robert F. Kennedy Awards, and The American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel for legal reporting. More About Author

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ISBN: 9781506315256
$49.00