Be prepared and don’t be afraid to implement a Plan B

The boy scouts may have coined the phrase “be prepared” but it’s certainly one that applies to journalists too. Harking back to my newspaper days, as long as I had a stack of biros in my pocket, a notepad to hand and honed shorthand, I was good to go. Multimedia journalism takes a little more prep.

If you’re doing video or audio you need to think about kit – have you got the right/best equipment for the job, do you need a tripod, a microphone, extra batteries, access to power points? Will you have access to light, will it be noisy, will you have room to capture the shots you want? And even when you’ve loaded up with everything you think you need, something can still go wrong.

As Roger Stotesbury, of Jump Off The Screen, said to me, you can call back and get an additional quote if you need one, but when making videos if you don’t capture what you need on the day, there’s no going back.

This quote by American motivational speaker and author Zig Ziglar is a personal favourite of mine:

“Expect the best. Prepare for the worst. Capitalize on what comes. Success means doing the best we can with what we have. Success is the doing, not the getting; in the trying, not the triumph.”

So, yes, be as prepared as you can but don’t fret if Plan A doesn’t quite come off. Plan B is better than no plan at all. Take, for example, the time my colleague managed to record an interview on her mobile phone… sideways. Yes, sideways! It’s that common mistake we’ve no doubt all done in which we turn the camera to get a wider shot and forget that the lens doesn’t swivel with it. The result? Unusable footage. Panic not though, strip the audio off and use it as an audio interview instead, and that’s what we did with the sideways lady and it worked just fine. Phew!

There are other things you can do when a video or audio interview goes wrong too, such as transcribing what you’ve got and writing it up. If you take some pictures you’ll always have a picture story to fall back on. Absolute worst case scenario? It’ll make a cracking reflective blog post after the event!

Another example (can you tell I’ve embarked on a steep learning curve here?) is when equipment fails you and you need to pull a Plan B out of the bag. I’d gone along to one of The Open University’s degree ceremonies to capture some video interviews with graduating pilots from the Royal Navy, looking very dapper in their uniforms. I’d cleverly – or so I thought – deleted everyting off the Kodak Zi8 the night before so I knew I had room to film. But the camera screamed “full” at me about 30 seconds into the first interview. Panic. I tried again. Nothing.

“The most useful tool for you as a journalist is often the smartphone in your handbag or pocket,” says Sarah Marshall. And she’s so right. I whipped out the iPhone, took some photos and pulled up the AudioBoo app. Hoorah! AudioBoo saved the day and I managed to create some usable interviews. No, they weren’t on video as I’d planned and wanted, but it hadn’t been a wasted trip. Much relief!

Nothing in life runs smoothly and journalism is just the same, so aim to do your best and pat yourself on the back when you manage to salvage a near disaster. In fact, if you’ve had any near misses, feel free to share them and make me feel better :0)

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