Sanders says he was first introduced to the NPPA around 2015 through watching the work of solo video journalists like Pearl and attending the NPPA Southeast Storytelling Conference in Atlanta.
“All of that was an epiphany moment, getting to watch people who were really knocking it out of the park,” Sanders said. “That mattered a lot.”
Sanders says he has always wanted to work as a solo video journalist, without the aid of a storytelling partner in the traditional reporter-photojournalist team.
“I think you either dig it or you don’t,” Sanders said. “I always liked MMJing.”
While taking on all the job responsibilities of a traditional two-person crew can seem daunting, Sanders says being his own photographer and reporter has its benefits, like helping him with lines for his story while he’s still in the field.
“I do work with photographers on occasion, and when I do, I find I really need to see what the video is before I’m able to write something,” Sanders said.
Though most of his years in Nashville have been spent covering general assignment topics, recently Sanders has been able to focus on the good news and positive messages found in the feature stories he now regularly produces.
“It’s a lot of overcomers: people who have faced something really horrific or tragic in their lives, and they have found a way to use that to get past something or help other people who have faced similar struggles,” Sanders said.
“We’ve got to have conversations in our newscasts about what’s wrong with our communities, but you also want to put on the good things that are happening in our communities too, and highlight people that have overcome something. That can be really inspirational.”
Sanders admits his is a beat that hasn’t always had support in other newsrooms he’s worked in.
“There were times when ‘feature’ was just a bad word,” Sanders said.
But he says through the COVID-19 pandemic, he’s appreciated working in a newsroom like WTVF that places importance on positive stories, and the extra workload that comes with doing it all on your own.
“WTVF has been really considerate of giving me the extra time to work on things. I don’t have a package in every single show,” Sanders said. “There’s a consideration of, ‘You’re doing everything yourself; let’s give you a little bit of space to get something together.’’”
Sanders says it took several years of learning and reporting on more traditional assignments, and finding special stories on his own, before he took on the stories he regularly does now.
“What I did for years and years is make sure every month I’d do a project on my own and then find a producer who would run it,” Sanders said.
His advice for journalists: Get involved with the NPPA early in their careers to see the inspiring work solo video journalists can produce.
That, along with the wisdom from a few horror films, has worked well for him.
Jason Lamb is a reporter at WTVF NewsChannel 5 in Nashville, Tennessee. He was selected as the 2016 recipient of the Best of Photojournalism contest’s NPPA Photojournalism Award for Reporting. You can find him on Twitter at @JasonLambNC5.
"Bell Buckle celebrates return of the RC Cola Moonpie Festival" by Forrest Sanders