Workshop Re-Ignites Journalists To Inspired Storytelling

Steve Rhodes explains how to have "Fun in the dark: edit with style AND substance." Photograph by Monica Hanson
Steve Rhodes explains how to have "Fun in the dark: edit with style AND substance." Photograph by Monica Hanson

By Lindsey Seavert 

SAINT PAUL, MN (September 15, 2013) – Broadcast journalists from across the country set aside competition, headlines and deadlines to find common ground in mid-September, re-igniting and celebrating passion for their craft in the Twin Cities market.

More than 150 journalists gathered at the Science Museum of Minnesota, September 13-15, for the second annual Ignite Your Passion: Next Generation Video Storytelling Workshop.

The workshop is cosponsored by the Gannett Foundation, KARE11, KUSA-TV, WUSA-TV, and the National Press Photographers Foundation, and drew dozens more journalists in the second year of the event.

“I’m excited to see the enthusiasm for bettering our industry. Participants came from every corner of the country, including Canada,” said Jane Helmke, News Director of KARE11.

The weekend kicked off with keynote speaker Al Tompkins, Senior Faculty for Broadcast and Online at the Poynter Institute, and author of “Aim for the Heart,” a widely used textbook about multimedia storytelling. He reminded a packed auditorium why journalism still matters in the age of Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram.

“Seeing might be believing, but believing isn't just seeing. To truly understand, we need journalists,” said Tompkins. “Journalists try to inspire our audiences to be better than they are.”

Tompkins, along with KARE11 Social Media Manager Bea Chang, showed journalists how to use social media to better serve their audience, creating new content and engaging followers. For example, Chang said 90 percent of journalists' social media should engage the audience and 10 percent should create new content. Ideally, for maximum engagement, Tompkins recommended journalists respond to followers and add value to the conversation.

The workshop was the vision and brainchild of KARE11 photographer Bill Middeke, who found himself traveling to other cities for journalism workshops. He asked Helmke if he could build the same continuing education in his backyard.

“There are a lot of people out there who have lot of passion for storytelling, it’s important to keep people interested or it will be lost and forgotten,” said Middeke.

Reporter John Sharify and photojournalist Doug Burgess, a storytelling duo from KING-TV in Seattle, discussed how focus and theme are just as paramount in stories as crafting a beginning, middle, and end.

Reporter Boyd Huppert and photographer Jonathan Malat, known for their “Land of 10,000 Stories” series at KARE11, used their expertise to show fellow journalists how to create a storytelling experience.

“This has been a progression over my career,” said Malat. “You take one thing away you learn this week, and master that. Then you will have two things, three things, 60 things, 100 things, and you are on your way.”

Huppert encouraged journalists to improve writing by letting subjects convey emotion, and finding power in details.

“I hope people take away that great storytelling and great photojournalism is still alive and well in American newsrooms, and it’s up to all us to make sure that craft flourishes,” said Huppert.

In addition, multimedia journalist Dave Delozier of KUSA-TV in Denver shared how he evokes emotion from interviews. And photojournalist Steve Rhodes of WTHR-TV detailed secrets of powerful editing.

“I’ve been to more workshops than a lot of you have birthdays, and each time I take away things,” said Mike Borland, NPPA president. “Don’t worry about learning it all at one time. Pick a few things and carry that with you.”

The knowledge inspired both seasoned journalists and new journalists getting into the business.

“I’m always looking for new tricks of the trade. When you stop learning that is when you are not challenging yourself, and work gets boring,” said Rachel Slavik, a reporter at WCCO-TV.

Elsa Robins, a reporter who is just four months into her job at The Northland’s NewsCenter in Duluth, said the education offered an extra edge as she begins her career.

“It’s so rewarding to getting tips from the best journalists throughout the country,” said Robins. “It helps me get to the next level and motivates me to want to make my stories more appealing and more engaging to my viewers.”

If you missed the workshop, mark your calendars for the same weekend next year. With the success shown in the first two years, the Ignite Your Passion workshop will likely become an annual event.

Follow the workshop's updates on Twitter at @IYPWorkshop.

Below, from left: Dave Delozier, KUSA. Jonathan Malat, KARE. Boyd Huppert, KARE. Bea Chang, KARE. John Sharify, KING. Al Tompkins, Poynter Institute. Bill Middeke, KARE. Jim Brown, Indiana University School of Journalism. Steve Rhodes, WTHR. Jeff Wiltgen, KARE. Photograph by Jason Steussy