"If you're a journalist, show me a damn story," said multi-award winning journalist and producer Scott Rensberger to delegates of MojoCon, the mobile journalism conference organised by RTE, speaking in a workshop on 30 April.
He highlighted that regardless of the new technologies or new forms of production available to reporters nowadays, journalists must remember that the story "is still everything".
"Storytelling is the most powerful thing in the world – it connects the dots of our communities."
Rensberger, who has won both the NPPA Photographer of the Year and IRE Scroll awards, has travelled around the world producing television news packages across multiple continents, and working as a news trainer.
"I am seeing these toys [at the event] and think they are great, but in the end I have to come back to reality and think 'how do I make money off it?'
"There are a billion and a half people with a cellphone in their pocket, so there are a billion and a half production companies. Some are doing some great stuff, and most of them are doing it for fun – so all of these people having fun with their cellphones are now my competition."
He noted that every great story has to either affect your mind, heart or wallet – without needing it to become a big production with too much technology, filters or transitions, no matter what apps or tools are developed.
"There is always going to be a need for great storytelling, but if you go out with a 4K camera and you shoot a shitty story, it's a shitty 4K camera story."
Giving the audience tips and advice for better storytelling, Rensberger advised journalists to avoid becoming technicians with all the advanced tools and applications, and focus on continuing to tell the audience something they don't know, and showing them something they haven't seen.
"You musn't overthink it, just think of yourself as a tour guide – you go places and see what happens, learn bit by bit and piece it together until you have an ending," he said.
He explained that every story has four distinctive moments, which he named 'hey', 'you', ‘see’ and ‘so’.
These describe the process of creating a great opening shot, before grabbing the audience's attention and building up the story in layers, resulting in a summary that rounds off the piece.
Rensberger has used this storytelling technique in the following video:
Working as what he describes as a "one-man-band", he packs light kit, finding stories by using search engines, talking to people, and researching issues that are not well-known.
"I don't spend my time driving to a story that sucks, I fish around first. I look for stories all the time – I have 35 of them lined up for next year," he said.
Rensberger uses what he calls 'double pump' questions while interviewing for his video packages, asking two questions at the same time to increase the chance of getting complete answers needing less editing – perfect for extracting sound bites and short clips for social media.
He believes that the majority of stories in the future will be produced by freelancers, available to watch on a world map created by a large media or technology company for anyone to access at any time.
"[They] will hire a few journalists to produce news content, then everything else will be freelance content from people like me.
"My work will create a dot onto their map, and that will allow audiences to filter the content and zoom into their community, going as hyperlocal as they want," Rensberger said.
"So stories don't just air once, and freelancers will get commission when someone watches their work."
Free daily newsletter
- Mobile journalism workflow: how to make quality content go further
- The old, the new and the unexpected mediums for telling human stories
- Weekly journalism news update: transcription app, journalism students and storytelling
- BBC News uses mobile journalism to attract social audiences
- App for journalists: Voice Record Pro, for transcribing audio interviews