From free headshots to intensive workshops, journalists are offered an array of professional tune-ups all weekend long at EIJ 2015.
Looking to oil the gears in my multimedia storytelling, I spotted an audio and video critique salon stationed along the marbled corridor of the Marriott Hotel. I sat down, pulled up a chair along with my most recent freelance radio story, and allowed Charlie Meyerson, Vice President and News Chief of Rivet Radio, to tear it apart.
He heavily quoted “The Elements of Style” and critics like Lee Bey, known for handing over drafts and saying, “Read it like you hate me.”
“What a great gift it is for someone to offer you that forthright feedback,” Meyerson said. “If I, as a creator, can create something that even the people who hate me think is good, then the people who love me will think it’s fabulous.”
Meyerson spent 45 minutes teaching me how to be a better self-editor by applying self-hate in the draft revision process the same way a fair-skinned person like myself liberally applies sunscreen in Orlando.
He advised me to avoid stressing the words “by,” “but,” and “and” when writing for radio.
“Those are grace notes of audio storytelling,” he said. “They should be tripped over lightly most of the time.”
A stickler for proper grammar, Meyerson is keen on fundamentals key to journalistic excellence – and I trust anyone with a Wikipedia page like his. He was the morning news anchor and city hall beat reporter for WXRT-FM Chicago from 1979 to 1989 and is recently working to popularize Rivet Radio, a smartphone-based radio news startup.
“One of the great things about radio storytelling in this new age of audio and podcasting is that it’s liberated from the clock,” he said. “The pause is a really powerful thing.”
He coached me to pause between clauses when voicing my radio pieces and taught me the difference between lilting my voice upward and downward for varied effect. Upward for more drama and suspense, downward for a casual full stop.
“You’ve got to enunciate properly, but you can’t overdo it so it sounds unnatural,” he warned.
It’s a tricky balance; a fine art.
After spending a little under an hour unraveling all of the self-love my therapist taught me, Meyerson rewarded me with praise. He taught me how to be a sharp self-editor, my best-worst critic, and a tactful audio journalist who throws it back to the basics with Strunk & White.
At the end of our critique session, I walked away squeak-free – a well oiled multimedia journalist who gleaned important insight from one of the best in the business.