Thursday, October 14, 2010
CNN iReport roundtable: Boot camp week six

Jan_Winburn

 

Please join us here in the blog at 3:30 p.m. ET to talk about story editing – the art and science of taking the facts, photos and colorful quotes you've gathered as a reporter and crafting them into a powerful story.

 

We're thrilled that CNN.com Enterprise Editor Jan Winburn will be joining us to answer your questions and give feedback on your work. Jan has guided reporting honored with many prestigious awards, including the Pulitzer Prize.

 

It was also exciting to see the personal stories iReporters shared in this week's challenge. It's amazing how much you can learn about a person from a simple object, whether it's a girl's diary in Saudi Arabia, a hand-painted rock on a teacher's desk, a child's first camera, or even the look in a scary-looking strangers' eyes.

 

We hope you will join us for today's discussion, even if you didn't participate in this week's challenge. Jan has been a tremendous resource for us and has a lot of great advice. She's also a delight to work with, so it should be a lot of fun.

 

Comments will open at 3:30 p.m. ET. We look forward to talking with you then.

89 Comments
October 14, 2010
Click to view davidw's profile

Welcome everyone,

 

Before we get started, I wanted to let everyone know that the Chilean mine rescues threw us a little bit off schedule, so we haven't gotten as far along on vetting the submissions as we would have hoped. Jan did get a chance to look at the submissions, so she'll still be able to give feedback.

 

We'll finish up the vetting as soon as possible.

 

Thanks for your patience and let's get started.

 

October 14, 2010
Click to view davidw's profile

Jan is getting settled in and will be ready to answer questions in just a second.

October 14, 2010
Click to view nsaidi's profile

Hello! Happy to join you guys.

October 14, 2010
Click to view lila's profile

Hi all!

October 14, 2010
Click to view jancnn's profile

Hello everyone! happy to be here....

 

October 14, 2010
Click to view tyson's profile

Welcome everyone

October 14, 2010
Click to view Cathrelief's profile

Hi Jan,

Liz O'Neill here from CRS in Baltimore(Mike Hill & John Rivera's colleague). I met you two weeks ago in Atlanta.

We work all over the world responding to emergencies and doing ongoing development work.

 

Could you tell us what you're looking for when we land at the site of an emergency? What types of photos/videoquotes?

 

Also, can you share examples of reporters who do an outstanding job of writing crisp copy and shooting images that really sing/

 

Thanks.

October 14, 2010
Click to view PattyE's profile

Hello to everyone!

October 14, 2010
Click to view KCRep's profile

Hello and good afternoon everyone!

October 14, 2010
Click to view jancnn's profile

Hey Liz. Nice to hear from you....even if u do have tough quetions...

What do we want? We want you to be our eyes, first, to tell us what you're seeing, hearing, smelling....use your senses....

 

October 14, 2010
Click to view jancnn's profile

As for writers who do this well.....in my piece on editing, i put in some links...CNN's Moni Basu's stories was one. She's got a great eye, but she also really focuses her stories. not trying to cover the waterfront, but to tell a discrete,universal story.

 

October 14, 2010
Click to view Sherbien's profile

Hi everyone! Good morning from the Philippines!

October 14, 2010
Click to view Sherbien's profile

Hi Jan, CNN producers, KC and the rest!

October 14, 2010
Click to view jancnn's profile

Okay, so I've been looking at the great stories you all sent....i'll kick this off with some specific feedback.then maybe we can get to more questions.

Let's start with this one:

http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-502205

Status quo disrupted by camera

 

I like the way you teased me with this early sentence:

“The future was coming into focus and there seemed to be no limit to what science and technology could do.”

You set the bait without giving too much away.

Except for your headline, I don’t yet know a camera was the object.

Which leads me to a point about headlines, and captions and titles in video: Be careful there, too, not to destroy whatever mystery or suspense you’re trying to create in the piece.

Also another thing I liked, small, but makes the diff – this lovely phrasing:

“not exactly sure how or when it left my life.”

…how it left my life so much better than saying “when I lost it.”

Makes this inanimate object animated…

Finally, I like the way the piece winds up with the big Meaning of this object:

“It cautions of opportunities lost and hints of the thrill of opportunities undiscovered. It reminds me to be young, to experiment, let go and not be bound by the “rules” I have succumbed to in the intervening 45 years. There is urgency in the message….”

 

October 14, 2010
Click to view Cathrelief's profile

Without revealing your hand to the competition, can you share enterprise upcoming projects that non-profits may be able to contribute to? Or, perhaps previous projects that might have been a good match?

 

 

October 14, 2010
Click to view KCRep's profile

Hi Sherbien!

October 14, 2010
Click to view jancnn's profile

hey sherbien!

wide awake? and with that favorite object inyour hand, i presume...

here's what i liked about your piece:

    http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-502063

i like the way the framing of the shots set the focus of your piece...especially the the still shot of the camera, and the iphone....your answer to my focusing question: what is the story really about is so clear, too...creativity!...

October 14, 2010
Click to view jancnn's profile

And KCRep....

your piece:

http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-500789

 

it was so surprising...and i liked that you didn't give it away in the beginning...so that we could identify with jessica....she  could be any of us, right?

then the surprise:the dark turn....

and i liked your uses of questions. many writers forget to vary their sentence structure. and especially ignore questions as a way to shake it up....

 

October 14, 2010
Click to view SINYPCRX's profile

Good day all

October 14, 2010
Click to view LensLord's profile

Hello

October 14, 2010
Click to view KCRep's profile

Thank you Jancnn!!

October 14, 2010
Click to view jancnn's profile

Hello LensLord....

I have a Buzz lightyear...but he's about 6 inches tall

 

October 14, 2010
Click to view SINYPCRX's profile

I hope you had an opportunity yo review my submission Jan.

October 14, 2010
Click to view jancnn's profile

Oops.... sinypcrx is my buzz friend!

October 14, 2010
Click to view PattyE's profile

I had a different story in mind for this assignment, but a photo I took yesterday at a Weight Watchers meeting prompted me to write a story about our group leader instead!  But I wonder if I spent too much time setting the scene, and not enough time talking about her?

 

Is the goal to make a story as short and concise as possible?

 

DOC-502611

October 14, 2010
Click to view LensLord's profile

So it goes.

October 14, 2010
Click to view davidw's profile

Jan's typing away furiously. If anyone has questions in the meantime feel free to fire away.

October 14, 2010
Click to view PattyE's profile

Thanks for the visual, davidw... :-)

October 14, 2010
Click to view lila's profile

Hi folks! Jan's sitting here beside me. Here's a photo of what it looks like here in the CNN.com newsroom: http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-502992

October 14, 2010
Click to view SINYPCRX's profile

My son's joy has been elevated, My wife brought back "Woody" from North Carolina.

October 14, 2010
Click to view jancnn's profile

Sinyprx....i did read your piece!

here 'tis everyone:

http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-500974

 

your piece proves how wrong rules about writing can be.

for instance, i often tell people to stay away from oft-used phrases...and yet you effectively build your story on one: "just a toy"..."boys like their toys"...

again, good job holding back the climax! letting the piece unfold....

 

October 14, 2010
Click to view markpel's profile

Hi, everyone from Berlin (Germany)!

October 14, 2010
Click to view dmi2's profile

@janncnn - Thank you for your insight and thoughts!

October 14, 2010
Click to view ecotraveler's profile

Thanks Jan and David for this opportunity, and ireporters. Learning lots. Much appreciated.

October 14, 2010
Click to view steve85's profile

Shoot, we had to send our articles in ahead of time?

October 14, 2010
Click to view KCRep's profile

@lila........That is awesome!!!

October 14, 2010
Click to view SINYPCRX's profile

Thank you. The initial phrase is actually a line in the original movie.

October 14, 2010
Click to view Sherbien's profile

Hi Jan!

 

Good morning!

 

Thanks and that's the best I can do after my laptop hangs because of heavy files of time lapses and 2 other entry for this ireport (1.about a lesbian who sold her kidney  and 2.about a mother whose son died 6 years after selling his organ, the mother is a former recruiter of people to sell their organs)that I should be submitting. The fastest way is to shoot myself walking in the dark and taking 360 degrees shot of me and add the only file saved in my phone 3 hours before the deadline.

 

KC, i love also your report.

October 14, 2010
Click to view jancnn's profile

dmi2!

hello.....

everyone: dmi2's piece:

 

http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-502205

Status quo disrupted by camera

 

I like the way you teased me with this early sentence:

“The future was coming into focus and there seemed to be no limit to what science and technology could do.”

You set the bait without giving too much away.

Except for your headline, I don’t yet know a camera was the object.

Which leads me to a point about headlines, and captions and titles in video: Be careful there, too, not to destroy whatever mystery or suspense you’re trying to create in the piece.

Another thing I liked, small, but makes the diff – this lovely phrasing:

“not exactly sure how or when it left my life.”

…how it left my life so much better than saying “when I lost it.”

Makes this inanimate object animated…which it is..it has animated your life, i gather...

Finally, I like the way the piece winds up with the big Meaning of this object:

“It cautions of opportunities lost and hints of the thrill of opportunities undiscovered. It reminds me to be young, to experiment, let go and not be bound by the “rules” I have succumbed to in the intervening 45 years. There is urgency in the message….”

 

October 14, 2010
Click to view davidw's profile

Hi Steve,

We did have a deadline for submitting stories for Jan to look at, but feel free to ask questions.

October 14, 2010
Click to view lila's profile

Hey you guys - Jan's going to add in some feedback on one more example, and then let's just open it up for questions. Get 'em ready!

October 14, 2010
Click to view KCRep's profile

oops?

October 14, 2010
Click to view Sherbien's profile

Hi markpel!

October 14, 2010
Click to view Awakened2's profile

Hi, Jan and all the wonderful (and brave) participants. Jan, I am Awakend2, who wrote Virtual Vacation; I'd appreciate your feedback on what went wrong (not to be too negative, but I'm usually confident in my editing skills). My background is in English but not in journalism, and I suspect that might have something to do with it. Thank you. Chris (Awakened2)

October 14, 2010
Click to view steve85's profile

Thanks David

October 14, 2010
Click to view jancnn's profile

did you all see this one?

 

http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-501481

Virtual Vacation

 

This is a piece I’ll describe to my friends….It’s full of whimsy, and it’s SO revealing of its writer….

“lethargic homebodies who consider it a great adventure to drive to the San Juan Islands annually for a splashy trip around Deception Pass”

hmmmmm Deception Pass….i think that reference was  chosen intentionally….you are deceiving yourselves in the back yard with your RV lights, are you not? Are we all deceiving ourselves when we travel? Trying to be someone we are not?

“We fought our sluggishness for a while but finally decided to enjoy it, poking fun at ourselves and creating a paean to the American vacation in our small back yard.”

Artfully said:

"here in our own back yard we rough it only in fantasy, then head back inside to watch the 64 episodes of House M.D. we've recorded."

(and great telling detail….64 episodes of House! That says it better than “couch potatoes.”

And finally, a windup that just seduces me! I’m charmed!

"The life of the imagination is no less unpredictable than the life of action. It's just lived in fewer square feet -- sometimes just millimeters. Laugh if you will, but we're happy here, sipping a second thimble-sized cup of instant coffee, a tiny couple living it up in a tiny, brightly-lit Airstream, lulled by gentle autumn breezes that signal the end of camping season."

Could it possibly be any better? Hmmmmm.

Maybe. Sometimes it’s good to look at your ending, and then look in front of it. Sometimes the better ending is buried there…..we’ve already hit a fabulous end note…but then kept playing a bit too long..

This is really really picky: But I’d maybe end it this way:

The life of the imagination is no less unpredictable than the life of action. It's just lived in fewer square feet -- sometimes millimeters. Laugh if you will, but we're happy here, sipping a second thimble-sized cup of instant coffee, a tiny couple living it up in a tiny, brightly-lit Airstream,

 

October 14, 2010
Click to view PattyE's profile

Hi lila!

October 14, 2010
Click to view jancnn's profile

hey, awakened2!...i'd just posted on your piece before i saw you'd joined us.....

October 14, 2010
Click to view markpel's profile

Sherbien, thank you.

October 14, 2010
Click to view lila's profile

Alright, y'all! Question time. Who's got one?

October 14, 2010
Click to view PattyE's profile

Hi Jan!

 

I had a different story in mind for this assignment, but a photo I took yesterday at a Weight Watchers meeting prompted me to write a story about our group leader instead!  But I wonder if I spent too much time setting the scene, and not enough time talking about her?

Is the goal to make a story as short and concise as possible?

DOC-502611

 

October 14, 2010
Click to view jancnn's profile

PattyE....

http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-502611

 

this is a very nice image:

she looks like those "sketched models on the front of Simplicity sewing patterns from the '70s"

October 14, 2010
Click to view davidw's profile

I just heard Jan say "Let's do this every week"

http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-502973

 

 

October 14, 2010
Click to view sunethra's profile

Hello from Sri Lanka 1.30 a.m. here

October 14, 2010
Click to view jancnn's profile

hey you all...don't let me talk too much....any questions? observations?

October 14, 2010
Click to view NaomiM's profile

Jan, could you speak to how to walk the line between the reporter's loyalty to what a source said verbatim, in the order they said it, and a writer's loyalty to craft and story. How much, if at all, can you rearrange the sentences of a quote, for example, for the sake of flow, clarity, sound, etc? Here I'm not talking about rewriting a quote or taking out of context. Maybe just flipping a line around.

October 14, 2010
Click to view WausauFamily's profile

Hi everyone. Question.... can the object be an action? /docs/DOC-501401 . Wondering how thios story went. Thanks and excellent bootcamps from the best.

October 14, 2010
Click to view KCRep's profile

david....I'm down with doing this every week!!  :)

October 14, 2010
Click to view jancnn's profile

well, don't tell my bosses but....just kidding.

i do think it's okay to reorder, as long as you're not altering the meaning, or the kind of 'reality' of what's being said....

the NYT magazine interviewer Deborah solomon got taken to task about that a few years ago...not sure whether she was right or wrong. but i see she is more transparent about that now...there's a line that says something like "this interview was edited for length and clarity"...

 

October 14, 2010
Click to view Sherbien's profile

This boot camp is about editing the story - i think editing the story in words (as writer) and editing story as based in videos (as video editor) is two different things.

October 14, 2010
Click to view Awakened2's profile

Aha! I agree with you (and not surprisingly); I could have said more in fewer words. If I had addressed that issue (and I already do pare, pare, pare, but maybe not enough), would I have had a "vettable" piece in your opinion?

 

Not that I'm competitive or anything.

October 14, 2010
Click to view NaomiM's profile

Thanks Jan. It's something I struggle with and do only rarely. But it always leaves me feeling a little guilty, even if the story is far better off.

October 14, 2010
Click to view Cathrelief's profile

Agreed, Sheribien. If the story is visual and the images tell the story, the words (caption) need to tell us something we don't see. Jan, can you comment?

October 14, 2010
Click to view markpel's profile

Hallo, Sunethra!

October 14, 2010
Click to view lila's profile

Hey Awakened2 - good question on the vetting. We actually are still working on vetting these! The Chile miners story pulled us all away for a bit, but not to worry. We're still on it.

October 14, 2010
Click to view jancnn's profile

sunethra: you are hale and hearty to be joining us at 1:30....

now i have to watch my typing! because you're so good at it...85 words per minute!

 

http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-500833

 

when your story moved from the object to what you did with it -- its interaction with people...that was rich stuff. i was moved by the fact that the first letter you wrote was to your father, thanking him for it....

then the letters moved from your inner circle (mom and brother) to the outer circle you hoped for -- the business execs.

what that tells me is you have an innate sense for storytelling...

 

 

October 14, 2010
Click to view LensLord's profile

It is true. … As much as I enjoyed reading all our editing stories, I spent way more time watching the miners.

October 14, 2010
Click to view Sherbien's profile

hi sunethra, good morking, your fast, i type slow

October 14, 2010
Click to view dmi2's profile

Jan - to hitchhike on Sherbien and Cathrelief's point - how does the use of video change how you approach a story? Do you have more than one version - a stand alone written version and a version to accompany video or images?

October 14, 2010
Click to view jancnn's profile

words vs video...yes, i think you want them to tell different stories. but i also think the tools for telling the story, whether words or images, are the same.

 

October 14, 2010
Click to view Sherbien's profile

good morning,

October 14, 2010
Click to view lila's profile

What a lovely discussion! Thanks, all, for participating. And thanks, Jan, for joining us! Jan tells me she's got comments on some of the other pieces, too, that she'll add in the comments on the individual stories.

October 14, 2010
Click to view KCRep's profile

@Jan you are amazing and I thank you for your feedback, come back and do this again soon ok?

October 14, 2010
Click to view jancnn's profile

Hey all, thanks so much for joining us. I have to say I learned a lot from looking at your pieces!

 

October 14, 2010
Click to view Cathrelief's profile

Thanks, Jan! Great discussion.

October 14, 2010
Click to view davidw's profile

Be sure to check out the boot camp section tomorrow for our final lesson and to get a peak at the assignment.

It's going to be a tough challenge, but we think you'll learn a lot from it.

http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2010/bootcamp/

 

Take care and we'll talk to you next week.

October 14, 2010
Click to view PattyE's profile

Thanks so much for your input, Jan!

And thanks for this unique forum! 

 

October 14, 2010
Click to view NakedBoyNews's profile

I stopped by to read the conversation here. Great dialogue. I am here at Blog World and so glad to see the iReport blog become so successful! Keep it up iReport team! You guys and gals Rock!

October 14, 2010
Click to view Awakened2's profile

NaomiM, thanks for asking the question about reordering for sense and sensibility. I think nonfiction writers walk a fine line with this issue. Remember "A Million Little Pieces" -- based on the author's experience, but loosely, and by no means really "memoir." And wasn't there a famous incident where the writer combined qualities of real characters to create a fictional character she portrayed as real? Dangerous waters sometimes.

October 14, 2010
Click to view dmi2's profile

Thanks all....

October 14, 2010
Click to view Sherbien's profile

in what had happen to me, i learned that you should make the story according to videos or edit the video according to the script (if you have enough materials and while your shooting, base your videos according to the script you make.)

October 14, 2010
Click to view cv28's profile

Hi everyone from Uruguay!!

Doc 501753

October 14, 2010
Click to view Sherbien's profile

Thanks Jan, Lila, David and all Ireporters.

 

I'm excited for the next boot camp.

 

 

October 14, 2010
Click to view SINYPCRX's profile

Question: Word limitations are frustrating to me. There are times when I know I need to write more in order to get my point across. I want the largere audience that publishing brings, but how can I work within word limitations, yet still satisfy both the reader and my ideal?

October 14, 2010
Click to view Awakened2's profile

Looks like everybody's wrapping up ...? I've learned so much from this roundtable and I constantly learn from reading others' stories and watching their video. Thank you all ... Jan, other CNN staff, and especially you intrepid iReport writers.

October 14, 2010
Click to view minamina7's profile

oh man!! i am really sorry I wasn't online before, I'm new here and I thought you were going to show the tips on television so I was glued to the CNN channel the whole time. :)

jancnn if you are still there please give me tips on my clip as well! :)

October 14, 2010
Click to view sunethra's profile

Hello Jancnn thank you so much for your valuable advice. Im sorry I had to go after all as I was falling asleep.  Hello Mark

October 14, 2010
Click to view larena's profile

Hi sorry I am late well I wanted to see how were mine but is too late thanks

October 14, 2010
Click to view sunethra's profile

heheheh minamina7 you were glued to the TV I was asleep on the computer, what a night it has been for both of us....

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