(Sound)Bite me

When people want to prove what a media insider, they drop the “sound bite” lingo on you. Call it what you will, a sound bite, a head bite, a talking head, a SOT or whatever – the goal should be the same: To elicit something that is NOT who, what, when, or where. talking_head

I watch people struggle with this all the time in my new line of work: Bringing media to the masses.

But I also see today’s professional television types still producing meaningless sound bites for their broadcast TV news shows. KING and KOMO are, still, two of the most highly respected local TV news operations in the country. But they also still fall into the same traps their brethren in Yakima or Glendive, Montana do when it comes to sound bites: Airing what should part of a reporterís notes – not something suitable to advance the story.

The most common offense comes during something the newsies call vo/sots. What in hell is a vo/sot you ask? It’s an anchor reading under video, which then wipes (nowadays) into a sound bite. These are little anchor packages, but the sound bite part is often a throwaway not worth airing.

Why do they air then? That requires a long explanation involving how producers have been brainwashed into misinterpreting content issues, and the logistics of building a newscast where time is needed to move anchors from one place to another.

The bottom line though is that any sound bites in your video production, be they news, commercial, institutional, corporate, governmental or whatever – need to advance the story and add emotion to factual points that the host, narrator or anchor delivers.

Otherwise, they’re just blobs of bad TV that nobody would choose to watch if they stood alone. That’s the test. Would you watch that sound bite if it were the program? Is your sound slowing the pace of your production, or enhancing it because of the emotion, analysis or insight it delivers?

Don’t even talk to me about the sound bites you feel you “have” to include because your executives or managers feel they have to be in the production. It is YOUR responsibility to coach them into saying something compelling and explaining to them that their lame corporate-speak isn’t going to fly.