I still remember being in my first TV news meeting, way back when I was a sophomore in college. Our group would gather every morning in the TV studio to talk about the projects we would be doing together.
In that first meeting, I spoke about my plans.
“The baseball team is going to open its new stadium soon,” I began, full of momentum. “Right now they are playing in an area way out in the industrial complex of the city. It looks really bleak out there, compared to the new stadium. So we’re going to go film out there and –”
“You are going to do WHAT?” my professor suddenly said. My heart jumped into my throat.
“…huh?” I asked meekly.
“What was that word you used? That F word?”
My professor brought over our video camera. “Do you see any film in there?” he asked calmly.
“So you’re not going to be filming anything, are you?”
From that day on, I never used the word again, when I was shooting or recording video.
That was my first lesson in using the right vocabulary in my career as a visual media producer. It may seem silly to pick and choose the right words, but I learned that the way you talk about your job has a great effect on your understanding of it, and how you are perceived by your peers. You need to be able to talk the talk. Like my professor would always say, if you want a drink in the TV Engineer’s Bar, you need to sound like you know what you’re talking about.
And it’s not just about respect, it’s about doing your job correctly. If you are a TV producer, and you refer to a VO as a package, no one is going to trust you to stack a show correctly. Even if you understand it in your own mind, the way you talk about it will project confidence to your employer and your co-workers.
So let’s start using the correct terms, and eliminate the wrong ones.
The following are some of the most common mistakes I hear from young broadcasters. Cut these things out, and you are a step closer to gaining the trust and respect of your TV co-workers.
- “Film” – Unless you are Martin Scorsese shooting an actual movie, you are not “filming” anything. You also don’t “tape” anything anymore (very few cameras still use tapes). Instead, you “shoot,” or “record.”
- “Episode” – You watch an episode of Friends on Netflix. You don’t watch an “episode” of TV news. It’s a “newscast.”
- “Teaser” – drop the ‘r.’ It’s just called a “tease.”
- Confusing the terms “Package,” “VO,” and “VOSOT” – These are three very different things, so don’t call one by the other’s name. A VO is a VoiceOver; a video that plays while an anchor narrates. A VOSOT is similar to a VO, but includes a soundbite from an interview subject (“SOT” referring to Soundbite On Tape”). And as we’ve previously covered on this site, a package is a self-contained video element that includes soundbites, b-roll, reporter voice and natural sound to tell a complete story.
- “Outro” – Just call it a tag.
- “Cameraman” – an outdated term. People who use cameras are “photojournalists,” “photogs,” or “shooters.”
- “Anchorman” – Seriously, Ron Burgundy? We call them “anchors” in the business.
- “Weatherman” – Let’s just leave the 70s behind, OK? They are meteorologists or weathercasters.
Got any other annoying phrases broadcasters should avoid? Leave them in the comments!