Video Content Guidelines

The idea behind video storytelling parallels photojournalism: We are attempting to use images and natural sound to tell a visual story. A good video should tell a story with a beginning, middle and end. When approached with an idea for video, the key question to always ask is; why would someone want to watch this video?

As the gatekeepers of video assignments, you will need to be very critical of every story proposal that comes across your desk. Below is a list of criteria that every video assignment should strive to meet. If it doesn't, then it should not be assigned.

1. Process/Movement - Does the story have movement in it? Is it a person doing something? Is there a process to capture? Rarely are sit-down interviews — by themselves — interesting to watch. We need the subject of the video doing something that pertains to the story. An exception would be an interview with someone well known or high profile such as Barack Obama.

2. Visual — Is the story visual? Where does it take place? If a writer is doing a story about a community protesting a proposed power plant, shooting a video of a subject in their house talking about it won't work.

3. Character — Is there a main character in the story that can be followed and used to help tell a larger story? We strive to tell stories in a character-driven manner with the idea that viewers can relate to a person rather than an idea or theme.

4. Story Arc — Is there a story that can be visually told with a beginning, middle and an end? Is there a character with a conflict that will be resolved?

5. Access — Can the videographer physically get close to the character or subject? For example, if you're doing a story about a sushi chef but you can't get behind the counter to shoot the process, it won't work in video. It takes time — and lots of angles — to get a full story in video. If we can't get access to an event, a video talking about the event will not work.

6. Time — We are not covering breaking news. It takes time to prepare for a video shoot, find and follow a good character, conduct interviews and edit the final story. Lead-time is critical to producing a compelling story. A typical short video takes a few weeks to plan and about a week to shoot and edit. In-depth pieces can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months. That said, with enough pre-planning it's possible to deliver a web video in a few hours.

7. Authenticity — Video's greatest asset is its ability to bring the viewer into a story: to show what is happening, and when, why and how it happens. By letting characters speak for themselves, video allows them to connect directly with the viewer. Assume your viewers are intelligent, insightful and critical. They know what's real and what isn't, so be honest with them.

Adapted from the Los Angeles Times Video Story Criteria,, and the Boston University Productions Office Producer's Manual.