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Mine Rescue: There’s Power in Simply Saying Nothing

No Narration Needed. Photo: Reuters

As a reporter, I've written and re-written scripts in livetrucks, on planes, in coffee shops and police stations.  I've agonized over ways to tell the story without overtelling it--and I'm not going to lie:  I've done a lot of pre-liveshot pacing, rehearsing what I'd say in my precious ten second intro, and just where I'd hit the stress, just where I'd lean in and give you that telling nod.

But here's the thing about getting it right with words:  sometimes you just don't need any. None.

One of my biggest pet peeves in all of broadcast journalism is the reporter who feels compelled to tell me what anyone can see perfectly well with their own eyes, thanks:  a woman crying?  You don't need to tell me "outside the emergency room tonight, a woman cries, overwhelmed with emotion."  For God's sake, instead of letting the honest emotion simply be there--and letting me feel it as any human being would, you talk over it, reduce it, and take me out of the moment.  Oh, she's upset!  Thanks, reporter, now I get it!

And that's what happened in Chile.  After hours of pre-game set up, most people around the world were pretty clear on what was about to happen.  We knew the families were waiting, and that the miners had been underground for a very long time.  We all were able to do this basic math all by ourselves:  there may be an emotional moment when family and miner are reunited.

I don't know about you, but the most powerful examples of the emotion present in this perfectly human event--a reunion--was from live, raw feeds.  Nothing but natural sound of generators, claps, cries, and big strong men trying not to bawl.  In the last day or so, I've re-watched a lot of those moments with the addition of a reporter's live narration.  Didn't help, and in fact, I think it hurt.  Oh, that's his daughter?  I sorta figured.  Oh, she's probably really anxious to see her Dad? I can see that.  Makes sense.  Now I'm thinking how much I really wish you weren't the reporter on this story, instead of just being amazingly, completely, riveted to the story itself.

For me, the worst of it was talking over the obvious emotion, telling me that I'm seeing emotion, and giving me a little play by play.  "Wow, what an emotional scene here for this miner, back on the ground, back in his family's arms..."

It took the punch out of a story that told itself, and quite brilliantly, without any help.  And it's a good reminder that in the stories we cover in small towns and far away lands, when you're blessed with a story that's just overflowing with intense emotion:  have the guts to stand back, shut up, and let it be.

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