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Learn from BBC news

On Wednesday 28 October, an explosion in a crowded market in Peshawar in Pakistan killed over 90 people and injured more. BBC journalist Orla Guerin reported the story, and below is what I observed and learned from this video clip.

  1. The warning text at the beginning served two purposes: one was to alert people about coming “graphic images”, and the other  was to, most probably unintentionally, lure people to keep on watching. It is human’s nature to be curious about uncommon phenomena.
  2. The journalist didn’t waste words on elaborating the images. Images themselves told the story, such as ruins, smoke, flames, injured people, shouting, running, and so on.
    The first line “Chaos and carnage returned to Peshawa, shops ablaze and lives destroyed.” set the best footage for the chaotic scene. The journalist didn’t describe what was there in the images; instead, she provided information that images couldn’t tell, e.g. location of the explosion, a burning shop that had already been ruined.
  3. Sentences were loosely connected. That pause left time for images and sound that dragged audiences into the story by providing on-site experiences.
  4. “Locals tried to find survivors, then this.”–destroyed buildings collapsed. This was the power of images. In newspaper, all you could say was “As locals tried to find survivors, destroyed buildings suddenly collapsed, roaring dust chasing people who sprinted for lives.” Well, newspaper journalists undoubtedly could tell the scene a thousand times better than I did, but they still couldn’t defeat the live images. This was  a big moment. Lucky for the journalist, though disastrous for the suffering people.
  5. When it came to Hillary’s press conference, it was obviously post-production work. Even the size of the images were different. I guess Hillary’s images were from news agencies.
  6. No interviews. People were busying saving lives. The journalist could have someone before the camera to express their sadness and anger, but that would be inappropriate. Maybe she did, maybe not. I don’t know. This was an issue of ethics.
  7. Piece-to-camera on the top of a fire truck. That’s the privilege you get when you work for an influential media organization.
  8. Altogether there were about 18 shots. They came in various formats: fixed camera images (11, symbolised with – ), tilt down(2, + ), pan(2, & ), and track (3, * ). These different formats, together with various time allocated for every shot, provided a comfortable watching experience. Using above stated symbols, the clip was presented in the following way: – – – + – & * – – + & – – * * – – –
  9. Hillary’s soundbite was 15 seconds long, and the journalist’s ptc 20 seconds. Typical standard.
  10. The journalist used plain words, even for verbs. Except for “shops ablaze and lives destroyed” in the first line and “then this” before the collapse took place, there were not many “listening-to-me” words, as Wynford said in his book English for journalists. The journalist did say “coffins were rushed in…” but the images didn’t show that. Check for yourselves. There were places that could be improved. For example, “A rickshaw brought this man to hospital.” In fact, the rickshaw left the second when the man got off, which showed how urgent things were going on out there.

This is a great piece. There are so much for me to learn. I need time to watch news, but I need more time to study them in order to learn better.

God, please give me more time.

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