I know it seems hard to believe, but before COVID, virtual news interviews via SKYPE, Facetime, Zoom or by any other platform were virtually unheard of. The networks and even local news programs avoided the temptation of a no-cost interview solution because of concerns of video and audio quality and WIFI connection reliability. Virtual interviews simple did not happen. Remote location interviews were done via satelitte truck, microwave signal via truck or portable backpack, or by broadcast facilities equipped with fiber optic lines. All three typically very reliable but the technology came with a price tag.
Then in March of 2020 everything changed. The pandemic settled in and news outlets were forced to reconsider their news gathering platforms, as the in-person, on-location news interview presented some obvious risks. I would imagine there were virtual meetings all over the world to discuss the positives and negatives of the virtual interview. Will the quality be good enough? Can we rely on internet strength. Will viewers care?
Needless to say they tried it and it worked. Sort of. Every news outlet all over the world has now accepted the virtual interview as a legitimate means of connecting viewers to newsmakers, quickly and cheaply. Oh sure we see some bad video quality here and there, some audio cut out issues, and an occasional baby or pet making an unscheduled appearance live on the air, but most have accepted these shortcomings during a global pandemic which does not seem to want to go away.
So it begs the question- will the virtual news interview stick when COVID does finally calm down? After speaking with colleagues at both the network and local news levels, the answer appears to be yes. There are multiple reasons why. As previously mentioned, the initial hesitation and fear of reliability and quality concerns have been satisfied. The quality of internet speed and home computer video and audio has greatly improved. And finally and maybe most importantly, news consumers have grown used to seeing news organizaitons do virtual interviews from home offices all over the world.
With the virtual news interview likely to stick around indefinitely, I offer these tips to any individual or organization finding themselves “in the news” with regularity:
Invest in equipment to improve quality. Buy yourself an LED light which will immediately improve your on-air look. If your computer microphone sounds very hollow and lacks clarity, you can also buy a USB based external mic which should help. Both the light and mic should not cost more than $100.
Evaluate Your Background. Are you backed up to a white wall? Is there a lot of clutter in the shot? It might be time to reconsider your home options. Maybe there is better space in your home or office which offers some character or warmth? What is referred to as depth, the space between you and the physical background, should be made as deep as possible to improve the look. No one puts baby in a corner and neither should you!
With us now approaching two years of a pandemic, there is a silver lining. Many of us “in the news” have gotten much better and much more comfortable doing virtual interviews. Keep it up as these forms of news interviews are likely to be around for a very long time.
In case you missed it here is a must see virtual interview. Don’t do this!
Rich Dubek is a two time Emmy winning TV News Reporter who owns and operates the Dubek Media Group based in Tempe, Arizona. The firm specializes in media and on-camera training and full service video production. www.dubekmediagroup.com