6 min read

How to Livestream News

Narrating the Livestream
How to Livestream News

Narrating the Livestream

Once you’re on-air, you want to keep your viewers’ attention. To do this, you need to navigate the quiet spots in between the action you’re covering. For example, when you are livestreaming a protest, there are bound to be times when the visuals aren’t as interesting, such as when protesters are waiting for a march to start or an activist to speak.

Journalists with a large following are able to deal with these gaps by simply ending the livestream and picking it back up again when the action gets interesting. But if you’re still building an audience, you don’t want to lose viewers by ending the stream, so you should fill this time by giving them the context of the story.

If it’s interesting, you won’t lose the viewers. If you’re live without a reason, you’d lose them anyway…The audience is different than the audience for TV or newspapers. If they get bored, you lose them. — Liana Spyropoulou, Professional Journalist and Livestreamer from Greece

At the beginning of your livestream and in these gaps in the action, you should repeat the 5W’s: who you are, who your character is (name, age, and occupation), where you are (geographically and physically), when the event happened or whether it’s still happening, why you’re filming it, and what you are trying to achieve (in other words, your journalistic mission).

Storyhunter journalist Evgenia Choros does a great job of repeating the 5W’s every five to ten minutes in this livestream from the Athens Pride Parade on June 10.
In the news category people need context. Repeat yourself. People jump in late. Keep them engaged and give them information they need to know. Every three to five minutes you need to remind people what you are doing. Acknowledge their presence. Break the fourth wall and don’t pretend you’re lecturing.—Evan Hansen, Editor-in-Chief at Periscope

When you’re talking about yourself and the situation, remember to turn the camera towards your face. Otherwise, your camera should point out at the scene and your characters. The 5W’s should be repeated every five to ten minutes.

People may be joining at different points in time, so continually updating the live narration with new information and context to what is happening is key.— Lakshmi Sarah, Digital Producer at Fusion Media

When you’re not facing the camera, describe what’s happening in the scene you’re filming. Narrate from behind the shot and tell your viewers what they are looking at. For example, when Storyhunter journalist Leonardo Blecher was livestreaming protests in Sao Paulo, Brazil, he explained the protesters signs — what was written on them, what the protesters were chanting along with them, and their translations. Explaining what’s happening also applies to you and what you are doing, such as letting your viewers know that you are about to approach someone to ask if you can interview them.

Storyhunter journalist Leonardo Blecher livestreamed protests in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Describing the situation around you and giving context to it doesn’t mean that you should be giving your own opinion or personal point of view. As a professional journalist, you should be trying to interview people on both sides of an issue and present a rounded, unbiased story as much as possible. While livestreaming, it can be a little harder to do this as you only have the people around you available for interviews, but you should at least be trying to explain what the other side has said in the media.

Fusion is a media organization and we want our livestreamers to be as journalistic and objective as possible. We don’t want someone going live for us from the Dakota Access Pipeline and saying “water is life” on camera. Not that we don’t agree with that in our free time, but we want someone at the live event to be someone who is a tour guide and not someone who shapes the editorial. We want someone who is just eyes on the ground. Essentially we ask them to just tell us what is going on, not what they think about what is going on.— Japhet Weeks, Executive Producer of News Video at Fusion Media

You can also let your personality shine through in the stream. Leonardo, for example, tried to brighten up the broadcast by pointing out the beer and BBQ carts amidst the protesters and compared it to a festival.

Handling Unplanned Interviews

If you’re interviewing strangers on the street during a livestream versus a planned interview where you know who the person is that you’re interviewing, you need to follow a few ground rules. As with any news interview, ask your subject to state their name, profession, and why they are at the event you’re streaming. You can ask them for their opinion and what they expect or hope will happen, but don’t let them sidetrack you into talking about unnecessary details or something that doesn’t pertain to what you’re covering.

When you are live, you essentially have to be editing on the fly, so [you need to be] able to find someone, start talking to them, and realize that if the conversation is not interesting and not capturing the audience’s attention, you have to say “Thank you very much” and move on. — Japhet Weeks

There are many reasons to cut off an interview during a livestream, such as your subject getting upset, cursing, providing false information, acting drunk, or misrepresenting the situation. If you need to cut off an interview prematurely, you can and should thank them and walk away. Basically, you need to stay focused and end the interview (or livestream in extreme cases) if things start to go sour.

Another issue that you might run into with unplanned man-on-the-street interviews is that they only speak the local language and your livestream is in English (or a different language than theirs). In these cases, you should let them speak first and then you should translate what they said — just make sure your mic is close to each of you when speaking. If you feel uncomfortable translating while live, you may want to consider bringing a translator along with you on the assignment.

Interacting with Viewers

One of the most important things to keep in mind when livestreaming is that there will probably be troll comments and you have to be careful when engaging with them. Don’t read ignorant or irrelevant comments out loud and don’t engage people in conversations that could get out of control.

Don’t let the comment community bring you down. Don’t get distracted by the trolls. Respond to trolls, but don’t let it show it’s annoying you. Stick with your main theme, but jump out every once in awhile to discipline people. Ignore it or make fun of it, but don’t let it bother you. Don’t ignore it totally or it will get out of control. Maintain some control of the commenters. — Evan Hanson

If the comments do get out of control, there’s always the nuclear option: disable them.

I was in a refugee camp and people were totally against the refugees and migrants and I don’t like nasty comments about these people. So I disabled the comments. — Liana Spyropoulou

However, for intelligent comments that engage with the topic you’re streaming, you should engage with your viewers as much as possible. Respond to your viewers comments and questions as they pop up on the livestream. If you can, it’s good to repeat their question and then respond as other viewers might not have seen the comment before it disappeared. Livestreaming narration is really about listening to your viewers and answering back rather than simply talking or lecturing.

Responding to questions and comments on the stream can be good — engage with the audience as long as they are relevant and topical. — Lakshmi Sarah

Plus, you can ask your viewers questions as well. Or if they are asking you to do something or go somewhere that you can’t, explain why. For example, Storyhunter journalist Carlos P. Beltran livestreamed protests in Venezuela and interviewed the Green Helmets, a group of medical volunteers helping injured protesters. Some viewers asked him to go stream the front lines of the protests, but he explained that the Green Helmets wouldn’t allow him to go without a gas mask.

Storyhunter journalist Carlos P. Beltran livestreamed protests in Caracas, Venezuela.

Signing Off

When you’re ready to end the broadcast, give a quick final report of what happened. Retell the basics of the story and describe what the viewers saw and heard. Then repeat your name, who you are, who you’re streaming with, and let people know you’re ending the stream.

Interested in receiving paid livestreaming opportunities? Learn more about becoming a mobile journalist on Storyhunter.

By D. Simone Kovacs, Storyhunter Editor