Advanced Video Camera and Editing

The Focus

You should be able to summarise every news story into a single sentence that answers Who, What, Where, When, Why and How? Although the news tells us what happened, the Focus answers what the story is really about. For instance, a house burned down and no lives were lost might be the news, but does the story have a point? Could it be that a family lost house, but not their determination? For another story the news might be - Olympic archer returns to old middle school to teach kids the skill of archery. But the story might really be about how archery helps kids find self-confidence. The focus gets to the heart of the story. You need to ask, What makes the story memorable? What surprises you? Remember, a story isn't just stringing a bunch of facts together; it must be relevant to your audience.

Therefore, before you start your production, you need to decide on a focus. To know the focus, you must first have a reason to do the story. It must mean something to somebody. Ask the following questions:

  • Will anyone care? If the answer is No, then re-think.
  • Is the story relevant to people's lives? To their family, friends, neighbours? To their income, their quality of life, their health?
  • Will the subject help people or cause them harm? Will it make them angry, sad or happy? 

But you won't come up with a strong focus until you've researched the topic, and that includes chatting with potential expert sources. Only then will you be able to know what angle to take, and then decide on a focus statement. The focus could change as you collect more information. Writing focus statements can even give you the story lede, or even a closing line. You should keep the focus statement short. Many focus statements are just a single sentence, and some use a maximum of six words.

The Focus says something along the lines of.... Someone is doing something because....

Are there characters?

Good reporting includes people to whom the viewer can easily identify. We're not talking about the company representatives or experts, but real people like those around you. People who speak with a passion, who add human drama to the mix. Without people, your story can feel lifeless. Therefore, along with the focus, consider the main characters in your story. What characters are crucial? Are you telling the story from their point-of-view? Knowing the characters also helps you write a focus statement. There can be many focus statements for a story, but the focus needs to be supported by facts. The focus helps you narrow the research. But if you find that the research doesn't support your focus, then you need to re-think according to the facts of the story.


Planning a story requires that you first explore the topic in depth. Start with some online research, learning as much as you can from various perspectives. Gather the essential and interesting facts, and then pare them down to what is needed to support your focus. Otherwise, you risk telling a story that feels like it's wandering all over the map.

The focus keeps your story from wandering all over the map.

Find out who the key players are and make arrangements to talk with them. Do a “pre-interview” with potential sources, which will help you narrow down the angle and, also, determine who would make a good on-camera interview. Consider how you can use real-life situations to illustrate the story.

Remember, as you cultivate sources, make sure that they are credible. Are they providing information that is accurate and reliable?

Never believe anything until you can verify the information.

Find another source who can confirm the information. And don't forget to find sources that add some diversity to the story.

Learn more about writing focus statements in the video below. Produced by Plug(ged) In English