BDJ alumnus to students: 'Don't be a garden gnome'

By Jordan Muller

February 3, 2017

Joe Little G’99, a broadcast and digital journalism (BDJ) alumnus and Emmy-award winning television news reporter for ABC affiliate 10News in San Diego, said the best advice he can give broadcast journalists is “not to be garden gnomes.”

Little shared tips on stand-up reporting and the future of multimedia journalism on Feb. 2 in the Joyce Hergenhan Auditorium in Newhouse 3. His main advice to broadcast journalists—acknowledge your surroundings. 

Photo of Joe Little on stage

During his talk, Little critiqued clips of broadcasters who reported in flooded streets, snowstorms and sports events without talking about the events in the background.

“I call guys who just stand there ‘garden gnomes,’” Little said. “They don’t talk about the world around them.”

Instead, Little said his favorite multimedia journalists describe the events that are happening behind them and make use of their environment to find interesting shots. Once, while reporting about a construction site, Little placed his camera inside a pipe to film part of the story.

Little added that he often ignores the advice of his camera crew when they tell him not to walk through shadows or close to a noisy highway. 

“It’s the story that matters, not the lighting or the sound,” Little said.

Little writes and films many of his stories on his own. As a multimedia journalist, he uses editing tricks and graphics to enhance his reporting. In his favorite effect, which Little called the “Omnipresent Joe,” Little uses clever editing to make it appear as if he is talking to himself or standing in multiple places at once.

There’s no rule that says all reporting has to be above-the-waist headshots, Little said. He urges journalists to forget traditional broadcasting rules and find original ways to report their stories.

Little said he has not used a traditional stick microphone since 2013. Lavaliers—small microphones that clip to a person’s collar—allow a greater range of movement and make Little’s reporting appear more conversational.

After completing a master’s degree at the Newhouse School in 1999, Little took various reporting and anchoring roles on the East Coast. He worked four miles away from where United Flight 93 crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001, and was among the first reporters to arrive on the scene.

Jordan Muller is a freshman newspaper and online journalism major at the Newhouse School.

Photos by Rachel Kline, a junior photography major at the Newhouse School.

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