News packages are short documentary pieces that are used in broadcast newscasts.
A Cohesive Program
Broadcast news relies on bringing together a few different elements into one solid newscast. The anchor brings the entire program together, which is the inspiration for the name.
The bulk of the content that is not read by this person is in the form of what are called news packages. These are brief video pieces that are separated from the flow of the rest of the news segments. Though these often seem complicated when seen on national news programs, they are relatively simple to construct.
The content in a news package is actually very similar to a very short news blurb. First, you go out and investigate the story, using the camera for all information gathering. Once you have found the basic facts, you are going to need to use them to construct the flow of the package. To do this, you first need to get your interviews. These are going to be much different from those done in documentary form. Here you often place the subject closer to the background than normal, and lighting does not have to be as formal. You ask them very basic questions about the subject, which they either may be an expert or an actor in.
From here, you then get a number of shots of locations that are related to the story and objects that may help convey the message. In the midst of this footage gathering, you begin writing the voice over, often called simply the VO. You are going to lay this over all of the video and is the primary area by which you convey the facts of the story. You go ahead and get as much stock or promotional footage as you can that will be related to the story, and most large organizations will offer this openly.
Putting it All Together
This sounds more complicated than it actually is in a practical situation, where the entire process is usually done in a single day. For example, if there is a story about a drug recall, you have a few different things to do. First, you need to get as much governmental information as possible as well as information from the company selling the drugs. If you can, you will do quick interviews with both representatives from the FDA and the company.
Then you will get footage of the drug being manufactured from the company. You will go ahead and get your own location footage of places, such as the company’s headquarters and pharmacies where it might be sold. The additional interviews should be things like users of the drug who may be worried or drug store owners that are going to be financially affected.
Now, you will finish a voice over that tells the story similar to a news feature, giving audio blank spots for interview clips. Once the VO is recorded, go ahead and edit them all together into a few minute spot. The video is then given to the producer of the live news program and then is run during the live news cast.
There are places to have some ingenuity, but news packages are not known for their creativity. You can have a reporter who is seen during the package, such as at the end recapping the information. This is not always necessary and is almost never used in shorter packages. This is usually only done if the reporter is already well known, or if it is a longer piece used in news magazine programs like 60 Minutes or 20/20.
For the most part, you are trying to give the most amount of information with visuals that will accent the information and keep the audience interested.