Riding the elephant

The phrase “Don’t ride the elephant” may not mean a lot to the normal person, but it carries heavy meaning to a reporter. The phrase means to not get involved in the story to the point where you (the reporter) become the spectacle. A reporter’s job is to tell the story. That’s it. It sounds simple, right? Yet reporters still fall into this trap.

Because my hometown is Chicago, I sometimes tune into the news I would normally watch at home, ABC7 Chicago. One of the sports reporters there is Ryan Chiaverini.

Overall, he is a relatively decent reporter/anchor, but I much prefer Mark Giangreco to Chiaverini.

In one of Chiaverini’s stories, he covered the BMX Dew Tour at Soldier Field in Chicago. The story was well put together except for the very end. Chiaverini chose to “ride the elephant.” With the camera rolling he tried to ride one of the bikes. He rode about 10 feet and then tried to do a get some lift under the front wheel. Chiaverini then yelled “Wooo!” like he was doing really well. His attempted wheelie caused him to lose his balance and fall to the ground. From my point of view sitting on the couch, it looked like he hit his shoulder pretty hard, but he got up and seemed okay. It wasn’t live or anything, so it could have been taken out of the story. Why he chose to include it, I have no idea.

The bottom line is he looked ridiculous. I don’t remember anything about the story other than that, and my view of Ryan Chiaverini has now changed forever. The reporter chose to make the story about himself, rather than the actual event.

My broadcast teacher has referred to this mistake multiple times in class to remind us that the focus of the story is the story, not the reporter. Chiaverini’s example just reaffirmed this lesson for why the reporter can’t, and shouldn’t, become the central character in a story.

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