A Plea To Facebook Live Producers: Don’t Be TV

Steve Mullis
Apr 28, 2016 · 3 min read
Quiet on the set!

Look, I get it. Facebook Live is the new fancy toy we’ve all just been handed to play with. It’s shiny, it’s somewhat novel and there is the promise of almighty dollars on the horizon. But before you throw all of your resources at this thing that we’re letting Facebook tell us is the next big wave (even though live streaming has been around for years), can we just pump the brakes and talk a little?

My biggest concern — and it’s something I’m already seeing insidious hints of — is media organizations whose primary medium is not TV, modeling their live streams after TV. Please don’t. Don’t do multiple HD camera angles, don’t bring in clips and soundbytes, don’t construct a studio and don’t build graphics packages and chyrons. We have that already. It’s TV news and at times it is awful.

The beauty of live streaming is that it is raw, often unpredictable and can take the audience places where they otherwise might not get the chance to go; it can put them in the middle of a situation we never imagined we could be in — LIVE! Streaming doesn’t need to just be two people talking in a room. We get that 24/7 on multiple channels. And yes, technical quality can be important, but interesting content shot with a phone will trump an HD stream of a couch any day.

Facebook Live (and other streaming services) gives media organizations a great opportunity to do what they do best and show it off in a raw, unedited and unscripted format. It’s a way to connect with and interact with an audience in novel ways that Twitch streamers and Periscope stars (and to an extent, Snapchat) have been doing for quite a while. We laugh at Buzzfeed’s exploding watermelon, but that shit was riveting. And it was exactly their style and not trying to be something they weren’t — TV news.

Now does that mean everyone should start exploding gourds or having slinky races? No, of course not. There are plenty of other fruits and vegetables out there that need exploding, obviously. But every organization also has things they are strong at and things their audience wants to see from them, and they should play to those strengths. I’m willing to bet that becoming TV isn’t one of them, so any attempts to do so will be awkward and forced. So don’t do it.

What would I want to see? How about National Geographic taking us along on a photo trip? Or The New Yorker could let us watch one of their famed covers being crafted. Science Magazine should take us to a wicked cool lab or research facility somewhere. Put me in the media scrum at a Trump rally. We should duck backstage with music writers or be on the sidelines with sports writers and photographers. Get us out of our offices and show us something amazing. Now the logistics of all of this might be troublesome, but that’s for us to figure out. We’re smart people, I think we can do it.

But before that, again, I urge you. I’m pleading with you. I’m begging you. Be interesting. Be yourself. Be awesome. Just don’t be TV. We’ve got enough of it already.


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Steve Mullis

WEB JUNKIE. JOURNALIST. CRITIC. MAVEN. BLABBERMOUTH. Digital news editor in D.C. @NPR.

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