May 17, 2013 | Posted in:Social TV

Last week, the country celebrated the story of three Cleveland women freed after being held captive for 10 years. Gina DeJesus, Michelle Knight, and Amanda Berry were kidnapped and held in a house until Berry escaped and ran into the arms of Charles Ramsey, a neighbor who was smart enough to realize the woman were in danger and needed his help. While the news story of the girls’ release was compelling, the world and I became just as captivated with the animated hero neighbor. Ramsey has already appeared on various news shows to tell his story, and his videotaped story recap to a local reporter has  gone viral. Lets take a look.

The minute I heard Ramsey’s statement in the reporter’s piece, I burst out laughing and thought, “What a great soundbite! A reporter or producer’s dream.”

As a reporter/producer, you are always looking for the best visuals or “the money shot” as well as the best soundbite, the main words that tell the story. When your interview subject delivers those words, you’ve struck gold. What makes a good soundbite, you ask? In my opinion, a good soundbite paints a picture, captures the story, creates emotions, and leaves you thinking and talking about it way after you’ve heard it. But most of all, it’s perfect when it’s short and sweet. Charles Ramsey did all of the above in 10 seconds or less.

When Ramsey first came on camera, I looked at his unkempt face and his mention of eating McDonalds and rolled my eyes thinking once again non-colored viewers will be happy to see another uneducated black man spouting off on television. Just so you know, it’s one of my little pet peeves when I watch television and see man-on-the-street (MOS) interviews. I always look at the mix of people who reporters choose to interview, and I find that more times than not, the African-American put in front of the microphone fits a a certain stereotypical image: no teeth, speaking bad English, or uneducated. So when Ramsey blurted out that powerful soundbite in less than 10 seconds and the reporter tried to end the interview but couldn’t, I had to laugh. The soundbite caught me so off guard.

RAMSEY: I knew something was wrong when a little, pretty, white girl ran into a black man’s arms. Something is wrong here. Dead giveaway. Dead giveaway.
JOSH BOOSE: Charles, Charles, thank you very much.
RAMSEY: Dead giveaway.
BOOSE: Thank you very much for your time and…
RAMSEY: Either she’s homeless or she got problems. That’s the only reason why she ran to a black man.
Here was the element of surprise, another sign of a good soundbite. During his short time in front of the mic, Ramsey touched on race relations, America’s fear of black men in America, and helping someone in need. He even gave a shout out to McDonalds.
When reporters/producers are interviewing someone, they are listening carefully to the answers because they are looking for the perfect soundbite to help tell the story.  Sometimes it takes the subject being interviewed several hours to actually collect their thoughts and answer the question in a concise, thoughtful, and informative manner. If the subject can’t give a concise answer in a taped interview, a producer can spend several hours screening through the interview, searching for and choosing soundbites to edit together to tell the story. If the interview is done live, then all bets are off. Everything is happening in real time, and the soundbites that you get are the soundbites that you live with. So when you hear those words in a few seconds, that work is priceless.
I asked my Facebook friends to list a few other priceless soundbites. Here are a few memorable ones:



If you were the producer, would you have used Charles Ramsey’s soundbite? If you can think of any priceless soundbites, let me know and I will feature them in an upcoming post.

Photo Credit: Margarita Corporan
TV/Social Media Producer Debbie Mitchell is an Emmy nominated producer who is a member of the Producers Guild of America (PGA)  and  is currently a member of the James Beard Broadcast and New Media Awards Committee.  If you are a brand interested in blogger outreach campaigns, a blogger or personality interested in television placement follow Debbie Mitchell @SocialTVDeb or contact

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