Dress in layers.

The colder it is, the more layers you should wear. This allows you to keep warm and take off layers if you overheat.

First layer:
– Long underwear aka long johns. Yes, you need a pair or two. Get silk-weight tops and bottoms if you don’t want bulk, but it costs more $$. If not, get thermal or mid-weight tops and bottoms. These are made of materials that wick moisture away from the body so that you stay warm. Cotton is not a smart option as it retains moisture and you will feel clammy and cold.

Second layer:
– Also called mid-layer. Wear polar-tech, flannel or fleece or wool. You especially want to keep your core (torso) warm. Do not wear cotton. Forget sweatshirts.

Third layer:
– Down or synthetic sweater or vest. (Only when the wind chill brings the real-feel temperature to the single digits or less.)

Outer layer:
– A good with insulation and a waterproof shell. Primaloft or other synthetic materials are good. Get one that has a high loft (more than 60 grams of insulation). Down is good as long as it has a waterproof shell or has been treated. If it is not, rain or snow will be absorbed by the down feathers and you will freeze.

– Fingers: Get the warmest pair of gloves you can afford. Or get a pair of liners and wear mittens over them. When I’m used to report in freezing temps, I always wore glove liners with hand warmers and put mittens over them when I wasn’t taking notes.
– Feet: Invest in a couple of pairs of heavy-weight, wool-blend knee-high socks.
– Face: I have a balaclava and wear it often. It will cover your face when the wind is blustery.
– Head: A warm hat made of wool, wool blend, or fleece with an waterproof outer layer. Most of your body’s heat escapes from your head. A hood is OK but can obstruct your peripheral view and it’s best if you have the ability to see what’s around you so no one sneaks up on you, especially when you are out reporting in neighborhoods you are unfamiliar with.

– Buy waterproof, insulated snow boots. Uggs will not keep you warm, especially once it gets wet. You will need the insulation. Wearing two pairs of socks will not do the trick and will actually make your toes feel frost-bitten because your toes need wiggle room to keep your blood circulating.

-Ice cleats: Invest in a pair of Yaktrax, Stabilicers or other type of ice cleats. (About $20) You want to put them over your shoes or boots so that you do not fall on the ice. Every year, we have several students and professors who slip on the pavement and break and arm or leg or worse.

Other stuff worth noting: Vaseline is a good skin protectant. If you are heading out into blustery weather for long periods to do interviews, put it on exposed parts of your face. If you are going to be doing stand-up interviews, do not put it on as it will mess up your makeup.

Taking notes in the cold:
– Keep pencils with you because the ink in pens freeze. There is nothing worse than getting that great on-the-street interview and being unable to take notes. Even worse, a frozen pen might leak all over your nice clothes. Keep them in a plastic bag and use only when it’s above 32 degrees. The Fisher Space Pen has ink that doesn’t freeze. It also writes upside down. I’ve been using them for years. Great investment and they’re now a lot cheaper.

Equipment doesn’t like cold weather:

– Do not store equipment in the cold or leave it in your car. It will likely malfunction if you do. If your videocamera or other equipment doesn’t work or indicates you have no battery power and you know it does, shut if off and restart it. If it’s still not working, try switching out the batteries. (Some types of batteries drain quickly in the cold.)

– Shoot short clips. You are less likely to have loose footage if you are shooting shorter clips of about five- to ten-minutes.


There is a lot of confusion and misinformation regarding what a journalist can videotape. That’s because state and federal laws overlap and for every rule there are exceptions.

Here, I give a quick guide.

Public spaces

You can record video or take photos in any public place. This includes parks, sidewalks and streets. If you are recording an event, rally or protest, police are violating federal law by asking you to stop recording.


Don’t interfere with police work.

You cannot be in a place that “interferes” with police work. This is a tricky one because, seemingly, an officer might think you are committing obstruction or say that you are when you are not. Be smart. If it a chaotic situation, and emotions are running high, back up if an officer tell you. This is not legal advice; this is pragmatism. You do not want a cop to rough you up or arrest you. (It shouldn’t happen, but it does, so do not escalate by arguing.) If an officer tells you to move, back up a bit. Identify yourself as a member of the press. Tell the officer that you are not interfering and that you are a working journalist doing your job.

Recording restrictions

If the cop brings up state recording restrictions, tell him that you have the legal right to record any on-duty officer. It has to be done openly, not secretively. See: http://www.dmlp.org/sites/citmedialaw.org/files/10-1764P-01A.pdf These 12 states forbid the recording of private conversations without the consent of all parties to that conversation: California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Washington. See: http://www.rcfp.org/reporters-recording-guide/tape-recording-laws-glance Among these states, the Massachusetts statute is the most restrictive: https://malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartIV/TitleI/Chapter272/Section99 This applies ONLY to audio. It does not apply to photos. It only applies to the audio portion of a video and only if it is done surreptitiously. Again, the above audio recording restrictions do not apply to recording public events on public land. It also has zero bearing on videotaping police in the line of work.


An officer cannot confiscate your mobile phone. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that doing so is a violation of the Fourth Amendment. Law enforcement officers need a warrant.

If a cop ask you to identify yourself…

If a cop asks you to identify yourself, you do not have to. In 24 states, police can require you to identify yourself if they have reasonable suspicion that you’re involved in criminal activity. If the officer persists, it’s your call. If you want to exert your rights, do so in a respectful manner. Use “sir/madam” or “officer” when addressing the cop, and tell them that you are sure that you are not required to do so by law.

If an officer detains you…

If an officer detains you, ask why you are being detained, get the officer’s name. (If it is state or city police, they will have a nameplate on their chest. Make a mental note of the cop’s last name.) Again, do so in a respectful manner. Some cops get riled easily, especially if they think you are undermining their authority. You can find a lot more information here: http://www.rcfp.org/rcfp/orders/docs/RECORDING.pdf The Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press has a nifty app that is loaded with helpful information about your legal rights.  It’s available for both iOS and Android devices. You can get it here: http://www.rcfp.org/app


Professional videographer, editor and media production professor David Burns offers tips for shooting video sequences gleaned from his ten years as a judge for the News and Documentary Emmy Awards. Burns is a professor at Salisbury University and also teaches electronic journalism workshops around the world most recently in the Middle East and Eastern Europe. The International Center for Journalists made this video possible.


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