The Importance of Video Editing in Broadcasting

The variety of editing that goes on at a broadcaster would amaze you. There are promos, documentaries, news stories, specials and more. Some projects take weeks, and some projects take hours. The technical infrastructure is imposing, but it’s also mobile. Add to that a changing landscape of viewers’ tastes, outside consultants and inside pressures. 

To get an inside look at the world of broadcast video editing, we interviewed Gregg Ginnell, former senior editor and post-production supervisor at the CBS affiliate Kiro 7 in Seattle, WA. He’s had a career spanning more than two decades and was keen to share his insights.

Meet a broadcast editor

“I worked in broadcast for a large number of years. I did a lot of documentaries. I did a lot of promotion. I didn’t do a lot of news,” relates Grinnell. “I did do news for a couple of years after leaving Kiro when I worked for Al Jazeera America. That was a completely different news experience.” When an interview opens with that breath of experience, you know that you are going to get some interesting insights into the world of video editing for broadcast.

Video editing for film, corporate and broadcast is all storytelling. But Gregg pointed out that there’s a vast difference between a “three-and-a-half minute story” and a “six-shot” news segment. While working at Kiro, the work got split up between team members who were good with quickly putting together a series of shots and moving on and those who spent days crafting a story. 

He related a story of a colleague comparing the cutting of short segments to “making sandwiches.” That kind of edit had to be put together quickly to meet deadlines. Gregg focused on pieces that involved interviews and promotional spots for the station.

Film vs broadcast editing

I asked Gregg what the biggest difference was in the mindset of an editor working on a film vs. one working in broadcasting. His reply was, “Consultants.”

I didn’t expect that answer. He explained that every 12-18 months, a consultant would be brought into the station to give their perspective on trends in broadcast and how to gain market share. Each time, there was a different person, but they were all from the same firm. Sometimes their guidance would directly contradict each other or go back and forth between recommending a trend, advising against it, and then recommending it again.

Gregg shared that the advice of one consultant was to focus on the local news talent for their promo spots. So they went out and shot footage and tied that in with graphics to create a personal connection between the talent and the audience. Eighteen months later, another consultant from the same firm came in. This person advised that they need to drop the focus on talent and emphasize the news itself. Gregg’s team went to work on the new direction and crafted a whole new set of promos. 

A year or so went by, and, you guessed it, the next consultant from the firm said to highlight the talent. At this point, Gregg’s team showed them the promo package from the prior campaign and simply asked, “Like this?” 

Running decisions through the lens of outside consultants also led to feedback around everything from how many shots should be in a story to the content of the promotional packages. This dynamic leads to a balancing act for broadcast editors between their instincts on telling a story and outside feedback based on market research. 

For instance, a story might go off for review, and the feedback would come back as “We love this story, but your shot count is too low.” Gregg recalled thinking, “Well, actually, it has just the right number of shots.” But at the end of the day, you do your best work and try to balance those competing interests. 

This is in contrast to the work that Gregg did for the broadcaster Al-Jazeera America. In his experience, they deferred to the editor to determine the dynamics of the edit, even if it meant a piece was a few seconds longer than initially planned. 

Editing three-and-a-half-minute packages that took the editor’s lead feels more like a documentary filmmaker’s approach than working in a typical newsroom. 

Grinnell made an interesting comparison between documentary and news editors, saying, “I love news editors. I can’t do their job. I’m a little too frenetic. But I know news editors who became documentary editors. I don’t know any documentary editors who became news editors.” 

It appears that once you’ve had a chance to tell long form stories, you just keep coming back for more. 

Promo Editing

Gregg spent much of his time crafting “promos.” These spots air during commercial breaks and promote the news programming of the local station. 

A lot more effort goes into editing promos than your evening news stories. This demonstrates the broad spectrum of talent that needs to be brought to the table at your local broadcaster. Some editors need to be fast. Gregg mentioned an editor who cut 62 packages in eight hours! 

On the flip side, Gregg would spend half a day dialing in the color grade for a single promo spot. The message, visuals, motion graphics and sound would all be coordinated to reinforce the brand message for that season.

That difference in editing jobs perfectly illustrates Gregg’s comparison of editing a documentary vs a last-minute promo. He went on to describe it, “If I’m working on a documentary, I’m working directly with the producer, and we’re working every day together, and we are creating it from whole cloth. And that is a completely different experience than how [if] somebody comes in and drops a script down and going, [and says] ‘we got to promote this thing and we got to do it in the next two hours.’ And those are all really different, almost different jobs.”

Learning to shoot helps you edit better

As an editor, you are always looking to grow your storytelling skills. Gregg related, “I’ve always told everybody that I didn’t become a good editor until I became a better shooter. Go out and have to shoot your own stuff, and [when] you get back into the bay, there’s no one else you can blame.” 

Many shooters who started off as editors develop strong skills as interviewers. “Where you’re sitting there listening and you go,” Gregg recounted, “Oh, my story’s changing now! There’s nothing I love more than editing in my head.” 

You can see from Gregg’s career how the disciplines of editing, shooting and interviewing all work together in the head of the filmmaker to produce a better story. It’s a good reminder that in this age of specialization, there’s still value in combining the skills of a generalist with an area of specialization. 

Working remotely

Working remotely was a shock to many industries, but post-production had already laid in place much of the infrastructure to go remote. This preparation allowed editors to remote into their AVID workstations from home and crank out edits. Google docs, Slack and Zoom provided other means for collaboration. Broadcasters all over the world also began to use advanced tools like for review/approval, tracking versions and managing assets. These tools combined to really remake the landscape of post-production. 

Gregg shared about a campaign he edited for an app that focused on the footwear market. The shooters were in NYC, the graphic designer was in Utah, motion graphics were in California, and he was editing from Seattle. With the proliferation of mobile video capture and distributed teams, we’re going to see more and more of this kind of collaboration. 

But along with the ability to work from anywhere comes the importance of security. MediaSilo helps broadcasters secure their assets with SafeStream technology. SafeStream enables visible watermarks and invisible forensic watermarking so that you can track any leaks back to their source.


Getting to know this legendary Seattle broadcast editor, Gregg Grinnell, was an honor. He has a passion for editing that is still burning strong after decades in the business. 

Grinnell’s experiences remind us that being an editor is an act of service. Sometimes, you serve a client, a consultant, or a director, but you always serve the story. 

It’s inspiring to see how even though consultants come and go and technology changes, the need for crafting compelling stories only increases. It causes us to ask ourselves, “How will I adapt to a shifting landscape? What core skills can I continue to develop that will remain relevant no matter what the future holds?” Those questions will help editors remain sharp and stay in demand in this ever-changing landscape.