Sound gets overlooked a lot in television. I get why it happens - TV is a primarily visual medium and people spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars on large TVs with high picture quality. So "yes" make sure the camera is level, the shot is white-balanced, and the back-focus hasn't slipped. A lot can also be said about shot composition, lighting, framing, angles, but I have found the best sounds can produce great visuals. Shooting with your ears a great technique that can take a story to another level, and it's pretty simple.
When you're on-scene, covering a story take a moment to listen.
What do you hear? A jack-hammer or beeping from construction? The "whoosh" or "splash" of cars driving through a puddle? Drumming at a rally? The "crunch" of your shoes on the gravel you're walking on? The "squeak" or "scrape" of your subject's wheelchair or walker?
Those are all great, active visuals! Go shoot them (and get the audio too)!! The audio can be used as nat-pops during the story or even, if it's compelling enough, be used to drive the piece. Think about it, life doesn't happen in a vacuum, and out of the five senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch) only two (seeing and hearing) are used in TV.
A couple tips to keep in mind:
1. Get clean audio of the sound if possible. Take some time to put the mic next to the sound-source; that way it won't get lost as background noise.
2. Don't just start or end the audio with the video clip. This is a tip that can be used for sound-bites and b-roll as well. It's really jarring for the viewer when this happens and it makes the piece feel sloppy. At least five-10 frames on either side of the audio clip should do. One photographer described it as the "restaurant method" - when someone drops a plate in a restaurant you hear the sound first and then you look. If the great sound is tied to one visual moment (for example: an explosion, or crowd erupting at the winning goal) don't cut out the visual, use a little background noise leading into it.
Some words of caution. Don't put nat-pops just to have nat-pops in a piece. Any sound needs to fit and make sense with the story and help move it along. I have seen too many stories with a nat-pop that just ruins the flow of a piece. Maybe the reporter was told to have more nat-sound and he/she just throws it in. Write to it and let the viewer know why it's being used.
The same warning can apply to nat-sound (nat-pops being a quick moment; like the "crack" of a base-ball bat and nat-sound being a bit longer; like music or drumming). There was one really well-shot, well-written piece I saw about moving a professional sports team to another city. The story started off with a panhandler playing the drums. The reporter tried to write to it saying something to the effect of "each city has a rhythm" and the sports team was a part of that rhythm. It didn't work, because it didn't really fit. If the panhandler had been playing outside the stadium and he relied on donations from fans during games maybe it would have worked. The photographer later told me he and the reporter were looking for a "different" way to start the story and when they were near a park they heard the guy drumming and thought that would work. Good "shooting with the ears" just not the right location. Still it was a good try.
I recommend this technique because it can be used in just about any piece. When done well it can make a story interesting, memorable, and even get a viewer to stop and watch. Let me know if you use this technique and how it helps.