BA Level 2 Radio Journalism Week 1
What makes good broadcast journalism?
Making Radio, Michael Kaye and Andy
Popperwell (Brunel library PN 1991.75 K38)
Rosemary Hortsmann, Writing for Radio, (Brunel
Library PN 1991.7H67) pp1-23, 64-70
A Boyd, Broadcast Journalism: techniques of
Radio and TV News, pp 56-71
What we’re going to cover
Radio journalism – news and current affairs
Writing for radio and with pictures
Recording and editing audio
Interview techniques - Setting up interviews, preparation and
recording.; soundbites; short interviews and longer interviews;
recording and editing interviews; recording and editing vox pops.
Using sound – in news and in feature packages
Practical exercises in feature and news package making
Voice training – presenting news and voicing packages
Putting together illustrated news bulletins.
Making a radio feature/package
One text on radio production says “Radio is the media genie, small
enough to fit into a bottle, big enough to cover continents” (Kaye and
Popperwell). It can be done simply but still well or with huge
sophistication. Audience can range from a few dozen to millions.
It can be a lifeline in conflict areas, a link to the wider world for remote
communities, a link between peoples and nations or more ominously a
medium of hate and incitement.
It still provides news, information and entertainment, despite the rise
and growing dominance of the internet – after all most web pages now
have direct radio or audio links and podcasting relies heavily on
replaying radio output.
You can receive radio from across continents with a tiny radio and a
battery or even a wind-up radio – you don’t need complicated or
expensive kit and you don’t even have to be able to read – it is a lifeline
not just for the remote, but also for those deprived of education.
You can listen while you work, in the car, in the shower – radio is in
many ways more immediate and even intrusive than other forms of
journalistic delivery because you don’t have to stop what you are doing.
How does it work 1
Good vibrations - Good Vibrations
Radio works by vibration – your vocal
chords vibrate as you speak and create
sound waves, these are converted by a
microphone into electronic form. This form
is recorded or replayed in digitised form.
How does it work 2
Recorded or live speech can be increased in loudness, softened, have low and high
frequency interference removed through a mixing desk and can be mixed with other
sounds from digital files, CDs, radio, TV or other voices. The final sound from the
mixing desk is relayed by cable to the transmitter and transmitted as sound waves.
These waves can be in long, medium or short wave amplitude modulation (AM) or
very high frequency (frequency modulation – FM).
Sound waves are vibrations in the air. They are broadcast in frequencies or
wavelengths (the two mean the same thing). Long wave is a low frequency that will
travel several hundred miles; medium wave will travel one or two hundred miles ;
short wave and FM about 50 miles. But short wave can be bounced off the
ionosphere and travel hundreds of miles. But short wave has the downside of lower
sound quality via the receiver. DAB is a digital format bounced off satellites and back
The higher the frequency – so the higher the number of cycles of sound waves per
second – the higher the quality. It’s the same principle as with pixels in digital
photography – the more pixels and the sharper the picture.
What makes good radio?
Above all – like any form of journalism – it is the quality of the content. For
decades, the BBC World Service was the dominant global broadcaster – even
though it was on short-wave so sound quality was poor – because of the
reliability of its news, the quality of its journalism and entertainment and the
breadth and depth of its programming.
But as first higher quality AM and then FM and DAB came on stream, the
quality of content had increasingly to be matched by higher quality sound and
more sophisticated and complex use of a variety of audio material to
Increasing local, national and international competition from a variety of stations,
genres, specialisations and with varying target audiences have changed the
radio market globally and nationally. There is more choice, there is better
quality and broadcasters (like the BBC or other national broadcasters) can no
longer expect to have the undivided loyalties of listeners.
This means that while broadcasters can afford to do so, there is a proliferation of
stations with the vast majority aiming at niche audiences – talk radio, sport, a
massive variety of music genres, news etc.
Good radio – examples
Radio Luxy 024
Clip from W Service -
Test Match special
XFM – from e-mail
Classic FM -
The same principles of accuracy, balance, fairness,
impartiality and relevance apply to radio or video journalism
as to print journalism.
The major difference is that you are writing for the ear and not
for the eye. What you write is heard – often only once – and
not read. So the first principle is to ensure that what you write
is clear and can be read clearly.
So avoid too much alliteration – it can be very hard for you to
read or for a presenter/newsreader to read.
Think about your audience – what style of presentation, news
delivery, speech are they expecting? Are they listening in
their first language; with they understand colloquialisms and
slang; age range; what knowledge can you presume; attention
Take newspaper reports and re-write for a
Draw up a radio bulletin from Guardian,
Telegraph and Times – rewrite for a Radio
Four audience, IRN style news for Capital,
XFM, Kiss etc
Get one or more of group to be
newsreader and to read out – will record
Take any 3 stories from the newspapers (nothing we’ve
used today) and re-write in the radio news style of your
choice (IRN/Sky, Radio Four, Radio Five, World Service
Each story should be a maximum of 35 seconds long
when read out at normal reading speed.
Always read out aloud before submitting final version.
Bring the stories to the next session already printed out
as you’ll need to read them out.
Reading ahead of next week: Mervin Block pages,
Writing for Broadcast News, 1-45