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Writing News For Radio

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  • 1.  
  • 2.
    • Broadcasting Sentence Structure
    • The main rule for writing news scripts for radio broadcasts is KISS…Keep it simple stupid.
      • Simple sentences are best. (Subject-verb-direct object). Avoid compound and complex sentences.
      • Listeners expect and appreciate simplicity in what they hear on the radio or podcasts. They can make the connections themselves.
  • 3.
    • Avoid your “relatives.”
      • Relative clauses, which begin with who, that, which, when, where interrupt the flow of the sentence and can cause confusion.
      • Break long sentences which contain relative clauses into two shorter sentences. The reader will make the connection and will be much less confused because one thought is completed before another is begun.
  • 4.
    • A sentence with an interrupting relative clause should be rewritten into two simple sentences. Take the following example:
      • FRED GRANDY...WHO PLAYED "GOPHER" ON THE ORIGINAL "LOVEBOAT" T-V SERIES...LATER SPENT 8 YEARS AS A CONGRESSMAN FROM IOWA.
    • A clearer means of expressing the same information is through two simple sentences:
      • FRED GRANDY PLAYED "GOPHER" ON THE ORIGINAL "LOVE BOAT" T-V SERIES. HE LATER SPENT 8 YEARS AS A CONGRESSMAN FROM IOWA.
  • 5.
    • Be active.
      • Use simple sentences with active verbs. Avoid passive voice.
      • Avoid sentences beginning with There are, there will be, there was.
  • 6.
    • There are three styles of radio news writing.
      • In depth
      • Network style
      • Vivid style
  • 7.
    • In Depth Style is asking and answering questions
      • Involves the 5 Ws and H, especially the why and how .
        • Why is this information important?
        • How will this program work?
      • Story length will be longer than in other styles, but not much. With tape the story should be about 40 seconds; without, about 20.
  • 8.
    • When you have several in depth stories, placement becomes important.
      • the most important story(ies) should come first in the newscast.
      • Readers equate length with importance, but placement at the beginning also translates into importance for them.
    • You can end the news cast with a zinger, but remember you are a journalist, not a comedian.
  • 9.
    • The hallmark of network style is a high story count.
    • Networks offer a variety of stories, and this gives readers a sense of completeness. They think they know all the news.
    • A 90-second news cast should aim for 7 stories. This is an average of 13 seconds per story. Some will need more time, some less. Write tight, use active verbs. Cut the fluff.
  • 10.
    • Vivid style is popular in morning drive-time talk shows on stations that are mainly about music during the day. The morning drive-time show is about news and banter exchanged among the dee-jays.
    • Listeners quit listening if the talk gets tedious, so a vivid writing style is critical.
  • 11.
    • In the vivid style, news centers on celebrity gossip, the humorous happenings of the day, entertainment news.
    • The object is to give the listener something to be happy about.
    • The same style is employed in political talk shows, but the aim there is to give the listener something to be unhappy about.
  • 12.
    • Vivid style brings out the unusual elements in everyday stories.
    • At the biweekly city council meeting, union leaders make a presentation. One councilmember tells the leaders in a matter-of-fact style, "I think it's a shame the way you've been treated. I want you to know that I support your efforts to improve your standard to living, and I support your right to strike. I hope it doesn't come to this, but shut down the city if you must. It's the mayor who's the only city worker who ought to be losing her job."
  • 13.
    • A standard reader on the story, lasting 18 seconds, might run like this:
    • CITY WORKERS IN MIDDLEVILLE HAVE TAKEN THEIR CONTRACT DISPUTE TO CITY COUNCIL. UNION LEADERS GOT A SYMPATHETIC HEARING AT LAST NIGHT'S COUNCIL MEETING IN THEIR ATTEMPTS FOR A PAY RAISE AND JOB GUARANTEES. MAYOR JANE SMITH HAS SAID THERE'S NO MONEY IN THE BUDGET FOR A PAY INCREASE, AND CONTRACT TALKS SO FAR HAVE MADE LITTLE PROGRESS.
  • 14.
    • The vivid writer notices that a city councilmember has told the unions, albeit conditionally, to "shut down the city." This becomes the lead of a more vivid reader lasting 21 seconds:
  • 15.
    • "SHUT DOWN THE CITY" -- THAT'S WHAT ONE MIDDLEVILLE CITY COUNCILMAN IS ADVISING CITY WORKERS IN THEIR SIMMERING CONTRACT DISPUTE WITH MAYOR JANE SMITH. DON JONES TOLD UNION LEADERS AT LAST NIGHT'S CITY COUNCIL MEETING THAT HE SUPPORTS THEIR RIGHT TO STRIKE FOR BETTER PAY AND JOB SECURITY, ADDING THAT IF ANY CITY WORKER'S TO LOSE A JOB, IT OUGHT TO BE THE MAYOR.
  • 16.
    • There are also differences in word choice. The standard reader contains the bland adjective "sympathetic," in contrast to the vigorous "simmering" of the vivid reader. Notice also that "better pay" has a stronger sound than "pay increase."
  • 17.
    • Content isn't the only difference between these two readers. The vivid reader is more conversational in sentence structure, beginning with a quotation that is back-referenced and ending with a conditional ("if...then") clause. The standard reader is prosaic, with simple sentence followed by simple sentence.
  • 18.
    • Short and sweet
    • Vivid style uses few adjectives
    • Gets right to the point
    • Stories should run about 20 seconds.
  • 19.
    • Avoid bias
      • Listeners are very sensitive to perceived bias on the part of the news caster, especially in political situations.
      • Jurnalists are expected to discover the truth about events in their communities and report that information to their audience.
      • Journalists are not expected to be comedians or entertainers or political analysts.
  • 20.
    • Readers may perceive bias in the selection of stories especially if it seems to them too many positive or negative stories about particular issues are presented.
    • Play it straight…don’t be sarcastic in your presentation of the news. Again that is perceived as bias on your part by the listener.
    • Tell the whole story, as much as possible, within your time constraints.