The Structure of TV News
Structure is central to all communication, whether nonverbal
or verbal. All art – painting, ceramics, sculpture, furniture making, stained glass, weaving, whatever form it takes – has structure. Even deconstruction calls for a structured, disciplined approach to the task.
Structure is involved in the way individual television news stories are produced, shot, edited, and aired within the larger framework of the newscast, itself a structured unit. This concept of structure is the single most important idea you will need to grasp because it is central to how journalists communicate with their audiences. For the television journalist, structure is an even more important concept because of the way the communication with the viewers takes place.
The task of journalism is also to explain and interpret the importance and significance of news events. There are reasons why the rhetoric and actions of one person are more important than those of another, why strategies and ideas expressed might or might not work.
These reasons are revealed by interviewing, digging for facts, taping, editing and writing stories that probe the reasoning, the motives, and the strategies of those involved. These elements are processed into news accounts and provide structure – the “how” and the “why” of the news as well as the “who”, “what”, “when”, and “where”. If we left the “how” and “why” out of our reports, the audience would be less well informed.
With this concept of structure in mind, we look now at some of the ingredients that make up the structure of television news communication, five distinct aspects are involved: showing and telling, the relationship between the people on the air and the viewers watching their television sets, storytelling, linear clarity and visual structure.
Showing and Telling:
As local and network television news has expanded and all-news cable channel have developed, the common dialogue today is:
Did you hear about ….. ?
Yes, I saw it…….
The important word here is saw. By using it people seem to mean they either “saw” a newscaster telling them about it or, because the technology makes it possible to bring pictures of a news event to people as it is happening, it is also more and more likely that they really did “see” at least some of it. Instant replay and other production techniques also make it possible for the audience to “see it” again and again, to analyze it in slow motion or frame by frame.
Pictures & Words:
Television news is more than just pictorial coverage. It “tells” the news with pictures in motion including news sounds, and with words spoken by anchorpersons, reporters, and news makers. The link between the pictures and the words is crucial. At the basic level that wedding of the right words with right pictures is at once the greatest potential strength and greatest potential weakness of television news. When that link is right the communication may be a whole new experience.