Writing News and Sports Not generally meant to persuade, (it can unintentionally) the primary purpose is to inform
Style Guide • Two factors determine broadcast news writing style: • Read aloud by an anchor or reporter • Heard by audiences • Broadcast news must be straightforward • easy to read, easy to hear, and easy to understand
News Copy • Radio news copy follows standard radio format • In upper left hand corner, identify stories with a slug, date, estimated running time, reporter/writer
News Copy • Television news copy generally follows split page format • Audio on the right with notes or visual cues on left • This copy was corrected with notations before production
News ValuesWhy this story? • Proximity • Consequence • Prominence • Unusualness • Conflict • Human Interest
Broadcast News • Time limitations • Ability of audiences to absorb electronic information • Speed at which newscasters read –about 140-180 words per minute • Audiences just cannot absorb as much information listening to a broadcast story as they could reading a story of similar length.
Broadcast News • Although oral delivery makes broadcast news particularly useful in contemporary life, it is also more difficult for listeners to keep track of complex ideas. • Keep it simple.
News • The timely report of events, facts, and opinions that are of interest or significance to a significant number of people, written to conform to the time limitations of the medium, and to the ability of the audience to absorb spoken information.
News Values: Why this story? • Is this a story my audience members must know about immediately to protect their health and safety? • Must my audiences know this to perform their normal daily activities? • To function as citizens in a democratic society?
News Values: Why this story? • Is this a story my audiences must know, but need not be told immediately? Can it be given a lower priority? • Is this story of importance to a substantial portion of my audience? What might be important in one locality may not be as important to another. • Is this story not essential but still interesting? Entertaining?
News Leads • Initiate a conversation between newscaster and audience. • A signal for the audience to begin listening. • Should NOT carry important details or complex information. • Should NOT question listeners. Avoid leads that sound like riddles. Most audiences find these annoying.
No print leads The five ‘W”s who what when where why (how and how much) Of the six traditional newspaper lead questions, the two you will most likely answer in a broadcast lead are “what” and “where.” The Broadcast Lead
Most broadcast stations reach several communities -audiences need to know where the action took place. Answering ‘where’ in the lead helps the listener ‘tune in.’ If the question ‘where’ isn’t answered in the lead, the audience assumption will be that the action took place locally, where the listener lives. Why “where”?
The ‘What’ of a lead can be a simple statement of the main point of a story. The cost of living keeps going up. More and more Americans these days aren’t interested in the pitter patter of tiny feet. Another type of ‘what’ lead emphasizes the effect that the reported event will have on audiences. Don’t spend the money from your tax cut yet. Telling “What”
The ‘who’ of a story doesn’t belong in the lead unless the “who” is someone famous. Country music lost one of its honky-tonk heroes Wednesday, when Waylon Jennings died from diabetes related illness. Unfamiliar names should not appear in the lead. Sameer al-Hada blew himself up as Afghan Security forces tried to apprehend him. A suspected member of al Qaeda blew himself up as Afghan Security forces tried to apprehend him. “Who” in the lead
‘How’ is another element of the newspaper lead that such rarely be in a broadcast lead. Be especially careful of ‘how much.’ Twenty-three persons were injured in a chain collision that involved two buses, four trucks, and 16 passenger cars on Highway 40 about six this morning in heavy fog. A chain collision of vehicles in this morning’s dense fog left 23 people injured. Telling “how” and “How Much”
Assumption of time for broadcast news is “now” or “today” Time is usually kept out of lead, especially details of time. Avoid The fire broke out a 3:58 A.M. Better The fire broke out early this morning Telling “when”
Telling “When” • Instead of: • The mayor announced an antismoking campaign today. • Write: • The mayor launched his antismoking campaign at kick-off ceremonies in City Hall.
Telling “Why” • ‘Why’ is a question almost never answered in a Broadcast lead. • Before answering “why” -you must answer “what.” Once you’ve told the audience “what,” you’ve usually completed your lead.
Things to avoid in the Broadcast News lead • Numbers. Keep them out or delay them to the end. Always simplify. • Unfamiliar names. Always tell what a person does, or provide an identifying phrase, before giving the name. • Times. Minimize the use of “today.” Avoid A.M. and P.M. Use phrases such as • early this morning • a few minutes ago • this afternoon
Maintain the ACTIVE voice • In general use the active rather than passive voice • Particularly avoid passive voice in leads • Passive • A bill has been passed by the City Council-- • Active • The City Council passed a bill--
Nonspecific and Question Leads • Avoid Question Leads • Inexperienced writers like leads that read like riddles • Who’s the happiest man in Greensboro tonight? • Frequently crop up in sports stories, but are generally not effective. • It is possible to write leads that include no specific information about a story. These are usually reserved for features and soft news • For one Greensboro Florist, Valentine’s Day is no bed of roses.
Television Leads • Generally the same as for radio, especially for “reader” stories. • Anchor introduces a “reporter package” or provides a “lead-in” to the reporter’s story, which will begin with a “second lead.” • Radio leads tend to have more information because TV offers some information in the visuals.
News Story Body • Follows naturally from the lead • Not an inverted pyramid • Conversational • Short
Story Structures • Climax –to cause -to effect • Chronological • Competing viewpoints • Wrap or wrap-around a soundbite
Structure • Climax -Taxpayers in the state will pay an average of 15 dollars more in income taxes next year. • Cause –The state senate defeated several delaying amendments this afternoon and passed the controversial revenue-raising bill by a 15 to 14 vote. • Effect -The bill now goes to the governor for his signature. Estimates are that the bill will raise about 40-million dollars in new revenue for the state next year. Elementary and secondary education will get most of the new money. Passage of this bill will mean a major victory for new education programs.
Attribution • Attribution –practice of stating the source of information –essential for reporting information or opinion that may be in dispute. • You must tell audiences “WHO” is the source of information, opinion, or accusation
Attribution • Attribution removes “abstractness” from stories, adds credibility, lets audiences “consider the source.” • In Television, attribution is often keyed under an on-camera sound-bite but should set up the sound-bite as well. • In audio copy, titles should come before a name.
Poor The suspect had a history of irresponsible behavior, including failing to pay child support, and a pattern of alcohol and drug abuse, according to his ex-wife. Better The suspect’s ex-wife told police he had a history of irresponsible behavior, including failing to pay child support, and a pattern of alcohol and drug abuse. Attribution
Poor A large deficit in the city’s budget could mean a hike in property taxes in the next six months. Better Greensboro’s city manager says a large deficit in the city budget could mean a hike in property taxes. Attribution
Style Guide Review • Titles and/or context should appear before name. • Greensboro’s mayor, Keith Holiday, • NOT –Keith Holiday, the mayor of Greensboro, • Avoid names that are not critical to the story or important for attribution.
Style Guide Review • Spell out numbers one through twelve. • Translate other amounts into digits and words • Round complex numbers so they are easy to deliver and to hear and understand. • Dates prior to the twenty-first century or in the distant future should be hyphenated as in: 19-21 or 20-50. • Contemporary dates are best understood in their usual form –2004, 2005, 2008
Poor $7.29 5 yr. old girl $14,000.00 11 children Better More than seven dollars Five-year old girl 14-thousand dollars Eleven children Style Guide Review
Style Guide Review • Use dashes for pauses. • Do NOT use hyphens to divide a word at the end of a line and continue it on the next. • Do NOT split sentences between pages on a multiple page script. • Do use contractions.
Style Guide Review • Use soundbites or paraphrase rather than use a direct quote. • Write announcer copy in upper and lower case. • Don’t abbreviate in announcer or reporter copy. (exceptions: Dr., Mrs., Ms. Mr.)
Style Guide Review • Actuality –audio clip or video bit from an interview or other recording • Line timing –determining length by line count • Live –not prerecorded • Toss –anchor lead-in to package story • Standard out cue –reporter’s last few words
Common terms • Package – pre-recorded, self-contained story introduced by the anchor and delivered by reporter. • All stories end with ### or (XXX) • VO – voice over • VO-SOT --voice over sound on tape • Standup (on camera) reporter on camera for television news • Open, • Close, • Bridge
Common terms • ACK -Actuality –sound from the story itself, NAT for natural sound or WILD for wild sound, or RAW for raw sound. • Voicer –same as Reader- In radio or television this story has no actualities. A story read aloud by the newscaster. Does not contain ACK. • Wraparound –reporter’s voice wrapped around an actuality
Common terms • In radio ROSER –Radio on Scene Report- extemporaneous report –not a written story • Same as On scene report or live in TV • Q&A Question and Answer. Sometimes live.
For the Production Booth • Write any control room or production cues in all upper case. • Most production cues in news writing deal with location of recorded material, in and out cues (first and last words, time codes), length of recorded material
Final Note • Punctuation –like markings on a map– make the oral delivery of your copy clear. • Guide the reading of your copy. • Don’t forget to use it.