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JRNL 201 - Broadcast Writing
Transcript of JRNL 201 - Broadcast Writing
Two layers in broadcast - writing for the ear AND the eye.
Broadcast news is a mix between written and spoken language. We write a lot more formally than we talk, but the way we talk is more casual than your typical script.
The viewer doesn’t have the opportunity to go back and re-watch the broadcast (unless it’s posted online). Given this, the goal is to be as clear as possible in your reporting and delivery.
Compelling video is huge...when you’re producing, the visual aspect of a story is key. That goes for stacking your rundown as well as editing an individual pkg. Broadcast Style - Be conversational
Write conversationally...in other words, write the way you talk! If you watch the news, you’ll notice many anchors using a conversational, informal style to convey the facts. It helps the listener feel more like a participant, which helps tear down the wall between the anchor desk and viewer. Broadcast Style - Be concise
Keep it simple...but not simplistic.
Say what you need to say, AND be aware of the words you choose. It's important to avoid anything that is extravagant or extraneous.
Split up complex sentences. It's best to have one idea per sentence. Think about the viewer and how much they can digest at once.
A great test is to read your script out loud to yourself. If there’s too much alliteration, if it’s too wordy, or if it doesn’t flow, simplify! And remember, you usually have one breath to deliver each sentence. Broadcast style - Word choice
Use words whose primary meaning and tone match what you’re trying to say.
Think about how the words sound and how difficult it is to say the word.
Keep it tight – don’t write phrases when words will do. (i.e. use “because” instead of “due to the fact that”) Broadcast style - Verb Tense
Your lead should be in present tense, as should most of the rest of your story. At some points it is necessary to use past tense, but try to find the present angle on things.
Ex/ Instead of saying “There was a fire last night” say “Police are investigating the cause of a fire last night.” Broadcast style - Verbs
Use STRONG verbs - they can really make a difference in your reporting.
Avoid linking verbs (is, are, was) as well. Instead, ACTION verbs will propel the story. (Of course, be accurate in your use of these. Don’t just use a cool verb for the sake of using a cool verb.)
Weak: The noisy crowd did not like the speaker.
Better: The crowd jeered the speaker. Broadcast style - S-V-O
The clearest way to order your sentences is Subject - Verb - Object.
This also makes it easy for the listener to quickly identify the key player in the story because you're putting people first. WHO is doing WHAT...in that order. Package Writing (aka story-telling)
Same basic rules apply. News packages should be conversational, concise, accurate, use present tense, etc.
Hard news packages will differ from features though in tone and pacing. The latter focus more on characters, just as written feature stories do.
To get the viewer to invest in this story, you cannot overemphasize the personal aspect of a topic. Find a person who people can connect with to bookend the pkg. As humans, we want to connect with someone else, so our reporting should incorporate this. This helps demonstrate to our viewers WHY they should care. Package Writing - Tips
When editing, don’t be afraid to cut stuff out...it’s inevitable since a basic news story is 1:30-2:00 long. You want to keep it tight AND informative.
Always incorporate nat pops. It makes a huge difference and helps the viewer feel like they're there.
Write to your video. ("say dog, see dog")
Use sequences of tight, medium and wide shots when possible. This gives the viewer a variety of vantage points to the story.
A key part of your writing will be weaving together different SOTs while still giving the facts. Think of it as writing transitions to take you from one idea to another...making the story flow.
If you do a reporter stand-up, keep it short. (One to two sentences maximum.)
Remember, you're telling a story! Misc.
Remember small things like in your copy, you should spell out numbers, names, acronyms, pro-nos, etc.
Whatever makes it easier for the anchor or reporter to read, do it. (i.e. Rick Sanchez liked all lowercase, others prefer all caps, etc)
The length of a reader might be :15 - :30, depending on the story and elements you have to accompany the copy. If you have a great soundbite or graphic, that will keep the viewer interested.
Remember, with broadcast writing, always think about the visual aspect to go along with the script. The two are equally important, and finding pictures to match the words adds a whole new level of complexity.