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Print vs. Broadcast and Online Stories
Convergent Media Writing 61
Immediacy The main point to stress in broadcast and Web stories is immediacy.
What is happening now? What are the latest developments? How can you update the
story, giving it a “forward spin” to tell what will happen next? Even if you are reporting a breaking news story for a newspaper, plan to report it first on the Web or on a
partner television station. The days of waiting until the next publication cycle for a
breaking news story in a newspaper are over.
Print: What happened or who did what? Past tense. Fire destroyed a duplex in
midtown yesterday morning, leaving two families homeless.
Broadcast and the Web: What is happening now or who is doing what now.
Present tense is preferable. For example: Two families are homeless today after a
fire destroyed their midtown duplex.
Conversational Style Writing simple sentences in a conversational manner—
the way you talk—is preferable for all media but essential for broadcast. Stories on
the Web resemble print style.
Print: Write to be read. The reader can absorb more information in the mind’s
eye although conversational style is preferable. Sentences may be longer and
more detail can be included in the story.
Broadcast: Write for the ear and the eye. Write in conversational style. You are
talking to the viewer. Read your story aloud. Writing for the eye means you
should plan your story around the images. In most cases, broadcast stories are
shorter than their print counterparts. The average TV news story is 1:30, meaning one minute and 30 seconds. Keep the sentences short and simple, structured
as subject-verb-object, meaning who did what or what is happening.
Here is the print lead on a story:
Talking on a cell phone while driving
is as dangerous as driving while drunk,
new federally funded research shows,
and it doesn’t matter whether you use a
hands-free model or hold the phone up
to your ear during the conversation.
—South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Here is a conversational approach to the cell phone story for broadcast:
How many times have you been cut off
or otherwise annoyed on the road, only
to find the other driver is talking on a
A new scientific study says it now
proves that talking and driving is as
dangerous as drinking and driving!
—KXAN-TV (Austin, Texas)
62 Part 1 ■ Understanding News
Active Voice The structure in active voice is subject-verb-object: who is doing
the action. Passive voice explains what action being done to whom. Active voice is
preferable for all media but more essential for broadcast because it conveys more
immediacy. In some cases the passive voice is more appropriate. For example:
Active Police rescued the woman. (Who did what.)
Passive The woman was rescued by police. (What was done to whom.)
Passive: The defendant was sentenced to 10 years in prison. In this case the
emphasis on the defendant may be preferable.
Active: The judge sentenced the defendant to 10 years in prison. The emphasis
here is on the judge, who may not be as important to stress as the defendant.
Impact When possible, lead with the effect a story will have on viewers. In breaking news this isn’t always appropriate, but explaining the impact on the audience is a
good way to grab the viewers’ attention. This technique also works well for print. The
following example from broadcast news would work as well in print or online stories:
Anchorage residents will able to breathe
air that’s a little cleaner this weekend.
A new, tougher version of the citywide
smoking ban goes into effect July 1.
The new smoking ban effectively
updates the 2001 ban by adding daycare centers, outdoor stadiums and bars
to the list of places where smoking is
against the law.
—KTUU-TV (Anchorage, Alaska)
Attribution Put the attribution at the beginning of the sentence in broadcast
writing. In print and Web writing, the attribution may come at the end of the sentence. When you put the attribution last in a broadcast story, it sounds as though
the reporter is the source of the information or opinion, which can be dangerous
especially if the statement is an accusation.
Print: The blaze started in the basement, fire officials say.
Broadcast: Fire officials say the blaze started in the basement.
Consider how dangerous the following sentence would sound if the attribution
is not clear at the beginning of this sentence: The suspect abused the animals, police
say. A better way to say it is: Police say the suspect abused the animals.
If the information is on public records, a statement without attribution is OK as
in this sentence: The suspect is charged with three counts of animal abuse.
Said vs. Says When you attribute information in broadcast writing, “says”
gives more immediacy than “said.” However, if it is awkward to use the present tense,
Convergent Media Writing 63
use “said.” If a source said something a week ago, using “says” would be improper. In
print, “said” is used more often except in features because generally the source said the
quote in the past. Here are examples from the stories compared later in this chapter.
Print: The first firefighters arrived on the scene about three minutes later, at
7:43 a.m., the Anchorage Fire Department spokesman said.
Broadcast: The Anchorage Fire Department says the blaze broke out about
8 a.m., in a child’s bedroom at 8151 Northwind Ave.
Visuals In print publications, photos and graphics enhance a story. In television
news the visual elements are crucial. In this age of convergence, many news organizations publish stories in multiple media. As a result, if you are writing for a print
You are running a story that
comes with images that you consider too disturbing to publish
in your print and broadcast editions. The images include photos
of dead American soldiers, some
who have been beheaded and
others whose dead bodies are
hanging from enemy poles. The
enemy is using these images in
its media, particularly TV and
Web media. You want to portray
the brutality of the enemy, and
you think the images tell the story
better than just words. Your newspaper and TV station generally do
not run photos of dead bodies.
Discuss the pros and cons of the
Can you justify using these
images in print or on TV? Are
there any differences between
using them in either medium?
If you decide to use these
graphic images in any media—
print, broadcast or online—how
will you use them and how will
you explain your decision to
Will using these images on the
organization’s Web site create
the same concerns? Why or why
not? Are there different standards for the Web?
What are your alternatives?
Before the 9/11 terrorist
attacks on the World Trade Center,
American media organizations
rarely used graphic images of
dead bodies. After that event
and in subsequent news stories
covering the war in Iraq, more of
these disturbing images appeared,
and editors throughout the U.S.
wrestled with decisions about
publishing them. A photo that
created wrenching decisions by
editors portrayed a man jumping
from the top of one of the World
Trade Center towers during the
9/11 attack. Another case involved
images of three American civilians whose charred bodies were
hung from a bridge by Iraqis who
had tortured and burned them.
One of the most difficult decisions, however, involved photos of
naked Iraqi prisoners being abused
by American soldiers in an Iraqi
prison in Abu Ghraib.
Would you have run these
images? Kenny Irby, director of
visual journalism and diversity for
the Poynter Institute, offers this
opinion in a column he wrote:
“Newsroom leaders and decisionmakers agonize over ‘doing the
right thing’ when trying to decide
whether to show visual truths—
and not just write about those
truths—because the visual images
are more searing. . . . Such images
are articles of visual information
that convey messages of truth and
report authentic facts in immeasurable ways. Thus, decisions about
compelling and often disturbing
photographs will never satisfy all of
the people all of the time, and that
is not the role of the messenger. . . .
Yet by and large the U.S. media’s
principle is this: Citizens can make
their own best choices when armed
with honest information.”
You can find more articles
about disturbing photos by searching on the Poynter Institute site at
64 Part 1 ■ Understanding News
publication, you should still plan photos,
audio and video to post on the organization’s Web site.
Students at the University of Alaska Anchorage
produce information for print, video and the
Web to cover the Carrs/Safeway Great Alaska
Shootout basketball tournament.
Interactivity Try to get readers and
viewers involved in all media but particularly in broadcast and online. In print and
broadcast you might add a question or poll
and refer your readers to the organization’s
Web site. On the Web, there are several
ways to interact with the reader through
questions, polls, chats, blogs or requests for
readers’ photos and stories. Not all stories
lend themselves to reader interactivity, particularly breaking news stories. However if
you are reporting a controversial issue or
information about a city budget or proposal,
ask your readers to respond with their comments or votes on an informal poll.
Anatomy of a News Story: P.R.,
Broadcast and Print
Compare the following information from a news release, a broadcast story and a
print news story. The news release was issued on the Web because reporters who
cover police and fire departments can’t wait to receive releases for breaking news by
mail. Although most print and broadcast reporters supplement news releases with
their own sources, these news stories relied heavily on the releases because other
sources were not available or relevant to the initial story.
Note some of these differences between the broadcast and print versions:
The sentences in the broadcast version are much shorter than in the print version. The broadcast version is spoken over images (SOT—sound on tape).
The Web versions for both print and broadcast were written in print style.
The broadcast news story, which was the first to report the accident, uses
present tense in the lead whereas the print version, which appeared the next
day, updates the lead with newly released information.
In the next two examples, the print and broadcast stories were published
on the same day. The print version was published first on the newspaper’s Web
site the afternoon of the fire. The broadcast version was aired on the evening
news the day of the fire. Note that the print version tells what happened (past
tense) and the broadcast version features an updated lead with present tense
to give the current condition of the families. Also note that attribution in the
Convergent Media Writing 65
Man in Critical Condition after Apparent Hit and Run
At about 12:04 am on Sunday (date included) Anchorage Police
mid-shift patrol officers responded to the report of a person
lying in the roadway at Debarr Road and Norene Streets in East
Responding officers located a male adult suffering from head
and torso trauma. The victim was transported to a nearby local hospital for emergency treatment. He is listed in critical condition.
Investigating officers located evidence of an apparent vehicle/
pedestrian collision. The driver of the vehicle left the scene without immediate notification as required by state and municipal laws.
Officers were unable to locate the suspect vehicle or the driver.
At this time, the name of the victim is unknown. The victim
appears to be a white or Native male about 35-48 years of age with
brown hair and eyes. The male was wearing blue jean pants, a royal
blue sweat shirt and dark blue “hoodie type” sweat shirt. The male
was also wearing brown leather boots.
The broadcast version posted on the TV station’s Web site
(featured video with the police spokesman). This is not written in broadcast script style, which we will study later. Note
the emphasis in the lead is on the perspective given at the
end of the news release.
Police search for another hit and run driver
ANCHORAGE, Alaska—For the third time in recent weeks,
police are looking for yet another hit-and-run driver. This time
a driver left a seriously injured man behind as they fled the
The collision happened at the intersection of DeBarr Road and
Norene Street around midnight last night.
A Good Samaritan saw the man—whose identity is not
known—lying in the street and tried to keep other cars from striking him.
Anchorage Police Department Spokesman Lt. Paul Honeman
said the victim suffered serious head and leg injuries but is alive
and in the hospital.
(Honeman sound bite—Honeman name superimposed at
“There’s no real clear indication. Anybody who had been in
that location just prior to, or might have seen anything or knows
anything about this incident, is asked to call the Anchorage Police
Department.” (End of sound bite)
Police also want help identifying the victim. They said he looks
to be 35 to 48 years old with brown hair and eyes. He appears
to be white or Native descent. He was wearing blue jeans, a blue
sweatshirt and a second, darker blue hooded sweatshirt. He was
also wearing brown leather boots.
Police said he is in critical condition.
—Jill Burke, KTUU-TV (Anchorage, Alaska)
(Name of police spokesman and phone number)
Police are asking for anyone who has information about this
incident and or the name of the victim to call the Anchorage Police
Department at (number given).
Anchorage Crime Stoppers pays callers whose tip leads to the
arrest of a felony crime suspect. Callers may receive a cash reward
of up to $1,000.00 and may submit their tip anonymously by phone
at (number given) or on the net at www.anchoragecrimestoppers
NOTE – The Traffic Division reports that three vehicle/pedestrian collisions have occurred in the past few weeks. Motorists are
advised to be especially alert as the prelude to winter solstice means
shorter periods of daylight and extended periods of darkness.
Pedestrians are advised to cross at designated, well-lit crosswalks.
Oftentimes, alcohol is a contributing factor with one or both
parties involved. The Anchorage Police Department urges responsible alcohol consumption by those legally entitled to do so.
Print version published the next morning with new information from the police department and updates on the victim’s
Pedestrian in critical condition after hit-and-run
A man critically injured in a hit-and-run traffic accident over the
weekend is 48-year-old Garon James Koozaata, who is originally
from St. Lawrence Island, police said today.
Just after midnight Sunday, Anchorage police discovered
Koozaata near DeBarr Road and Norene Street. Police believe a
vehicle hit him and the driver left without reporting the collision.
Police are now looking for that driver.
“It’s disturbing to realize that someone will mow a human being
down and they’ll just keep going,” said Lt. Nancy Reeder.
Koozaata remained unconscious today at a local hospital,
Reeder said. He was identified using his fingerprints.
Police are asking anyone with information about the hit-andrun to call 786-8900. Callers can leave tips anonymously by calling
Anchorage police used fingerprints to identify the victim of
Sunday morning’s hit and run.
Garon James Koozaata, age 48, was struck by an unknown
vehicle in the area of Debarr Road and Norene Street in east
Anchorage. A passing motorist discovered Koozaata shortly after
midnight and notified police. Koozaata remains at a local hospital in critical condition suffering from head and torso trauma.
Koozaata is an Anchorage resident from St. Lawrence Island.
Anyone with information as to the person responsible for
this hit and run is asked to call Anchorage Police at (number
given). Tipsters can report information anonymously by calling
Anchorage Crime Stoppers at 561-STOP or submitting their tip on
the internet at www.anchoragecrimestoppers.com. Crime Stoppers
will pay cash rewards of up to $1,000 for information leading to a
felony arrest. All calls and internet submissions are confidential.
—Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage (Alaska) Daily News
66 Part 1 ■ Understanding News
Writing for print, broadcast and the Web requires
careful planning and reporting for more than one
story. Here are some things to keep in mind:
• Plan to file breaking news immediately on the Web.
• While you are reporting, plan for the next cycle of
the story. Always consider what will happen next.
You will need a fresh angle for the next broadcast
or the next day’s newspaper.
• Plan for audio and video elements that might be
posted on the Web site, even if you are primarily
reporting the story for print publication.
print version comes at the end of the sentence and it is in the beginning of the
sentence in the broadcast version.
Child alerts family
to duplex fire
A child in an East Anchorage duplex
alerted his family that the house was on
fire Tuesday morning, leading to a safe
evacuation and only minor injury to
The family of four—one adult and
children ages 6, 8 and 12—were at
their rented duplex unit on Northwind
Avenue, near Muldoon Road, when the
child roused everyone as smoke detectors
started sounding, said Tom Kempton,
Anchorage Fire Department spokesman.
The first firefighters arrived on the
scene about three minutes later, at
7:43 a.m., Kempton said. Crews found
smoke streaming from an upstairs
window and the family waiting outside. The adult had a minor burn to the
hand but didn’t have to go to a hospital,
Firefighters had to wake residents in
the attached duplex unit and get them
out, Kempton said. But that half of the
building wasn’t damaged.
The fire apparently started in an
upstairs bedroom. Crews kept the blaze
to that area, though the rest of the unit
had smoke damage, Kempton said.
Firefighters declared the scene under
control just before 8 a.m. Damage is estimated to be $40,000 to $50,000, and the
cause of the fire is under investigation.
The occupants reportedly do not
have renter’s insurance. The Alaska
chapter of the American Red Cross is
providing the family with food, clothes,
shoes and lodging.
—Katie Pesznecker, Anchorage Daily News
Broadcast version posted on the station’s Web site.
Family left homeless
Anchorage, Alaska—Two Anchorage
families are safe, but one is homeless
after a duplex fire this morning in the
The Anchorage Fire Department says
the blaze broke out about 8 a.m., in a
child’s bedroom at 8151 Northwind Ave.
The child alerted the rest of the family
while fire crews went to the adjoining
unit to make sure neighbors escaped
safely. Firefighters were able to safely evacuate all people and pets from the home.
The cause of the fire is not yet
The American Red Cross of Alaska is
assisting the family who was displaced.
They did not have renters insurance.
—Maria Downey, KTUU
Convergent Media Writing 67
Anatomy of a News Story on the Web
The Gannett Company Inc. offers a training site for delivering online information.
In one section, Kate Marymont, executive editor of The News-Press in Fort Myers,
Fla., says when news breaks, it is posted online. “We don’t hold back anything. As
soon as we know and it is verified, it goes online. It doesn’t have to be the complete
Marymont describes how this worked when news broke that a 2-year-old child
had discovered the bodies of his parents, both 25, who had been murdered in their
home in the Gateway section of Fort Myers. Marymont described the process as
Announce the news as soon as possible. In this case The News-Press
posted the breaking news at 4:47 p.m. and mentioned an upcoming news
Courtesy of Gannett Co., Inc.
Courtesy of Gannett Co., Inc.
Update in increments. Tell when there is more to come. The next information
was posted on the Web at 5:30 p.m., alerting viewers that The News-Press would
soon be posting tapes of the police interviews shortly.
68 Part 1 ■ Understanding News
What Do You Think
Do you think the Gannett Co. plan to
reorganize newsrooms from traditional departments to seven new
divisions fostering convergence is a
Promote within the site. In this case the promotion said the tapes
mentioned before are live online now.
Post multimedia—in this case exclusive audio and video.
As you study the other chapters in this book, continue to develop a
convergence mindset so that you present information to your audience
when they want it and how they want it.
■ Not sure
1 Deconstruct a news story: Using a news story from
your local or campus newspaper or from an online
site, analyze the story as follows:
Lead: Is it a summary or feature lead?
Nut graph: Identify the focus. If the story uses a
feature lead, is there a clear nut graph and where is
Lead quote: Is there a quote from a source high in
Supporting information: Does the story contain
information that supports the main idea?
Sources: Does the story contain information from
two or more sources to elaborate upon the main
Ending: Does the story end with a quote or additional information about a future action or comment
on the main idea?
2 Update: Take any story in today’s newspaper and convert it for broadcast by updating the lead, changing
the attribution to conform to broadcast writing style
and condensing it.
3 Police story—print and broadcast: Write a brief story
for print and another version for broadcast, based
on the information in the following news release.
Use your city’s name for the police department and
attribute information to Police Spokesman John
At about 2:54 am on Thursday – March 22nd
(use this year) Police Mid Shift Patrol Officers
responded to reports of a shooting at an apartment located at the 7000 block of Walker
Responding officers located two persons
who had been shot. One victim, a male adult in
his mid 40s was dead of the apparent gunshot
wounds. Another victim, identified as Mary
Pothead—age 36—was transported to a local
hospital for emergency treatment. Pothead is
listed in serious condition.
Details about the incident are sketchy.
Detectives believe that this incident is possibly related to illegal drug activity. Detectives
are seeking a possible suspect in this case
described only as an unknown male. No
other information is available at this time.
Detectives are actively seeking information from any persons who may have been in
the area of or have knowledge of this shooting incident. Persons with information are
asked to call the (Use your city) Police at
Persons who wish to remain anonymous may call the city’s Crime Stoppers at
123-STOP or on the web at www.crimetips.
com. Callers whose tip leads to an arrest of a
Felony suspect are eligible for a reward of up
Convergent Media Writing 69
b. Write a poll question or chat topic for online readers to respond to about some controversial issue
on your campus or in your community for online
a. Using the example about cell phones cited in this
chapter, write a poll question for online readers.
Featured Online Activity Log on to the book
Web site and write a story for print and another version
for broadcast delivery based on the news release posted
on the site in Chapter 4. Access the Web site address
and pull down the menu to Chapter 4 exercises.
Record the sights, sounds,
smells and other details you
observe when you are reporting.
Use concrete nouns; avoid
Use vivid action verbs to
describe your observations.
Is your story idea newsworthy?
Will your story pass the “so
what” test to make readers and
Will your story include audio
and video for TV or the Web?
Will your story include
interactive elements on the
Keep a tickler file of followup ideas for stories that were
published or are due for an
Search the Internet for story
ideas about your topic.
You tell your readers a story by not telling
them. You show it. You write it so they feel it.
Use all of your senses to put the reader there.
Get in the smells and the sounds.
—Martha Miller, magazine writer and editor
Curiosity and Story
he blood spots made the difference.
A woman shot her boyfriend. He fled to a nearby store to seek help, and he died
two hours later in a hospital.
It was just a basic news story for Martha Miller, then a police reporter. But when
she went to the scene, she saw the blood spots.
First Miller measured the spots with a dime. But they were larger than that.
So she tried a nickel. That fit. Then she counted the spots. She wrote a hard-news
lead stating that the woman had shot and killed her boyfriend, and in the middle
of the story she wrote this:
Brown, who was shot several times, staggered out of the apartment and down
two houses to the Waystation convenience store on Virginia Street—his path,
easily traceable by 41 nickel-size blood
splotches that dotted the sidewalk.
—Martha Miller, Reno (Nev.) Gazette-Journal
Martha Miller, magazine writer
Why bother measuring and counting the blood spots? “I was curious,” says
Miller, now a magazine writer and editor for Better Homes & Gardens. “I saw them
and I wanted to follow where they led. I wanted to show how he fled and that he was
dripping blood. I wanted the reader to picture that.”
The technique is one you learned in kindergarten: Show and tell.
A good reporter also possesses a trait you had in kindergarten—curiosity.
You probably badgered your parents with questions: What’s that? Why?
Those are still good questions for gathering news. Just add a few more: Who,
when, where, how and so what?