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Print vs. Broadcast and Online Stories

Print vs. Broadcast and Online Stories

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Chapter 4

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

cell phone?

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,

Chapter 4

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

following issues:

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

your audience?

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

©Fred Pearce

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

Chapter 4

Convergent Media Writing 65

News Release



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

bottom screen)

“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

Convergence Coach

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.

Print 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

one person.

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,

Kempton said.

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

after fire

Anchorage, Alaska—Two Anchorage

families are safe, but one is homeless

after a duplex fire this morning in the

Muldoon area.

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

Chapter 4

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

print story.”

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

good idea?

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.

■ Yes

■ No

■ 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

it placed?

Lead quote: Is there a quote from a source high in

the story?

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


Chapter 4

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

to $1,000.00.

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


4 Interactivity

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.



Coaching Tips

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

viewers care?

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

upcoming development.

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

—Martha Miller, Reno (Nev.) Gazette-Journal

Martha Miller, magazine writer

and editor

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?


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