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Broadcast vs. Newspaper and Web Writing

Broadcast vs. Newspaper and Web Writing

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Chapter 12







Broadcast News Writing 231



Broadcast Script Format

Broadcast scripts are written in two columns, with directions for the technical crew

on the left and the story text on the right. Most newsrooms use a computer program

that automatically formats the scripts. The reporter’s text is usually in capital letters,

while the sound bites are in uppercase and lowercase letters. Sources for sound bites

are identified by a machine called a “character generator,” which produces titles that

are superimposed under the video to identify the speaker.

TV stations have different methods of writing directions. Some stations

identify sound bites as SOT, meaning sound on tape. At KTUU each sound

bite is on a different tape so the bites are identified as A roll on one tape, B roll

on another tape and so on. Many of the terms previously used in scripts are

changing. The script should contain a slug (a one- or two-word title), which

is usually assigned by the producers. The reporter’s copy is usually written in

capital letters, and the sound bites are typed in uppercase and lowercase letters.

While you no longer have to be concerned about typing directions in columns,

you should not split or hyphenate words at the end of a sentence. Remember

that the script will be read on a teleprompter, and the anchor or reporter needs

to see the whole word.

Here is Jennifer Zilko’s script about the eagle story; compare it with the print

story that follows from the Anchorage Daily News.

EAGLE CLEANUP-PKG

SHOW EAGLES IN SOAP

TREATING THE EAGLES

Reporter—Jennifer Zilko

Anchor—John



{***JOHN***}



Readrate 13:75



THE BIRD TREATMENT AND

LEARNING CENTER IS TRYING TO

SAVE THE LIVES OF MORE THAN A

DOZEN EAGLES.

SINCE LAST NIGHT 18 BALD

EAGLES HAVE BEEN BROUGHT

TO THE CENTER AFTER DIVING

INTO THE BACK OF A TRUCK FULL

OF FISH SLIME IN KODIAK…AND

MORE ARE ON THE WAY.



TAKE: TAKE SPLIT



{***TAKE SPLIT***}

AND AS CHANNEL 2’S JENNIFER

ZILKO TELLS US – WASHING

AMERICA’S CHERISHED BIRDS IS A

LENGTHY PROCESS.

JENNIFER?





Readrate 13:75



JOHN



ACCORDING

TO

VOLUNTEERS, IT TAKES ABOUT AN

HOUR TO CLEAN EACH EAGLE.



232 Part 3







Constructing Stories



TAKE: A ROLL (Jennifer speaking)

(also called SOT—sound on tape)



TAKE: B ROLL (also called SOT)

AT: 12:53

TO: 13:03

DURATION: 0:10

(This is the sound bite

and the time on the tape plus the CG)

Cindy Palmatier, director of Avian care,

Bird Treatment Center

TAKE: AUDIO CUE



TAKE: C ROLL (third sound bite)

AT: 27:31

TO: 27:38

DURATION: 0:07

CG—Gina Hollomon, volunteer,

Bird TLC



(***A ROLL***}

FIRST EACH BIRD IS DUNKED

INTO A WARM BATH OF SOAPY

WATER.

THE SECRET WEAPON?

DAWN DISH SOAP.

AFTER BEING METICULOUSLY

SCRUBBED, THEY’RE THEN RINSED.

VOLUNTEERS GO THROUGH

EVERY FEATHER ON THE EAGLE

TO MAKE SURE ALL THE SOAP IS

WASHED OUT.

BUT EVEN AFTER THE WASH—

SOME OF THE EAGLES AREN’T

DONE YET.

{***B ROLL***}

<12:53 We have to wait until they’re dry

and then we go through a sniff test. If

they smell like a wet eagle, you’re good.

If they smell like Dawn, you’re good. If

they smell like fish, not good.03>

{***AUDIO:CUE***}

IF THE EAGLE SMELLS LIKE FISH

IT IS SPOT WASHED AGAIN.

THE REASON IT’S SO CRITICAL

TO GET ALL THE OIL OFF IS

THAT EAGLES REGULATE THEIR

TEMPERATURE WITH THEIR

FEATHRS AND THE OIL INHIBITS

THAT ABILITY—MAKING THEM

SUSCEPTIBLE TO HYPOTHERMIA.

BUT EVEN THOUGH IT’S GOOD

FOR THEM SOME OF THESE EAGLES

DON’T EXACTLY LIKE HAVING A

BATH.

ONE VOLUNTEER GOT NIPPED

TWICE TODAY.

{***C ROLL***}

<27:31 No hard feelings, none whatsoever.33 If I was being manhandled,

I might nip myself. 38>



Chapter 12



TAKE: LOSE IT



Anchor: JOHN

Readrate 13.75

TAKE: QUESTION

TAKE: ANSWER







Broadcast News Writing 233



{***LOSE IT***}

THE CENTER SAYS EACH OF THESE

EAGLES EATS ABOUT 400 GRAMS

OF SALMON A DAY SO THEY’RE

ASKING FOR PEOPLE TO DONATE IF

YOU HAVE SOME EXTRA SALMON

IN YOUR FREEZER.

{***QUESTION***}

JENNIFER—WHAT CONDITION ARE

THE EAGLES IN AT THE CENTER?

***ANSWER***}

ACCORDING

TO

CINDY

PALMATIER, THEY’RE ALL DOING

WELL EXCEPT FOR ONE OF THE

BIRDS.

THE CENTER DEEMED THAT

EAGLE IN CRITICAL CONDITION

BECAUSE IT’S HAVING A LOT OF

PROBLEMS WITH TEMPERATURE

REGULATION.

THE CENTER WAS EXPECTING

TO GET 13 MORE EAGLES IN TODAY

BUT THE WEATHER IN KODIAK

WAS TOO BAD TO FLY THEM TO

ANCHORAGE.



Web Versions



Courtesy of KTUU-News Channel 2, Anchorage, Alaska



The story posted on KTUU’s Web site was offered in video, not text. This is how the

Web page appeared after the eagle story aired:







Constructing Stories



The Web site for the Anchorage Daily News also featured the eagle story with a

photo slide show:



Courtesy of Anchorage Daily News, Anchorage, Alaska



234 Part 3



Newspaper Version

Here is how the story was reported in the local newspaper, the Anchorage Daily News.

Note that in the print version of the story, the reporter used description that would

be unnecessary with video. Also notice that the print version is more thorough than

the broadcast version, and attribution is usually at the end of the sentence.



Slimed eagles get

baths, TLC

in Anchorage

SURVIVORS: 20 others died

in a truckload of fish waste.

The hot, humid air inside the warehouse smacked of fishy funk, giving

away the 18 bald eagles tucked into kennels inside. They, along with 13 others

still in Kodiak, were the lucky ones.



About 50 eagles swarmed into an

uncovered dump truck at a Kodiak processing plant Friday, leaving 20 dead

after being either crushed or drowned

in the fish-gut sludge inside, according

to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Now the survivors need a bath.

“We’ve never seen a flood of bald

eagles like this before,” said Megan

Pool, events coordinator at Anchorage’s

Bird Treatment and Learning Center.



Chapter 12



“It’s definitely more than we’ve dealt

with at one time, ever.”

The last batch of surviving eagles

was scheduled to arrive Monday afternoon but could not get off the ground in

Kodiak because of inclement weather,

Pool said. The U.S. Coast Guard hopes

to fly them up today, she said.

The influx has strained the resources

of the center, which has three paid staff

members and about 60 volunteers, Pool

said. Despite the strain, volunteers

were on track to finish hour-long baths

for each of the raptors on hand by late

Monday, she said.

Cleaning the eagles requires scrubbing them off with unscented Dawn

dish detergent to remove the fish oil and

slime that soaked their feathers, then

rinsing them in a wood-framed structure covered in plastic to keep things

hot and humid.

After they are rinsed, the birds are

placed into individual kennels in a

warming room, where propped-up hair

dryers blow hot air on them, though

they continue to need supervision.

“They can overheat, now that they’re

clean,” said Barbara Callahan of the

International Bird Rescue Research

Center. “These birds are exhausted, and

they really couldn’t be more stressed.”

After they dry, the birds are reevaluated to see if they are completely

rid of the oil, which keeps them wet

and reduces their ability to retain their

body heat. Those that still need scrubbing are spot-cleaned, particularly

under their wings and on their upper

legs, Pool said.

While most of the eagles looked

understandably irritated at the process,

one, No. 08-03, remained in critical condition, its listless body leaning against

the back of the dog kennel where it was

drying. Its blood work—yes, the eagles

are having lab work done—didn’t show

any problems, but its body temperature

remained low, Pool said.







Broadcast News Writing 235



Like all the rest, No. 08-03 is a

male, said Mary Bethe Wright, a board

member at the center. Nobody knows

why female eagles escaped the stinky

fish waste, but the women workers

seemed to enjoy the gender bias.

“I don’t think we have any idea. The

females were smarter, maybe,” Wright

said with a laugh.

The opportunistic scavengers eat

about a pound of salmon a day at the

center, which cared for 44 bald eagles all

of last year and is asking for help with

heating costs—the building is being

kept near 80 degrees—and donations of

unprocessed salmon.

Recovered eagles should be released

in a few days, Pool said, but getting them

back down to Kodiak may be a challenge

because of weather and expenses. Even

if they make it to Kodiak, they won’t be

released in the same area, she said.

“We always try to release the birds

as close to where we found them as

possible, but we’re not going to release

30 birds back at the processing plant,”

she said.

The fish and wildlife service is investigating to see if Ocean Beauty Seafoods

will face charges because of the incident.

In general, a first offense of this type

would be a misdemeanor, said spokesman Bruce Woods, though intent factors into the decision about whether

charges will be filed.

In a prepared statement, company

spokesman Tom Sunderland said the

plant adhered to its normal policies for

transporting fish waste. The shipment

was bound for a fish meal plant, and

company procedures call for the load

to be covered after the truck exits the

garage, Sunderland said.

“In this case, the birds went to the

waste trailer before the cover could be

applied,” he said.

—James Halpin, Anchorage Daily News



236 Part 3







Constructing Stories



ETHICS

The Radio-Television News Directors

Association (RTNDA) is the largest

organization for electronic journalists. Although many television stations have their own codes of ethics,

the RTNDA code of ethics serves as

a guide for the broadcast industry.

You can find the entire code online

at www.rtnda.org; link to the code

on the navigation bar. Here are a

few of the main principles:





Professional electronic journalists should recognize that their

first obligation is to the public.







Professional electronic journalists should pursue truth aggressively and present the news

accurately, in context, and as

completely as possible.







Professional electronic journalists should present the news

fairly and impartially, placing

primary value on significance

and relevance.







Professional electronic journalists should present the news

with integrity and decency,

avoiding real or perceived



conflicts of interest, and respect

the dignity and intelligence

of the audience as well as the

subjects of news.





Professional electronic journalists should defend the independence of all journalists from

those seeking influence or control over news content.



Teasers and Lead-ins

A teaser, also called a “tease,” is a short blurb to entice viewers to tune in or stay tuned

to a newscast. It is broadcast during the day before the newscast or during the newscast before a commercial break. Don’t tease the regular segments in general terms

like weather and sports; tease something interesting or unique in your program that

will affect the viewers. Write a tease as though you were telling a friend, “Guess

what?” or “You won’t want to miss this!” Teasers can include audio and video.

Here is a mid-day tease of two items for the 5 p.m. newscast on KTUU:

GOOD AFTERNOON. HERE’S WHAT’S

GOING ON AT THIS HOUR.

LAWMAKERS ARE BEGINNING

TO ARRIVE IN JUNEAU . . . AHEAD

OF TOMORROW’S START OF

THE LEGISLATIVE SESSION. WE’LL

TAKE YOU TO THE CAPITOL FOR A

PREVIEW TONIGHT.



AND, MORE THAN 45 STATES

SIGN ON WITH NEW RULES TO

KEEP TEENS SAFE FROM SEXUAL

PREDATORS ON MYSPACE.

THE STORY . . . TONIGHT ON

CHANNEL TWO NEWS.



And here is a tease that anchor John Tracy read before the commercial break that

came in the middle of the 5 p.m. newscast after the eagle story on KTUU.

COMING UP ON THE 5 OCLOCK

REPORT . . . TWO FOSTER CARE

TEENS SUED THE STATE SAYING

IT DID NOT KEEP THEM SAFE.

NOW BOTH SIDES AGREE TO A

SETTLEMENT.



AND KEEPING KIDS SAFE

ONLINE . . . MYSPACE JOINS FORCES

WITH 49 STATES INCLUDING

ALASKA TO CHANGE THE RULES.



Chapter 12







Broadcast News Writing 237



Other introductions to teasers before the commercial break can be phrases such

as “Just ahead,” “Still to come,” or “When we come back . . . .”

Sometimes fragments can get the point across better than complete sentences.

In a moment . . . sex behind bars. A

scandal brewing in Georgia.

—CNN



Lead-ins: The anchor reads a lead into a package by a reporter. The lead-in should

give the essence of the story and sometimes the context for how it occurred. It should

not repeat the reporter’s lead. It ends with a statement that the reporter, cited by

name, has more information or just the reporter’s name as in this example:

MANY WOMEN EXERCISE HARD

TO GET IN SHAPE. BUT A NEW

STUDY SAYS TOO MUCH EXERCISE

CAN OFTEN LEAD TO SERIOUS

HEALTH PROBLEMS FOR WOMEN.

ILEANA BRAVO TELLS US HOW

SOME FEMALE COLLEGE ATHLETES

COULD SUFFER FROM EATING

DISORDERS AS A RESULT. . . .

—NBC News Channel



Writing for Radio

Writing for radio news follows many of the same principles as writing for television news, but the copy is shorter. Stories can be more like the TV teasers in length.

A radio newscast may total about 90 seconds with six or seven stories unless it is

National Public Radio, which offers longer stories. A typical story might contain

fewer than 100 words. And because you can’t show video; you should create word

pictures by describing the scene.

Peter King, CBS News Radio correspondent, covers complicated stories in a clear,

concise way. In an interview with the Al Tompkins, the Poynter Institute’s broadcast

leader, King offers this advice for writing radio news:

“You have to be able to pick out the most important information and not get

caught up in the minutiae. And you have to keep it simple. It’s a big mistake to try to

cram too much information into too little time, which is why you have to prioritize

and do it quickly.”

King says most of his sentences last only five to six seconds on the radio. “My rule

of thumb is, ‘If it seems awkward and long when you say it aloud, it probably sounds

that way to the listener.’ I try to keep each sentence focused on a single thought, and

keep it simple. And keep in mind: You have to keep asking what the listener will and

won’t be able to digest.”



238 Part 3







Constructing Stories



Scripts for radio can be written in uppercase and lowercase letters instead of all

capital letters, depending on the preference of the radio station. The following terms

are used in radio:

Reader: a script that a newscaster reads without any background noise or comments from sources.

Actuality: the equivalent of a sound bite.

Natural sound: also called “ambient” sound. This is background sound, the same

term that’s used in television news.

Wrap: a story from a reporter that may include actualities.

Voicer: a story a reporter reads; it may contain natural sound but does not

include actualities.

Here are examples of public service announcements written for radio:

30-second script



15-second script



Soon, all over-the-counter medicines

will have one thing in common: simplicity. That’s because all over-the-counter

medicines will feature new, easier-toread labels that clearly show their ingredients, uses, warnings and directions.

Because if there’s one symptom we all



want to relieve, it’s confusion. For more

information, call the Food and Drug

Administration at 1-888-INFO-FDA.

Again, that’s 1-888-INFO-FDA. The new

label—It’s clearly better.



Tired of being confused when comparing over-the-counter medicines? Soon,

all over-the-counter medicines will feature new, easier-to-read labels. For more

information, call the Food and Drug



Administration at 1-888-INFO-FDA.

The new label—It’s clearly better.



—Food and Drug Administration



—Food and Drug Administration



Broadcast Style

Punctuation Avoid quotation marks. Generally, sound bites take the place of

quotations. But if you want to quote someone, write out the word quote in this

way: “She said . . . quote . . . this situation is impossible” or “and these are her exact

words. . . .” Don’t end the quote by saying “unquote.” The reader’s emphasis should

make the end of the quote clear.

Limit punctuation to the comma, period, question mark and dash.

Numbers Round off numbers when possible. Write out the numbers one through

nine; use numerals for numbers over 10. Write out hundred, thousand, million,

billion and trillion.

Write numbers to be read as follows: 13-hundred, two-thousand, 14-thousand,

one-million, 17-million. More complicated numbers would be written this way:

320-thousand, not 320,000; 15-million-230-thousand, not 15,230,000.

Spell out fractions: one-half, three quarters.

For decimals, write out the word point: “It comes to 17-point-two-million

dollars.” Write out the word dollars also, instead of using the symbol.



Chapter 12







Broadcast News Writing 239



There are some exceptions. Addresses, telephone numbers and time of day are

written in numerals, even if the figures are lower than 10: “She lives at 5 Westbrooke

Avenue”; “The accident occurred at 10:30 this morning” (avoid a.m. and p.m.); “The

telephone number to call for information is 5-5-5-1-2-3-4” (separate the numerals

with dashes so they are easier to read).

Limit the Use of Numbers: They can be numbing, especially to the ear. Use

percentages to give comparisons when possible. If you must use numbers, round

them off and reinforce them with a graphic. Say “320-million dollars,” not “320million-122-thousand-three-hundred-44 dollars.” Whenever possible, use an

analogy to help viewers visualize numbers. The world’s largest oil tanker is 15hundred feet, equivalent to five football fields.

Names and Titles Spell difficult pronunciations of names and locations phonetically. Some anchors prefer only the phonetic spelling instead of the real name followed

by the phonetic pronunciation. John Blum would be written as it is pronounced—

John Bloom. Identify a person’s title before the name: “State Attorney General John

Lawmaker is pleased with the results of a crackdown on fraudulent coal dust testing,”

not “John Lawmaker, state attorney general, is pleased with the results. . . .”

Use Contractions with Caution Write them out. Let the anchors contract

them if they want to. Avoid can’t. It may sound too much like can.

Omit Needless Words Words like that and which aren’t always needed.

Timing of Copy Broadcast scripts use 1:30 for one minute and 30 seconds;

2:00 for two minutes and so on.



Story Structure

Like a newspaper story, a broadcast story needs a clear focus, a lead, a body and an

ending. Unlike newspaper writing, however, broadcast writing should be geared to

audio and video.

Bob Dotson, an NBC correspondent awarded more than 70 times for his good

writing, calls the focus sentence a “commitment” statement. It is still a one-sentence

summary of the story, but it is centered more on visual impact—what you want the

audience to take away from the report. Provide the commitment visually.

In speeches he makes to journalism groups, Dotson offers these tips:

Beginning: Write to your pictures first. Build your lead around a visual that foreshadows the story to come.

Middle:

Usually no more than three to five points, which you prove visually.

Use strong natural sound to let the viewer experience what happened.



240 Part 3







Constructing Stories



Use people engaged in compelling action that is visual.

Use surprises to keep viewers involved and lure uninterested viewers.

Use short sound bites.

Ending: Build to a strong ending throughout the story, and make it visual. Make

your viewers care about the story and the people.

Here are some ways to structure each part of a package, a story that contains

video and sound bites:



Leads

An anchor will introduce your story, but every story in a package needs its own lead.

Max Utsler, a broadcast journalism professor at the University of Kansas, said the

No. 1 consideration for a lead is that it must fit the pictures the viewer sees. “Good

television writing is not the craftsmanship of words; it is the presentation of the

words and pictures fitting together,” he said.

Once you have decided which images to use at the beginning of your package, you

can decide whether the story needs a hard or soft lead. Feature stories may take softer

leads; a breaking-news story calls for a direct approach. In all cases, you must get to

the focus—the nut graph—very quickly, generally by the second or third sentence.

Put a human face on the story whenever possible: Try to find someone personally

affected by the issue. You can start with the specific, using a person first, and then

going to the nut graph:

IRIS DUNCAN WOKE UP ONE

MORNING

AND

SAID

SHE

THOUGHT SOMEONE HAD PUT

WAXED PAPER OVER HER EYES.

SOUND BITE: IT WAS ALL FUZZY

AND CLOUDY AND I COULDN’T

SEE. I HAD NO IDEA WHAT WAS

WRONG.



SHE WENT TO HER DOCTOR

THAT AFTERNOON. SHE LEARNED

SHE HAD GLAUCOMA. THE

DISEASE STRIKES ONE OF EVERY

200-THOUSAND PEOPLE.



Starting with a general statement and going to a specific person is less effective:

GLAUCOMA STRIKES ONE OF

EVERY 200-THOUSAND PEOPLE.

IRIS DUNCAN IS ONE OF THEM.

SHE WOKE UP ONE MORNING AND

SAID SHE THOUGHT SOMEONE

HAD PUT WAXED PAPER OVER

HER EYES.



The You Voice: Not all stories directly affect viewers’ lives. But when possible,

try to stress the impact within the first few sentences. Use an element that will make

viewers care or understand why this story is important, unusual or of human interest.



Chapter 12







Broadcast News Writing 241



Don’t be afraid to use the pronoun “you,” especially in consumer stories, to heighten

impact. Instead of writing a story about a drought in California that will cause lettuce

prices to increase, try this approach:

YOU’RE ABOUT TO PAY MORE

FOR YOUR SALAD. A DROUGHT

IN CALIFORNIA IS RAISING THE

PRICE OF LETTUCE.



Impact Leads: Lead with the effect on viewers as in the previous lead. An impact

lead often uses the you voice.

IF YOU TOOK YOUR CAR TO SEARS

FOR REPAIRS IN THE PAST TWO

YEARS, YOU MAY GET A REFUND.

THE COMPANY AGREED TO

SETTLE CHARGES THAT IT CHEATED

CUSTOMERS BY DOING SHODDY

OR UNNECESSARY CAR REPAIR

WORK.



AN ESTIMATED 12-THOUSAND500 MISSOURIANS WILL BE

ELIGIBLE TO RECEIVE 50-DOLLAR

CREDIT COUPONS FOR ANY SEARS

MERCHANDISE.



Advance the Lead: When you can, advance the lead by stressing the next step

to gain immediacy:

Immediacy: TWO PEOPLE REMAIN IN SERIOUS CONDITION FOLLOWING

A CAR ACCIDENT THIS AFTERNOON.

No immediacy: TWO PEOPLE WERE INJURED IN A CAR ACCIDENT

TODAY.

Focus on a Person: The focus-on-a-person lead works as well in broadcast as in

print, especially for a feature or a news story that the anchor introduces with a hardnews lead-in. Like The Wall Street Journal formula, this type of lead goes from the

specific to the general. The person is one of many affected by the problem.

JUDY AND JOE WESTBROOK

SPENT THE MORNING CLEANING

UP THE FURNITURE IN THEIR

FRONT YARD. THE BLUE RIVER

HAD OVERFLOWED ITS BANKS

AND FORCED ITS WAY INTO THEIR

INDEPENDENCE HOME.

MORE THAN 25 FAMILIES SHARE

THEIR PREDICAMENT. LATE THIS

AFTERNOON ALL OF THOSE

FAMILIES WERE AWAITING WORD

ABOUT THEIR FLOOD INSURANCE

CLAIMS.



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