Chapter 19
Writing for Broadcast

Chapter 19 - Writing for Broadcast

Broadcast writing demands a special set of skills and knowledge from the journalist. Broadcast copy is written to be read out loud by a news reader rather than to be read silently by a news consumer. The words and sentences must be constructed so they are accurate and clear. They must also complement the pictures, video and audio that accompany a story.

Broadcast news stories are generally shorter than news stories for print, but they are no less difficult to write. In some ways, they are more difficult, because writers have to find the shortest words that will tell the viewers and listeners the most.

Reading a story out loud is the best way of telling whether or not the story is good enough for broadcasting. The story should be easy to read, conversational and understandable. It should also meet the basic journalistic requirement of accuracy of fact and context.

Study questions

  • What are the characteristics of writing that distinguish broadcast news writing from writing for print or the web?

  • Why is writing for broadcast different from writing for print?

  • Dramatic unity is the major story structure for writing broadcast news. What are its three parts?

  • Why are regional accents not useful in broadcast journalism?

  • What are sibilants? What do they have to do with broadcast writing?

  • What are the important factors involved with putting together a newscast?

Chapter notes

Broadcast writing examples. The book has a number of examples of broadcast news writing. Follow this link for more. Consider the questions at the end of each story.

Could Shakespeare make it? Would William Shakespeare survive a college writing class today -- particularly a class in broadcast writing? The emphasis of broadcasting is writing short, saying it quickly. That's not what the Bard is noted for. Still, our intrepid author, a college professor, considers the question and comes to his own conclusions.

Breaking in. Want to get into broadcasting? The Poynter Institute (which has a whole section on broadcasting journalism) has a timely article on tips on getting started in broadcast journalism. Here's how it starts:

Dig hard, write well, and maybe even sweep a few floors.

Broadcast professionals say that's what young journalists should do if they're serious about pursuing a career in the competitive field of news broadcasting.

Television and radio students who want to stand out from the crowd must become enterprising, information-sniffing archaeologists, said Al Tompkins, Poynter's broadcast journalism group leader. (more)

Poynter has a wide variety of articles about all phases of journalism. The people at Poynter also respond daily to the major issues and controversies facing the profession.

Broadcast writing tips. If you learned to write for print first (and most of us did), you may have a bit of trouble switching to writing in broadcast style. Laurie Lattimore has compiled a list of tips for making the switch.

Key concepts and terms

• Broadcast writing requires a different style of writing from print because both the medium and the expectations of the audience are different.

• The commitment of broadcast writers to accuracy is just as strong as that of print journalists.

• Broadcast writing is more conversational than print because it is written to be heard rather than read, but the writing has to be just as disciplined and precise.

• Broadcast news stories emphasize the immediate and the most up to date information.

• Broadcast news stories have to fit into a certain time period and cannot vary more than a few seconds.

Dramatic unity – the story structure used by most broadcast news writers; it consists of three parts, climax, cause and effect.

United Press International Stylebook – the major source of style information for broadcast writing.

• Broadcast writers attempt to simplify whenever possible, but simplification should not produce inaccuracy.

Related web
sites for
Chapter 19

BBC News Style Guide

Poynter Online TV / Radio tipsheets

National Association of Broadcasters Information Resource Center

Section I | 1: News and Society  |  2: Culture of Journalism  |  3: Becoming a Journalist
Section II  |  4: Newspapers  |  5: Magazines  |  6: Television and Radio  |  7: News Web Sites
Section III  |  8: Reporters  |  9: Reporting  |  10: Writing news and features  |  11: Style  | 
12: Editors13: Editing and headline writing  |  14: Visual Journalists  |
  15: Graphics Journalism  |  16: Photojournalism  |  17: Publication Design  |
  18: Broadcasters  |  19: Writing for Broadcast
Section IV  |  20: Beginnings of Journalism  |  21: Journalism Comes of Age  | 
22: New Realities, New Journalism  |   23: 20th Century and Beyond
Section V  |  24: Law and the Journalist  |  25: Ethical Practices  |   26: Present and Future
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