Writing for Broadcast Notes | Study Mass Media - Class 6

Class 6: Writing for Broadcast Notes | Study Mass Media - Class 6

The document Writing for Broadcast Notes | Study Mass Media - Class 6 is a part of the Class 6 Course Mass Media.
All you need of Class 6 at this link: Class 6

Broadcasting is the world’s most pervasive medium of mass communication.. A wide variety of radio stations are available to anyone with a receiver since the early days of the medium. Underdeveloped areas that cannot get access to even a small newspaper will usually have a transistor radio to link it with the rest of the world. Satellite broadcasting has drawn the world closer together by ensuring that we have instant, live coverage of major news events from almost anywhere in the world. Most of the news values discussed apply to news selection for broadcasting. Broadcast journalists are interested in those events that have an impact on many people — people in the news, current issues, events that happen close to home and conflicts or unusual happenings. Because of the opportunities and limitations of their medium, however, broadcasters are likely to view such events in somewhat different ways than their counterparts in print journalism. The following are some of the factors that broadcasters use to select news.
Timeliness: Because of the nature of their medium, broadcasters often consider timeliness the most important news value. Broadcasters work on hourly or less than hourly cycles. A news broadcaster may go on the air several times a day. The news must be up-to-the-minute. News that is more than an hour or two old may be too late for the broadcaster. When you listen to a news report on a breaking news story, you expect to hear the very latest news-— what happened just a few minutes before.
Information not explanation: Broadcasters look for stories that do not need a lot of explanation in order for listeners or viewers to understand them. They prefer stories that are simple and can be told in a straightforward manner. In some larger markets, radio reporters are being told to reduce their story lengths to ten seconds and actualities to five seconds. That amount of time is not enough to explain a complex story in detail. It is enough time to give the listener a few pertinent facts. Of course, some stories are complex and important and explanation cannot be avoided. These are the ones the broadcaster must wrestle with and it takes practice and talent to condense these stories to their essence.

Language of Radio

The news on the radio moves fast without the facility of recall which is possible, in the case of newspapers. Therefore, whatever is written must be clear, precise and to the point. Sentences should be short and direct without sub clauses. Brevity is essential as a minute of broadcast time can take about 100 words, thus giving an editor the choice of about 1000 to 1100 words (in a 10-minute news bulletin) to cover world, national and regional news. There is a great constraint of space in radio, hence broadcast news must be big and important and should be put in crisp and easily understood language. Ceremonial items or didactic speeches distract the attention of the listener who can always switch off or change over to some other programme.
There should be no need for a dictionary while listening to a radio bulletin. It should be in words which are common in everyday speech. For example, “The work has started” and not “the work has commenced”. “The play has ended” and not “terminated”. We should acquaint ourselves with the elements of quality radio scripts. Their success rests entirely on the right combination of words and sounds in the narration/commentary. The shorter your sentences and crisper your narration, the greater will be the commentary’s impact. While padding has to be avoided at all costs, repetition of the main points is permitted and may even be necessary. This you can do towards the end of the programme in the form of a summary. This is to ensure that all the points that you want your listeners to remember are, in fact, briefly expressed again.
Enliven the Script/Commentary

The wider your vocabulary, the more visual are your images. And this, in turn, helps you to vary your form and have a firm hold over the listeners/audience. The radio is an audio medium. The secret of the ideal broadcast is the unexpressed will to woo listeners to stay tuned for the entire programme by simply providing the right fare. A good radio feature or running commentary is one that strives to describe the subject or phenomenon cogently and comprehensively. A radio feature or commentary is written in words that create appropriate atmosphere and concrete pictures in the listener’s mind. It is by improving the script and presenting it creatively that a radio feature writer and commentator make even the most complex subject appear simple. It is in their hands to make ‘hearing’ a gainful and lasting pleasure. They have only to wield their power correctly to their audience.

Be Completely Natural

You read aloud your narration/script/commentary as you write, if it is not off- the cuff broadcast, e.g., running commentary. If it sounds natural, as if you were talking, you are on the right line. If on the other hand, it sounds like formal written language, you will immediately know you are off-the-track. Get your friends and well-wishers to help you with their reactions. This tried and tested method will provide an immense help to you in improving your performance. The broadcaster’s language is indeed easy to understand because only the simplest possible terms are used. It is important to remember that the language be intelligible to the majority of the listeners. You must know that one picturesque phrase will do more to arouse the listener’s interest than a bunch of literary and idiomatic expressions.
Keep Clichés Out

This applies to hackneyed phrases as much as to journalistic ones. The microphone only reinforces their staleness. It is radio journalism at its worst. You should be yourself and not what you would like the listeners to think you are. While the listener is seldom deceived, you may flounder and reveal your true colours sooner rather than later. Give your listeners the best of listening by being your natural ebullient self. The art of writing a production script for the radio very often lies in the art of knowing what not to say. It is said in the BBC TV circles that a commentator is paid as much to comment as to keep quiet.

Keep on Looking for the Needs of the Market

It is well to remember that broadcasting is essentially a family affair. Good taste is what matters and should be the main criterion. The writer’s script should be simple and conjure visual rather than oral images in the listeners mind. Remember: short sentences and short words are always more effective than long-winded and pedantic phrases.

Writing For Television

We do not watch news on TV just to get the latest news. Radio does a better job. We do not prefer television because we want to get all the news: local, national and international. The newspaper does a better job. We as television viewers, benefit from TV newscasts because they transport us to the scene of action. The news is packaged and delivered to us. For this, a reporter must be able to relate words and pictures in a news story. Words fill in the factual details that pictures omit. While the pictures are indeed important, it is the narration behind the film, in most instances, that is responsible for the success of visual news stories on television. Poorly written narration can hurt the effectiveness of visuals but appropriate narration can greatly improve even poorly shot visuals. Writing to background graphics is the same as writing a story to visuals as described above. The trick is to avoid redundancy or repeating what the graphics show.
There are three basic rules which must be followed by the TV reporter writing to Writing for Mass Media visuals:

  • Do not cram your video narration full with details. 
  • Relate words to the pictures when telling the story. The narration and pictures must go hand in hand. 
  • Carry the viewer into the story by describing the way it happened. Although the narrator may begin with a brief opening summary (without pictures) telling the viewer the main points of the story, when the film rolls on, the story should be told as it happened not necessarily in chronological order.

In short, writing narration to blend with the visuals is one of the most difficult skills in broadcast reporting. The language must be crisp, the timing exact and the words have to click with what appears on the screen.
To be able to comprehensively cover the news, television news reporters generally employ the following techniques.

1. Piece to Camera of all the skills needed for television news reporting, the piece to camera is amongst the most frequently used. The piece to camera, which is essentially in-vision, is recorded on location. It has three advantages: it immediately establishes the reporter’s presence on the spot, it is extremely simple to execute and it is fast enough to be considered a kind of contingency sample. These stand-ups are written on the scene, without the benefit of typewriters or the other conveniences of the newsroom. Since the reporter looks straight into the camera, the lines have to be memorized. Sometimes, the reporters read from a note-book or a clip-board after ensuring the opening paragraph. Most standups are short – 10 to 20 seconds. On some occasions they run longer, especially in complex stories that require a lot of explaining, but do not offer many visuals. A stand-up can also be used in the middle of a story to “bridge” two other sections of the report. Bridges work especially well when the report demonstrates something.
2. Studio Spots While the piece to camera is an in-vision news presentation by the reporter recorded on location, the studio spot is a news item read in the studio by someone other than the programme’s main presenter, as additional information to the visuals. Usually, it is a special correspondent or a reporter who is called upon to draw together the elements of a news story with or without the aid of videotape or illustration.
Because television news is a team effort involving many persons, the chances of human error are great in a studio set-up, particularly as an ‘on-air’ situation. There are some simple rules that the on-camera studio reporter/ correspondent should follow. These are

  • Maintain self-control. Expect problems and be prepared to cope with them; 
  • Always prepare file copy. If film or video tape fails to come up, have the file copy close at hand, to carry on the show; 
  • Be familiar with studio cue-signals.

Writing for the Web

  • In the last few years, the Internet and its publishing spin-off, the World Wide Web, has grown from a fledgling concept to a medium that offers enormous potential for people and organizations to connect with one another. New possibilities are arising every day for communication through the web and with those possibilities come employment opportunities for those who can use the language and master production techniques.
  • Is there something different about writing for the web or is it just writing as we have always done it, but now for an electronic form? Unlike any other medium, the web is so egalitarian that the rules or conventions of writing have not yet been established or institutionalized. Consequently, we can make only a few observations about the directions in which the web and its content seem to be heading. Writing for the web does not demand much more than writing for any other medium demands. Some of the rules to be followed could possibly be: Sensitivity to the needs and expectations of the audience; Mastery by the writer of the subject about which he or she is writing; the ability to meet deadlines, and clarity of expression, and precision and efficiency in the use of the language All of these demands are common to any form of writing, whether for a book, newspaper or broadcast, and the web is no exception. Much of the writing that you find on the Internet looks and reads exactly like the writing that you would find in other media. In fact, many organizations use the web to display reports and other materials that have originally appeared in some traditional form.
  • Still, there is a type of writing on the web that is almost peculiarly its own. That type of writing has its base in a concept called hypertext. Prose writing is linear, that is, you begin at the beginning and read through to the end. That’s the way the writer intended to write and most readers follow that pattern. Hypertext is nonlinear. The text is broken into bits and structured so that a reader can begin at any number of points and decide which sequence suits his or her purpose. Writing for a hypertext structure has profound implications for a writer.

Web Writing Skills

  • The medium demands that information and ideas be broken into smaller blocks. These blocks should be related to the whole but they also need to stand by themselves within the context of the entire article or website. They are generally hierarchical
  • that is, they go from the general to the specific. But because the web offers readers the opportunity to move quickly from one item to another, the writer must also look for opportunities to “link” parts of the writing with other parts to make it easier for the reader to move around. This means the writer needs to anticipate how the reader might navigate within a website.
  • Another demand on writers using the hypertext structure is the ability to write headlines, subheads and summaries. Writing headlines and subheads for the web is far less restrictive than writing them for newspaper or magazines in terms of making them fit into a certain space.
  • Web writers are likely to have many more options and fewer typographical rules than the headlines writer for newspapers. But their abilities to summarize, whether in headline, subhead or summary form, will be severely tested, just as they are in traditional media. Summaries demand precise and concise use of the language.
  • They also demand that the writer understand the material being summarized so well that he or she can do it accurately. Summarizing is a skill that is essential to the web writer.
  • Another characteristic of the web is the integration of graphics and text. The best websites are built around graphical elements because from a reader’s point of view, websites are visual before they are textual. Graphics, then, are a vital part of web production and people who are involved in this medium must be fluent in the use of both graphics and text. With proper study and practice, anyone can become a better writer. Writing is not simply an inherent talent that some people have and others do not. There are steps that each of us can take to improve our writing. Writing is a process. That is, the rules, techniques must be mixed in with the individual’s style, thoughts and methods and with the subject and form of the writing. They all should work together to produce writing that is good. Writing requires discipline. Most people give up writing as soon as they can because it is such hard work. It is physically, mentally and emotionally demanding. The person who commits to writing must marshal all of his or her resources for the task. Writing is building. Good writing doesn’t happen all at once. It is formed, word by word, sentence by sentence and thought by thought. The writing process is often slow, tedious and frustrating.
  • But the product of this process of good writing is well worth the effort.
  • Finally, reading good writing is the next step. If you are interested in learning to write well, in any form, you should read as much as possible— newspapers, magazines, books, and anything else you can get your hands on. Then there is the writing itself, one has to “sit down and write.” That is the only way to become a good writer.
The document Writing for Broadcast Notes | Study Mass Media - Class 6 is a part of the Class 6 Course Mass Media.
All you need of Class 6 at this link: Class 6
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