|newscript.com||online radio journalism tutorial|
Radio reporters spend as much time rewriting scripts as writing them. Stories are rewritten from three types of sources: newspapers, press releases and other radio news scripts. The first two of these sources are not written in broadcast style, and radio reporters need to be aware of the differences between print and broadcast.
One obvious difference involves numbers. In print style, numbers can be written out to exactitude, while on the radio numbers are reduced to two significant digits. Ages in the newspaper are written between commas after an individual's name; in broadcast style, ages are given as adjectival phrases preceding the name.
Newspaper stories also display a greater use of the past tense. Print is a distancing medium, separating events through the filter of the written word from the immediacy of their occurrence. Newspapers are also written hours before they are read, so the events described seem "old news." Radio, on the other hand, has an intimate, "you-are-there" quality that is enhanced by the use of the present tense. Newsmakers spoke to newspaper reporters ("Bush said...."); they speak to a radio audience ("BUSH SAYS....").
The greatest difference involves story length and detail. Print reporters write hundreds, even thousands of words for a particular story. Few, if any, of your stories as a radio reporter should have even a hundred words. Rewriting newspaper stories becomes an art of condensing. Take the following example of a newspaper story from the imaginary Middleville Times:
The funding comes from the state's Transportation Enhancement Fund, Whipple said.
Built of sandstone in 1834, the bridge is a 285-foot span made up of three arches over Salt Creek on the old route from Middleville to Greenfield. Deterioration of the bridge in recent years has been a worry to local preservationists. The bridge was closed to traffic in 2005.
The $200,000 infusion will cover the estimated cost to stabilize the bridge until money can be found to restore it. Permanent repairs could cost as much as $1,750,000, Whipple said.
Most of the press releases a newsroom receives concern community groups trying to gain publicity for themselves or their events. Usually these press releases are of minor news value. In smaller communities, however, listeners expect to be informed of such events, and program directors may well inform the newsroom that a story must be aired. Generally, though, if a news or program director believes a press release is worth a story, a reporter will make a phone call or visit an event, with the result that the reporting is original rather than a rewrite.
Businesses and organizations often use press releases...through mail though increasingly through the fax machine or PR Newswire...to tout promotions, reorganizations, mergers, hirings, layoffs and other activities. These press releases are the first, and sometimes the only official contact the business or organization will make with the media. Press releases are an essential aspect of business reporting. Let's say your fax machine spits out the following press release from an out-of-town bank announcing a deal for it to buy a local bank:
Mary Gonzales, President and Chief Executive Officer of Heron Bank, announced, "We are very pleased with opportunities afforded by our prospective acquisition of Middleville Savings Bank. We are looking forward to serving the Middleville community."
The closing of the acquisition transaction is subject to the completion by Heron Bank of its due diligence investigation of Middleville Savings Bank, as well as regulatory approval by federal and state banking officials.
Middleville Savings Bank has assets of $65,000,000 and operates three branches, two in Middleville and the third in Smalltown.
Heron Bank operates in seven markets in two states and has assets of $1,880,000,000. Heron Bank provides a full range of banking services to individuals and small-to-medium businesses.
In the course of the day, stories you or other reporters have written need to be rewritten. Rewriting is essential not just because each time you tell a story it should sound different and fresh, but also because situations change. Keep the focus on what is current. An early-morning house fire will bring stories about the blaze, the firefighters and any injuries or fatalities. By midday, the lead concerns the amount of damage to the building. In the evening, the focus shifts to the family that might be homeless that night. The shifts in focus require rewriting the story several times in the course of the day.
Rewriting is an important aspect of radio journalism. Knowing how to adapt stories to your medium and to current situations will aid you in informing the public and gaining respect as a timely provider of news.