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The In-Depth Style

other topics under STYLES: The Network Style, The Vivid Style

Many stations run local news-talk during drive time, often with a longtime, well-respected, pillar-of-the-community talker -- especially in morning drive. The newsroom needs not only to inform listeners of the important events of the day, but also to give them...and the talker...something to talk about. Stories need to have enough detail to allow the talker to make cogent arguments and hold intelligent conversations with listeners. Here the in-depth style can help.

Asking...and answering questions

We all remember the six essential questions a news story should answer: Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How? An in-depth story needs to pay special attention to the last two: the Why and the in, Why is this politician proposing this plan? How will the plan work?, or Why is this researcher's work important? How will the research help people? When writing your stories, ensure that your script tries to provide some answers.

For example, a press release arrives from State University heralding better chickens. A researcher in the agriculture school says she's discovered that hens fed a special enzyme produce offspring less prone to disease. When you do your phone interview, ask about the implications for the person in the street in order to get tape that will be comprehensible to those listeners who are not poultry scientists. In your script, emphasize the general value of having healthier chickens while including a few details of the research with, say, a sentence like this:

The story also gives your talker an issue, food safety. The talker can even extend the issue to question whether there's been too much manipulation of nature through all these research studies.

Thorough doesn't mean long

Story length in the in-depth style will be longer than in other styles, but not by that much. Stories without tape should run 25-30 seconds....stories with tape, 40-45. Shorter, 20-second stories should also be used both to increase story count (giving a wider sense of news coverage) and to provide listeners with some variety.

Since story count is relatively low, the in-depth style is not suitable for 90-second casts. This style is best suited for stations with a 5-minute news hole at the top of the hour and 3:30 at the bottom.

Story placement

Hierarchy is especially significant for the in-depth style. Length is often used by listeners to judge the importance of a story, but when many of the stories run at least half a minute, length no longer helps listeners figure out what's important. Story placement becomes the only means. The most important stories should come at the beginning of the cast....the less important stories towards the end.

You may want to end the cast with a zinger -- a humorous or unusual piece that gives the talker something immediately to play with and helps the talker's phone lines light up. Use common sense, however, in choosing a zinger. A longtime, well-respected, pillar-of-the-community talker is not going to want to offend listeners. Also keep in mind that you're supposed to be a journalist, not a comedian.

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