Week 5 (10/3): Writing for television news

Al Jazeera English newsroom. Photo: Paul Keller/CC/flickr

BY MARK GATELY

Class discussion: How do you interact with TV news?

Elements used in TV news:

  • A script written by the reporter
  • On-location footage featuring the reporter and interviewees
  • Video footage supplied by a cameraman
  • Archival footage
  • Still images and graphic images (tables/charts/cartoons etc)
  • A news anchor/presenter

Writing for broadcast

Can be summarised as writing for the eye and ear or, in the case of radio, just the ear. You also are limited by time and your listeners can’t re-read a sentence they didn’t understand or missed the first time. So, there are some important things to keep in mind:

  • Keep your writing conversational
  • Each sentence should be short (20 words or less) and contain just one idea
  • Keep it clear and simple – no big words
  • For radio, your words must paint a picture

Once you have written your script it is crucial that you read it out aloud so you know what does and doesn’t work.

But remember that your natural inclination will be to speed up, putting the timing out, so try to read it in “news reader” character.

Structuring a TV news script

  • Narration for the News Anchor/Presenter– leading into the story and possibly tail-ending it.
  • Narration for the On Camera Presenter (You)
  • Video footage of the news item. After watching the footage choose sections that are suitable to be shown on air. Choose a timecode start point and a timecode end point.
  • If video footage is not available find suitable photos/graphics etc.
  • Include links to the footage/photo/graphics sites if appropriate.
  • Construct the script using the above elements.

One example

script

And the broadcast version:

Video resources

TASK

  1. Spend time browsing this list of government departments, pick an area that interests you and click on the minister or agency links to find a media release. You can use the news sites above for inspiration. Then write a script for a television news story based on that media release. Length: 100-200 words (which equates to between 30 and 60 seconds)
  2. Choose a Creative Commons (CC) image – here’s how.

Author: veritychambers

Journalist and teacher

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