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  • Print publication year: 2012
  • Online publication date: October 2012

6 - Writing broadcast news



Chapter objectives

After reading this chapter, you should have an understanding of the following:

The technique of writing for the voice and the ear

The importance of writing to pictures – narrating a news montage

Why ‘chunking’ text is used to make online reading easier

While the ‘inverted pyramid’ concept of delivering information to news audiences originated in the world of wire services and newspapers, it is nevertheless the fundamental basis for the writing and reporting of news in the other news media too – on radio, television and on the internet. However, there are important differences that will be explored in this chapter.

Writing for the ear and the eye

In radio, journalists write for people to listen; but they will not listen intelligently and consistently unless a conscious effort is made to ensure it.

Walter Hamilton, in Revill & Roderick, The Journalist’s Craft (1965)

When ABC head of news and later assistant general manager Walter Hamilton wrote these words for The Journalist’s Craft, radio and television were ‘the newest and most powerful’ news media of their day. Perhaps we take them for granted now, despite their continuing power. The twenty-first century equivalent – in terms of new-ness if not yet power and reach – is obviously the internet. Today, every working journalist must understand the basics of all platforms and should be able to turn their mind (and their hand) to writing for any and all media. As Hamilton noted nearly 50 years ago, the principles of news-gathering and news logic apply across all media. However, there are ‘variations in practice’. He rightly suggested that some previously unknown skills would be needed to deal with ‘the newest forms of journalism’. But, like Hamilton, we will begin with the similarities.