Having worked with several media houses as a reporter, I can affirm that putting together a newscast that is highly informative, compelling, engaging and interesting is one of journalism’s greatest challenges. It’s like preparing a great meal. All of the individual items must be good, and they should be presented in an engaging and appealing way. A flea on the sauce can spoil the rest of the meal.
A newscast is a delicate mix of items, just like that good meal. Putting the segments of the newscast together in an engaging manner is the News Producer’s task. This comes in varying dimensions and subject to the station’s in-house policies on News broadcast.
For example, the conventional wisdom in broadcasting says your lead story will determine how many listeners will stick with your station for the rest of the newscast. However, it has been observed over time that at all-news stations, nothing really leads the newscast because the listeners are coming and going all the time.
Even so, the half-hour newscast remains the standard for local stations around the country. Hence, it’s important to know how such a newscast is produced.
Producing the Half-Hour Newscast
While producing a half-hour newscast, it is important to understand that you generally only have 22 minutes to work with. The rest of the half hour is given to commercials. Typically, it will contain six 60-seconds commercial breaks, two 30-seconds commercial breaks and the rest for breathers.
The News Producer has the responsibility of deciding on the order and mix of the newscast. This includes how to structure the packages, live shots, voice-overs, national, international, metro, weather, sports, business etc news segments in a way that is engaging and makes sense.
Like the top headline on a newspaper, the story chosen to lead the newscast says a lot about your station’s news judgment and values. Given access to the same reporting, one station might choose to lead its newscast with a story about a certain celebrity who went naked in a live video. Meanwhile, a rival station might lead with a legislative development affecting building constructions in some mega cities.
How to Decide the Lead Story
Now, assume that you are the producer of the newscast in your station. A very good question to ask yourself while deciding what the lead story will be is “what story is most broadly interesting and significant to our listeners?”
It is all about the interest of your listeners really. You need them to trust your newscast. You need them to be assured that you are committed to bringing the sort of newscast that is informative enough for them. This is only possible when you put their interest first.
Try to arrange your newscast so listeners are rewarded for sticking with you. Of course, not every story can throb with energy or be drenched with emotion. Nevertheless, you can sprinkle a little bit of that throughout the newscast. Tell your audience what they need to know but do it with as much grace and style as you can muster.
Connecting the Segments of a Newscast
For whatever reason, some News Producers – who should know better by the way – often fall into some temptations. The temptation is trying to snag together the stories in a newscast as if it is an episodic drama with each headline as a climax leading to the next episode.
It’s a good idea to group the items in the newscast in some sort of logical order. However, always avoid the trap of trying to connect unrelated stories with a thin string of false transitions. It sounds terrible and never works anyway.
Sometimes ago, a television sportscaster was dismissed for alluding that athletes resembled monkeys. The sportscaster’s remark was an attempt to connect with the previous news piece on chimpanzees at the local zoo.
Fine, you want to group related stories, right? There’s no reason to try to stitch together what can’t be linked. Imagine how cheesy it would sound if in the course of a conversation between you and your friends about the weather. Someone now said: “And speaking of being naked in a live video, the occupants of the wrecked building at Ita Faaji were stripped off their apartment after the building collapsed. “
How much sense do you think we have right there? You have to think of your radio listeners as a group of your friends. Whatever will sound awkward to your friends in a conversation is a quarter more than a half not okay for your listeners as well.
While linking the stories in a News cast, you don’t always need reference to the previous stories. In fact, a pause and change in inflections are enough to carry your listener to the next story. Every story in the newscast has its own mannerism and inflection. You need to understand that and apply the appropriate nuance to each news story in the newscast.
Teases in Newscast
Teases are an important part of broadcast journalism, especially in news writing. In several news writing training, special sessions are being devoted to the writing of teases.
Teases are short and precise references to what is coming in the newscast. They can be sprinkled into breaks in programming before the news. They are more often than not used to lead into a commercial break. The purpose of using teases is to leave the audience so intrigued that they will not even flip through other radio stations during the commercial break for fear of missing a single second of what is to come in the newscast.
Right after the headline of the story on a certain development in scientific research, a statement such as; ‘Will a new scientific breakthrough change life as we know it. We’ll tell you when we come back!’ is a tease.
‘A top government official has been accused of bankrolling the perpetrators of the Offa Robbery Attacks – find out who that is right after the break!’ – is a perfect tease.
A tease can also be used to connect a segment of the newscast to the other.
‘Will the UK lawmakers remain divided over Brexit or they will find a common ground and forge ahead? Sultan Grey is next with the International News!’
A close observation at these teases shows that they are giving the audience an insight into what will follow a break. This is important in the newscast and can be rightfully deployed. However, you have to leave unnecessary theatrics out of the teasers.
There you go; I hope you’ve learnt what a Newscast is, how to produce a half-hour newscast, how to decided your lead story, connecting the segments of a newscast and of course teases. Take a note of all of this, apply them in your newscast production and you sure will have an engaging one.
The tutorial on How to Deliver an Engaging Newscast drops on Friday. In the meantime, you can go through the following tutorials too;
- The Art and Science of News Reporting for Radio
- How To Interview the President Without Losing Your Job
- From Broadcasters to OAPs: How Radio Host Stopped Being Journalists
- 3 Alternative Jobs to Being a Radio Presenter
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