Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Rewriting news for the webcast

First, kudos to the webcast team for putting out a couple of very polished editions the past couple of days! Having Quinn, Renee and Pedro all report made today's show feel like a complete broadcast. Congrats to everyone who worked on it!

If you listen to TV news carefully, you'll hear a subtle difference in the voice used compared to what appears in the newspaper. Because TV and radio are called the immediate media, producers and reporters are taught to write copy that brings a story into the present rather than casting it in the past.

That's not as easy as simply changing the verb tenses from past to present, though. The trick is to actually bring the story into the present by updating it.

Here's an example:

Print lede -  Four men robbed the First National Bank of Smallville on Tuesday, escaping with $200 million in small bills.

A broadcaster would update this way - Police are looking for four men who got away with 200-million dollars during a robbery at the Smallville National Bank on Tuesday.

Here's the lead story in today's Orion webcast:

Yesterday, the California State University Committee on Finance recommended that the board of trustees increase each students’ tuition by 150 dollars in case the state cuts higher education by 250-million. The board of trustees will vote on the increase at their full session today.

Yesterday is old news, though. And this story is a perfect candidate for an update:

California State University trustees will decide today whether to raise tuition 150-dollars for every student next semester. 

If approved, that increase and several others would help balance the books if the state cuts aid to state universities by 250-million-dollars.

The tuition hike WON'T be necessary if voters approve Proposition 30 this November.

Notice the shorter sentence, simpler syntax and the shift in emphasis to what's happening today? Also, the process in this story isn't as important as the effect of the trustees' action. Keep that in mind as you're writing copy for the webcast.

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