Monday, October 1, 2012

Cleaning up the webcast scripts

Now that The Orion daily webcast has hit its stride in terms of format, it's time to start cleaning up the story presentation. Here are some tips about making the show sound as good as it looks:

Is it live or is it digitally recorded? We hear the expression "reporting live from..." wherever all the time on TV news, but what does that really mean? A live shot or a live report means the reporter is on camera in real time (the same time as the news broadcast), almost always at a location away from the newsroom. The pictures and sound are transmitted using a satellite truck (although now it's possible to do the same thing with services such as Qik and UStream) and beamed directly to the station. The anchor live in the studio and the reporter live in the field could appear to be having a conversation.

The nature of The Orion's webcast makes it impossible for anyone to be reporting live, so the reporters should avoid that phrase. Just say, for example: "This is Renee Crane reporting from Bidwell Park, where record crowds turned out for this year's Bidwell Bark Festival."

What day is it? Because the webcast is usually put together the night before it officially airs, it's important that the scripts reflect time based on the day of broadcast. So, if the story being reported or voiced is happening on Saturday but doesn't air until Monday, the reporters and anchors should avoid the word "today" and use the actual day it happened. If possible, write the beginning of the script to bring the story up to date, or use the anchor intro to do that. Today, for example, instead of starting the sports by saying: "Men's soccer played this weekend...," try instead: "The men's soccer team is now five and two in conference play after defeating...."  The rest of the report should (and did) report which games or matches were played on which days. (Quick note: It sounds better and makes more sense to say The men's soccer team.... not just men's soccer.)

What's that he said? - During almost every newscast, a few words or phrases get swallowed instead of spoken. Reporters need to remember to slow down and try to pronounce the beginning and ending sound of every word as clearly as possible. They shouldn't exaggerate the word endings (that's a different kind of bad), but they should finish saying one word before starting another.

And, finally, a related note...

Could you try that again? - Occasionally we'll hear a broadcaster stumble over a word or phrase, then recover and keep on speaking. But that should only happen when someone is reading live (during a live broadcast or broadcasting live from an event). If the story is being recorded (as all stories are on The Orion webcast), then a take with a mistake should be done over again until the script is read correctly. When you think about it, it's perfectly natural to make a mistake reading copy aloud, so having to record three or four takes of the same script should be a perfectly natural thing to expect. It only takes a couple of extra minutes, but the payoff is a professional-looking and -sounding news show.

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