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Final Exam. Paul McGrath. First … a little test. Take out a sheet of paper. This is one last test of your wordsmithing skills. Write down your favorite color . Follow that by writing down three one-word adjectives that come to mind when you think of that color. A little test ….

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final exam

Final Exam

Paul McGrath

first a little test
First … a little test

Take out a sheet of paper.

This is one last test of your

wordsmithing skills.

Write down your favorite


Follow that by writing down

three one-word adjectives

that come to mind when you

think of that color.

a little test
A little test …

Now write down your

favorite animal.

Follow that with three

one-word adjectives

that come to mind when

you think of that animal.

a little test4
A little test …

Now write down what your

favorite vacation or getaway

spot is. Be specific or

general; this is where you

go to relax or have fun.

Follow that with three one-

word adjectives about that


a little test5
A little test …



a little test6
A little test …

This is not just a wordsmithing test … it’s a rudimentary psychological profile.

How you describe your favorite color is how psychologists determine how you see yourself.

a little test7
A little test …

How you describe your favorite animal is how psychologists determine how you think others see you.

a little test8
A little test …

And last, but certainly not least …

How you describe your favorite getaway spot is how psychologists determine how you view your love life.

final exam9
  • The final is take home. You can fax or email me your test by the prescribed deadline. My Chron fax number is 713-220-6806 and my home fax is my phone number, 281-374-6858. If you are faxing to my house, call me first so I can set up the printer. If faxing to the Chron, call me afterward to let me know it was sent.
final exam10
  • What it covers: AP style (20 points), fill in the blank off your notes and textbook (30 points, four short answer questions (20 points), story rewrite (30 points). Remember, all of you who showed up for “bonus points” day already have 3 points going into the final.
final exam11
  • How I grade the story rewrite: name and fact errors will be 15 points each with a maximum deduction of 30 points (getting the same name wrong three times will be 30 points, not 45). AP style and spelling errors are 2 points each. The rest is pretty subjective, but I will pay particular attention to the lede, transition, wordiness and what you list as missing information.
final exam12
  • Your overall grade is calculated like this: AP exercises (10%), story assignments (60%) with the current events counting as one story grade and the profile counting double, final exam (25%) and the remainder -- 5% -- is an assessment of your effort, improvement, participation (absences) etc.
credibility issues

Credibility Issues

Paul McGrath

credibility issues15
  • Earlier in 2006, a number of Miami journalists were fired or disciplined for taking money to work for the Voice of America, the U.S. propaganda network.
  • Perhaps more insidious is the growth of “fake news,” video news releases done in the sheep’s clothing of a TV news story. Many government agencies and businesses send news releases to broadcast mediums that are barely distinguishable from news stories.
credibility issues16

The latest issue or hottest product is presented by a “reporter” in much the same format of a regular news story.

The same “reporter” may have different names in different stories.

The unwitting TV station, therefore, may run an update on No Child Left Behind that was actually created by the Education Department.

fake news

Fake News

What you need to know as a broadcast news consumer

What you need to avoid as a broadcast news reporter

the problem with fake news

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Federal Communications Commission has mailed letters to the owners of 77 television stations inquiring about their use of video news releases, a type of programming critics refer to as ``fake news.''Video news releases are packaged news stories that usually employ actors to portray reporters who are paid by commercial or government groups.The letters were sparked by allegations that television stations have been airing the videos as part of their news programs without telling viewers who paid for them.FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein said Tuesday the letters ask station managers for information regarding agreements between the stations and the creators of the news releases. The FCC also asked whether there was any ``consideration'' given to the stations in return for airing the material.``You can't tell any more the difference between what's propaganda and what's news,'' Adelstein said.The probe was sparked by a study of newsroom use of material provided by public relations firms.

the problem with fake news19

The study, entitled ``Fake TV News: Widespread and Undisclosed,'' was compiled by the Center for Media and Democracy, a Wisconsin-based nonprofit organization that monitors the public relations industry.When stations air video news releases, they are required to disclose to viewers ``the nature, source and sponsorship of the material that they are viewing,'' according to the FCC.The rules were prompted by payola scandals of the past, in which broadcasters accepted money from companies to hype their products without labeling the effort as advertising.Diane Farsetta, senior researcher with the Center for Media and Democracy and co-author of the study, said that did not appear to be the case in the study but that ``the main reason is economy. These are free stories that are given to stations that are continually under-resourced.''Farsetta said despite the publicity, stations are continuing to air releases without disclosure.Stations that received the letters have been given 60 days to respond. If the FCC decides they have violated the rules, punishment could include fines or license revocation.---On the Net:Center for Media and Democracy:

ethical dilemmas
Ethical dilemmas
  • Fake news is certainly not the only ethical worry in the broadcast medium.
  • In her book, “Truth and Duty,” (pages 113-114) former CBS producer Mary Mapes -- she of the Bush National Guard story fame -- talks about how TV has contributed to a “culture of celebrity.” She warns against subjects who play to the camera.
ethical dilemmas21
Ethical dilemmas

Specifically, she refers to the coverage of the Jonesboro, Ark., school shootings.

In the aftermath, there was much competition for an interview with the father of one of the shooters.

The father refused to commit, but one morning while talking with Mapes he told her that he had decided to go with NBC’s “Today” show.

Why? Because it had the “best ratings among the top ten cities and the best coverage nationwide.”

It was like a scene out of Oliver Stone’s “Natural Born Killers” -- the father of a teenage murderer negotiating with the national networks to get the best ratings for his son’s story.



Paul McGrath


One demographic study indicates that the average age of the typical nightly network news watcher is 60.

  • From July 30, 2006, Pew Report on Media Believability
  • From July 30, 2006, Pew Report on Media Believability
  • From July 30, 2006, Pew Report on Media Believability
  • From July 30, 2006, Pew Report on Media Believability
  • From July 30, 2006, Pew Report on Media Believability
lasting images

Lasting Images

Paul McGrath

lasting images30
Lasting images

The broadcast landscape has changed greatly in the past three decades, largely because of cable and the Internet. But like its print cousins, the broadcast medium is not ready for the grave just yet.

Since we live in the age of converging communications skills, someday you might find yourself having to do a stand-up outside an apartment fire, then writing a story for the online news product and then producing a third piece for the print side.

Radio and TV are mediums for the eye and ear. Think about some of the big stories from the past 10 years -- the Oklahoma City bombing, 9/11, the shuttle Columbia explosion, etc. It’s the images from the video that stick with us longest, not the images that were used in print.

broadcast news judgment

Broadcast News Judgment

Broadcast journalists view news a bit differently – they need pictures and sound

news judgment

One of the big differences between print and broadcast is how those mediums define “what is news.” The broadcast mediums have a narrower scope. There are four major criteria for shaping news judgment for broadcast mediums:

1. Timeliness: TV news magazines may have proliferated, but “the breaking story” still rules the day

2. Information or content: Broadcast stories have to answer the “what” question quickly because of the time factor; there is not much emphasis on the “why” and “how”

news judgment33

There are four major criteria for shaping news judgment for broadcast mediums:

3. Audio/visual impact: Being somewhat of a slave to the technologies involved, TV doesn’t like stories without pictures; radio folks like sound bites

4. People: Humanizing the stories gives them greater impact. It’s a first cousin of some of those anecdotal lede approaches we’ve talked about.

news judgment34

Of course, there are other differences between print and broadcast:

-- Broadcast folks are more concerned with “time” rather than “space.” This time-forced focus on brevity fosters a lack of depth, which is one of the major criticisms of broadcast journalism.

-- Also, the broadcast reporter is much more concerned with their appearance and manner of speech than print reporters. Voice and looks matter in their story-telling.

news judgment35

Of course, there are other differences between print and broadcast:

-- The print reporter may go into battle with tape recorder and a photographer, but the broadcast reporter has a microphone and generally has a “CREW.” At the networks, the person you see reporting a story may not have done any of the reporting at all -- it was all done by producers or assistant producers. The “reporter” supplies the star power.

-- Broadcast reporters don’t have to describe sights and sounds -- they can let the technology do that for them.

news judgment36

But there are also similarities …

-- Both mediums are utilizing the Web more and more to fill in the gaps in their coverage.

--The main similarity is the need for good writing.

broadcast writing

Broadcast Writing

Paul McGrath

characteristics of broadcast writing

Because news is weighed a bit differently at broadcast mediums, the writing takes on certain characteristics:

1. Immediacy: Focus on what’s happening now.

--Broadcast writers try to achieve a sense of immediacy by using the present tense as much as possible. The price of gasoline hasn’t “gone up” it is “going up.”

-- If there is no danger of inaccuracy or deceit, omit the time element altogether

-- If you have to use the past tense in the story, include the time element

-- Remember to update. The best way to avoid having “yesterday’s news” is to update with a new development, attempt to localize, etc.

broadcast 10 differences from print pr
Broadcast: 10 differences from print, PR
  • 1. Use a friendlier, more conversational tone (when appropriate). “Watch out for construction on the East Loop tomorrow as you’re headed to work.”
  • 2. Keep it short, simple and easy to follow. One idea per sentence; limit sentences to 20 words or fewer. Use simpler words.
  • 3. Say so long to the inverted pyramid. Broadcast stories need a beginning, a middle and an end.
  • 4. Use present tense. You want to sound new, fresh and immediate
  • 5. Contractions are OK. They generally aren’t in print.
broadcast 10 differences from print pr40
Broadcast: 10 differences from print, PR
  • 6. Attribution, quotes get different treatment. In print, the attribution generally goes behind the quote or statement. In broadcast, it’s generally the opposite.
    • Print: Jones gave a confession, police said.
    • Broadcast: Police say Jones confessed to the crime. (note the use of present tense)

7. Use phonetic pronunciation where necessary. Barack (buh-ROCK) Obama (OH-bomb-ah)

8. Use punctuation to aid delivery. Avoid hyphenating in scripts or breaking sentences between pages. Use ellipses or dashes to create pauses. Use underlines or CAPS for emphasis.

broadcast 10 differences from print pr41
Broadcast: 10 differences from print, PR
  • 9. Avoid abbreviations and symbols in scripts. Is “St.” street or saint? Is “Dr.” doctor or “drive”?
  • 10. Numbers: round them off, spell them out. Don’t use $497,457; use “about 500,000 dollars” or “about a half million dollars.” Make numbers easy to read:
    • 0: Write as zero
    • 1-9: Spell out as words. Maybe eleven also since it can look like two L’s
    • 10-999: Use numerals
    • Above 999: try to round off; use combo of words and numerals
characteristics of broadcast writing42

Because news is weighed a bit differently at broadcast mediums, the writing takes on certain characteristics:

2. Conversational style: Write the way you talk

-- Use simple, short sentences

-- Use transitive verbs. Transitive verbs do things to things; they demand a direct object.

-- Don’t use slang, colloquialisms or incorrect grammar

characteristics of broadcast writing43

Because news is weighed a bit differently at broadcast mediums, the writing takes on certain characteristics:

3. Tight phrasing: Remember, your foe is time instead of space. Time is less forgiving

-- Sentences should be no more than 12-15 words

-- Cut down on adjectives and adverbs

-- Using active voice over passive voices will trim some verbiage

-- Concentrate on the bare facts; print and online folks will fill in the details

characteristics of broadcast writing44

Because news is weighed a bit differently at broadcast mediums, the writing takes on certain characteristics:

4. Clarity: Unlike print and the Web, broadcast audiences can’t go back over the copy (unless it’s in the crawler!). The audience only sees it or hears it once -- or until the next news break.

-- In addition to short sentences, use nickel-and-dime words. See above…

-- Avoid too many numbers

-- ** Don’t be afraid to repeat words or phrases. Repeat proper names rather than use pronouns. Be sure to “tee up” (use identifiers) for unfamiliar names. Longtime Houston businessman John Smith died Wednesday……

-- Avoid foreign words and phrases

-- ** Keep the subject close to the verb. (NO: “Bagwell, who has been struggling at the plate recently, smacked a three-run homer in the ninth inning.”YES: “Bagwell smacked a three-run homer in the ninth inning. He’s struggled at the plate lately.”)

broadcast leads

Broadcast Leads

Paul McGrath

broadcast leads46

Here’s a surprise: Broadcast leads, just like their print cousins, strive to capture the attention of their audience.

It has to have enough substance or style to draw attention but not so much information that it hinders comprehension.

Unlike the print lead of 35-45 words, broadcast ledes should probably be fewer than 15 words -- 20 max. So, don’t crowd the lede with too much information. Waiting for certain questions to be answered will also keep the audience listening or watching.

Also, just like the print lede, the broadcast lede must set the proper tone and mood for the story.

Tragedies aren’t cute. Don’t mislead (TSU anecdote)!

broadcast leads47

Textbooks mention four types of broadcast ledes:

  • Single Act Ledes
  • Umbrella or Comprehensive Ledes
  • Chronological Narrative Ledes
  • Soft Ledes

It wouldn’t hurt you to read about those types, but the two types you will most often deal with if you go into some form of broadcast are:

-- the “single act lede” and the “soft lede.”

broadcast leads48

The single act lede:

  • Goes immediately into the “what happened” and “who” aspects.
  • The “what” is most important, followed by the “who.”
  • The time and place may be included.
  • The “how” and “why” come later in the story, if at all.

Example: A Texas House committee voted today to ban gays and lesbians from adopting children.

broadcast leads49

Thesoft lede:

  • This is also called “cuing in.”
  • It is characterized by using a general statement that will pique interest before going into the specifics of the story.

Example: Gay rights activists hit another roadblock today in the Texas House. (note there’s a bit of suspense here; you don’t know yet what happened, but you can deduce gay activists won’t like it.)

story structure

Story Structure

Paul McGrath

story structure51
  • Broadcast writers also have to craft special intros and conclusions to their audio and video segments, and they also have to synchronize their words with the taped segments.
  • Keep in mind that a broadcast story often is a co-operative effort of a least a two-person team (not counting the video and sound crew): the anchor at the station and the reporter in the field. This is where the lead-inand the wrap-upcome in.
story structure52

-- The lead-inintroduces a taped excerpt from a news source or from another reporter. It is much like the soft lede, but it should also set up the scene by briefly telling the “where”, the “when,” sometimes the “what” and to identify the source or the reporter (“Let‘s go now to Channel XX reporter Dana Thompson, who’s live on the scene in Baytown ...”).

They provide a bit of story background and should pique interest -- but not give the story away.

story structure53

-- The wrap-upserves as the conclusion of one story and as the divider before the next story. It might simply be the reporter’s sign-off: “This is Dana Thompson, Channel XX News, in Baytown.” This is especially important in radio, because the audience doesn’t have a visual clue to introduce the next story or the next reporter. You need a sentence or two to give one story an ending and clearly separate it from the next story.

The wrap-up also can serve as a summary – give the what’s next -- for a broadcast story.

common broadcast story forms
Common broadcast story forms
  • The reader or tell story: The most basic story type. The anchor simply reads the story, often accompanied by an over-the-shoulder graphic, logo, photo etc.
common broadcast story forms55
Common broadcast story forms
  • The voice-over (VO) story begins with an anchor or reporter on camera. As the news person continues to read, the video changes to footage – live or “B-roll” – that illustrates the topic.
common broadcast story forms56
Common broadcast story forms
  • The voice-over to sound on tape (VO / SOT) story transitions from a VO story to a sound bite or bites, perhaps official reaction or witness quotes to the news event.

U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings

common broadcast story forms57
Common broadcast story forms
  • The package story combines sound bites, voice-overs and stand-ups.
script example
Script example

Note the “read rate” of 140 words per minute for Bryan’s Channel 3 anchor Crystal Galney. (She was timed with a stop watch; CNN uses a computer program.) VO is voiceover; CG is a computer-generated graphic.

tips for radio reporting
Tips for radio reporting
  • Make every word count. The story may be only five or six sentences. Prune to the bone
  • Focus on people first. Giving the amount of a new budget is boring; but a tax increase affects Joe Sixpack
  • Read your stories aloud. Listen for wordiness, clumsy clauses.
  • Record natural sound, too. Radio is a sound medium; so use sounds. Remember the sounds of the shots in the Va. Tech massacre? NPR once sent a reporter to Brazil to get the sound of the Amazon; didn’t fake it
  • Paint word pictures. Help the listener visualize the story. Write with color; don’t just give dry facts.
more tips practice practice practice
More tips: Practice, practice, practice
  • Record yourself. Listen to the way you speak.
  • Adjust your delivery. Raise and lower the pitch and volume
  • The most common problems can be avoided:
    • Speaking too quickly or slowly
    • Emphasizing the wrong words
    • Limiting your vocal range
    • Stumbling over words

From CNN and Channel 3 in Bryan

-- Note how some of the tips on conversational style etc. overlap

-- Note the emphasis on good writing

-- Note the sample CNN script and the short sentences

related article
Related article
  • “Hold that Obit” in September 2006 American Journalism Review

final words

Final Words

Paul McGrath