Yesterday, I was given a look at an amazing book and it so captivated my attention that I ran off to buy it at my local bookstore. Amazingly enough, the only book with the title they had was purchased just a while before I was able to arrive at the store to obtain it. As I left the store a small paperback book caught my eye because its content was very unique. The book was entitled: “How to Watch TV News” by Neil Postman who had written another interesting piece of nonfiction “Amazing Ourselves to Death.” This book he co-authored with an academic, Steve Powers. Although, this book had been written a while back I found it an interesting read and what follows are some Q and A’s I compiled from the treasured insights I was able to gleam from this gem I found late yesterday afternoon. I hope you too will be fascinated with all the efforts made by so many to produce a two minute segment of the news. I am embarrassed to say that I had no idea (as is the case with so many things that are so readily available to me every day) what went into the actual mechanics of a nightly newscast. If my facts need some updating because the book was not published just recently, feel free to comment and clarify. Enjoy!
What are the top ten markets?
- New York
- Los Angeles
- San Francisco
- Washington D.C.
What is the biggest obstacle in television journalism?
Time because it works in opposition against understanding, coherence and even meaning.
How is writing Different for newscasts?
Facts must conform to the needs of television news – compressed and told in fifteen to twenty seconds and tailored to the anchor’s style and pace. There is a lot of pressure because introductions to taped segments have to be written and live shots have to have explanations.
What is a prepackaged news story?
It is a story that has been assembled frame-by-frame, phase-by-phase with literally hundreds of cuts and edits that are strung together with seamless flowing connections – image after image until the “piece” is finally finished.
What type of professionals work on a “live” broadcast news story?
Persons who have been well-trained in the arts, camera work, writing, editing, narrating and journalism all have a hand in accomplishing the final televised news product.
What makes a story a “lead” story?
News audiences like to see action drama. Fires and disaster situations usually involved fatalities, and when people are killed there is drama and a sense of immediacy and stimulation.
How does a news story for a broadcast take shape? What is the A-Z process?
A. Witness to a story calls the television station speaks to an operator
B. The operator connect s the call to the newsroom
C. A desk assistant takes the call and advises the assignment editor of the details
D. The assignment editor calls the fire department, policy department or other agency to confirm and to obtain additional details
E. The managing editor orders the desk assistant to contact a reporter and a crew, sending them to the area where the incident is occurring or has happened
F. The desk assistant begins to cross-reference resources (phone numbers, addresses etc) and if people are involved in a breaking story at a specific location, makes contact.
G. If a story is newsworthy and urgent (appears to have the ear marks of a major event) the desk assistant advises the managing editor
H. A reporter or a producer does a recorded interview
I. As more confirming information flows into the newsroom, the managing editor calls the news director
J. They decide together whether or not a helicopter is required on the scene – if a crew and a reporter
K. A “live” news vehicle is ordered to the scene with its own – power cameras, recorders, monitors, and microwave transmitting equipment so that the broadcast can be seen “live”
L. The news truck is positioned in a location where it can send signals back to the station via microwave when the crew raises the antenna and runs a cable from the truck to the camera.
M. The reporter on the scene sets up a “command post “generally with the first responders to the scene (EMT – emergency medical technicians, fire fighters, police etc).
N. The reporter initiates the taping process and radios back this information plus any one-on-one firsthand knowledge and interviews he / she has gathered from eye witnesses and others at the news event
O. The producer contacts the newsroom that a major story is developing and more than likely will be the broadcaster’s lead story for the newscast
P. The helicopter hovers over the news scene and camera crew proceed to take “live” shots for the news program
Q. Writers and editors begin to read copy from wire services
R. The news director makes the call as to whether or not the story will qualify to be the lead news piece on the broadcast
S. The graphics department is notified (so they can began to put together a depiction of the event)
T. Engineering is placed on standby for images from chopper and “live” news vehicle
U. The desk assistant continues to take in newly reported and details connected with ongoing information
V. The reporters are kept advised since they are out on the scene are isolated from all the news sources that are flowing into the newsroom – field producers from the scene make certain that the information is transmitted back to editors and a writer is assigned to screen and edit it with a technician
W. The piece is edited sequence after sequence, with shots dubbed and played back scene by scene in the desired order. The sound may be used including interview and where the reporter (narrates) the “voice-overs” are added in and when it is complete, the final draft is made up of dozens of edits
X. The final version generally is no more than a couple of minutes in length with the reporter writer sometimes writing a suggested lead for the news anchor. He or she compiles a list of the persons involved in the story in the order they appear on the screen, along with the dates and locations to help in identify everyone
Y. All elements are assembled and the producer makes the call as to which stories will be aired in which order
Z. Everything is complete – the writers have written their portions of the scripts and the anchor reviews them and the directors for the newscast and technical staff has all the information explaining the order, source and the time specifications for each story and the broadcast show is aired.
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