May 18, 2017

Great stories hang in the viewer’s ear and catch the viewer’s eye. Here are some guidelines for writing for broadcast (and beyond).

  • Focus your story by summarizing in three words. Use one theme per story, one thought per sentence. Select, don’t compress, what goes in your stories.
  • Tell complex stories through strong characters. Viewers will remember what they feel longer than what they know.
  • Use objective copy and subjective sound. Your text should contain objective words and facts. Let the people in the story give opinions, express feelings and evoke emotions in their soundbites.
  • Use active verbs, not passive ones. Consider the difference between “the gun was found” and “the boy found the gun.”
  • Give viewers a sense of time passing. Show the character in more than one setting or situation.
  • Leads tell the viewer “so what.” Stories tell the viewer “what.” Tags tell the viewer “what’s next.”

Taken from Reporting, Writing for TV and the Web: Aim for the Heart, a self-directed course by Poynter’s Al Tompkins at Poynter NewsU.

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Vicki Krueger has worked with The Poynter Institute for more than 20 years in roles from editor to director of interactive learning and her current…
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