6 tips for writing broadcast stories

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

    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 position as marketing communications manager.

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