ENGLISH FOR BROADCAST
Juwarti Hafsah, SS, M.Si
GENERAL COPYWRITING TIPS
DESCRIPTION: Sometimes the news reader isn’t reading the newest information to be shared to everyone via the television but he supposed to be able to tell the one’s story or become the storyteller of someone. This modul taught the student to share the small tips in being the storyteller of someone.
GOAL : By learning and understanding modul 7, wish the students can:
1. Write and tell the story or becoming the good storyteller of someone’s story.
2. Can use the statement in the shape of active voice.
1. Broadcast Journalism, written by Andrew Boyd (Focal Press)
2. Tata Bahasa Bahasa Inggris, written by Erhans Anggawirya and friends (Indah)
3. An Indonesian-English Dictionary, written by John M. Echols and Hasan Shadily (Gramedia)
4. An English-Indonesian Dictionary, written by John M. Echols and Hasan Shadily (Gramedia)
Broadcasting has one major limitation - it is a medium of impressions. The spoken word has an infuriating habit of going in one ear and out the orther. Research has shown that people can only recall about two items in eight from the previous night’s TV news.
So to beat these odds, the journalist has to work with the medium and write to create an impression - rather than trying to force-feed an audience with facts that are no sooner heard than forgotten. The art is to decide on the one lasting impression you want to leave your audience, which will usually be the main point of the story, and then to reinforce that by subtly pushing the point home throughout. This is called signposting, and it works like this:
Murder charges are being drawn up after a prisoner accused of blasphemy was allegedly tortured to death in police custody in Pakistan.
Under Pakistan’s Sharia religious law the penalty for blasphemy is death. But Mukhtar Masih was killed before his case could come to court.
Masih - a Christian - was charged with sending a blasphemous letter to the leader of a mosque.
The note bore his name and address. If he had written it himself he would have been signing his own death warrant.
Masih died within 24 hours of being taken into police custody. An autopsy showed he had been beaten with a blunt instrument.
Lahore’s High Court Prosecutor, Naeem Shakir, is filling a murder charge against two police officers.
Opponents of the Sharia law say the case is another example of an individual being falsely accused of blasphemy to settle a grudge. They’re calling for the law to be changed.
There are three key elements to this story: murder, blasphemy, and their location - Pakistan. There is also a twist - the allegation that the police themselves commited the crime. All four points are combined in the intro, which set the scene for the story.
The story is complicated and needs some explaining. So the second paragraph places the events in context. It takes care to explain that the Sharia is the religious law. Then it contrasts the legal death penalty with the unlawful killing.
The next two paragraphs explain why Masih was suspected of blasphemy - then raise an important question about the evidence.
The following paragraph returns to his death in police custody and explains why murder charged may be brought.
By creating contrasts these four paragraphs help us to see the wood for the trees.
Then we are brought up to date by returning to the main angle of the story, which was signposted in the intro: the charges againts the police. The fact is implified to tell us who is bringing the charge.
Finally the story is rounded off by placing the whole event in a wider context to illustrate its significance.
The aim is to make the message of the story inescapably clear. Signposting picks out the thread of the argument without requiring the audience to backtrack, which is impossible over the air. The skill lies in highlighting and restating the main points without making them sound like repetition.
The last line should round off the story and point ahead to any next developments. This is the “tell ‘em you’ve told ‘em’ part of the signposting. A story about trouble on the roads could end:
‘… and difficult driving conditions are expected to continue until much later this evening’
A story about an unofficial bus strike, could finish:
‘Bus drivers will be meeting their union leaders this afternoon to try to persuade them to make the strike official.’
Both closings refer back to the events in question (conditions on the roads; the bus strike) and show the way ahead (difficult conditions continuing into the evening; the meeting with union leaders).
Another way to round off a story is for the presenter to pick up on the end of audio or film footage with a final comment. This is known as a back announcement (or back anno, BA). It is a useful device for giving out phone numbers or updating an item recorded earlier with new information:
BA: ‘And we’ve just heard that the road is now clear and traffic is starting to move. Tailbacks are still expected for the next half hour.’
Back announcements are commonly used in radio to remind an audience who or what they have been listening to and as a bridge between items where some natural link can be found.
BA: ‘Mary Fernandez, reporting on the growing numbers of teenagers who run away from home… Well, one of the biggest dangers to those children must come from the drug pushers, and there’s worrying news of yet another kind of drug that is now being sold on the streets… etc.’
The lasting impression of any programme or item is usually made by the first and last words, and as much care should be taken on ending the story as in writing the intro. As well as beginning strongly, the story should end on a positive note, and not be allowed to tail off weakly or to fizzle out. All writing for the spoken word is a form of poetry so aim to create a pleasing rhythm.
News stories should end with a bang rather than a whimper. Strong, definite and emphatic last words are preferable to limp endings:
Prefer: ‘She said the investigation would be launched at once.’
To: ‘…the investigation would be launched at once, she said.’
Weak: ‘… the gunmen are threatening to shoot the hostages at midnight unless the Government gives in to them.’
Stronger: ‘…the gunmen are threatening to shoot the hostages at midnight, unless the Government gives in to their demands.
The last words are the ones the audience will remember - so make them memorable.
‘A journalist is someone who finds a story and then lures the facts towards it’, and ‘Never let the facts get in the way of a good story’, are cynical quips which, unfortunately, sometimes contain more than a grain of truth.
But nothing devalues a reporter’s credibility faster than getting the facts wrong.
Mispronouncing place names irritates listeners and slipping up over someone’s name or job title can sour a valued contact. More seriously, an inaccurate court report could lead to a libel suit or an action for contempt. The best maxim for the journalist is ‘If in doubt … check it out’.
The main points of the story should always be verified, so no contentious or uncertain points are left to chance. If they can’t be cheked out, they should be chucked out.
The example below illustrates how difficult it can be to get the facts right, especially on a breaking story. This snap arrived on the telex from a news agency:
86626 MYNEWS G
M AND Y NEWSAGENCY, PORTSMOUTH
A 400 TON SUPLY SHIP HAS COLLIDED WITH ONE OF THE LEGS OF THE PENROD THREE OIL RIG, 20 MILES SOUTH OF THE ISLE OF WIGHT AND IS TRAPPED IN THE OIL RIG AND SNIKING, WITH EIGHT PEOPLE ON BOARD. IT’S POSSIBLE THAT THE DAMAGE TO THE OILRIG WILL CAUSE IT TO COLLAPSE.
THE SAR HELICOPTER FROM LEE ON SOLENT HAS BEEN SCRAMBLED.
MORE FOLLOWS LATER.
86626 MYNEWS G
A battery of quick-fire calls was made to the coastguard and the search and rescue (SAR) service among others. These threw up the following conflicting information:
Name of oil rig Name of ship Size of ship
Penrod 3 Spearfish 150 tons
Penrod No. 3 Spearship 400 tons
Penrod 83 500 tons
Number of crew Damage to rig State of ship
6 Slight Sunk
7 In danger of collapse Not sunk
8 Partially sunk
Being towed ashore
Method of scuttling Number of helicopters at scene Location
Blown up 1 10 miles south of island
Shot out of the 2 15 miles south of island
Water 20 miles south of island
Fast-moving events, inaccessible location and lack of official comment from experts too tied up in the operation to talk made the facts difficult to establish.
In the end, the story was that the 143-ton trawler Spearfish had become entangled in one of the legs of the Penrod 85 oil rig when it was trying to land supplies. The six-man crew was winched to safety by one helicopter before the ship was towed clear by a frigate and sunk by anti-aircraft fire.
The best angle did not emerge until later, when an inspection of the helicopter rotors revealed they had flown so close to the rig that the blades had clipped the superstructure. A couple of centimeters closers and the helicopter would have crashed.
With news flashes and breaking news some reshuflling of the facts is expected as the story become clearer. But there are times when getting the facts wrong can have disastrous consequences.
Reports of accidents, air crashes and loss of life must be handled with utmust care. If a crowded passenger train has been derailed and passengers killed, there can be no excuses for confusing the time of the train with that of another. A slip of the eye or stumble on the keyboard can render numbers wildly out, which can have a dramatic effect on a story and create widespread alarm.
Unnecessary stress and panic can be prevented by giving specific and accurate details, and with an air crash, by broadcasting the flight number.
When names of the dead are released, those names have to be got right, and if the name is a common one, like Smith, Brown or Patel, details of the address should be given to avoid needless worry.
1. Put the hard news formula to the test. Go through a couple of meaty newspaper stories marking out where the story answers the questions, who, what, when, where, why and how. Then list the order in which those answers appeared.
2. Sum up the main point of each story in a key phrase of five words or less. Then compare your key phrases to the newspaper headlines. How similar are they? Do the headlines home in on different points? Why?
Next develop your key phrases into an intro for each story. Keep each intro down to thirty words at maximum. Then compare your intros with the ones used by the newspaper. What are the differences?
3. Construct a hard news story from the following collection of facts:
The Bantry Bay Company employs a workforce of 3000.
There are no plans to cut shopfloor workers.
The company makes widgets.
10 per cent of the clerical workers are to lose their jobs.
The company lost £2 m in the first half of the last year.
The cuts are to try to improve efficiency and reduce costs.
There are 1000 white collar (clerical) workers.
The company says that early retirement and voluntary redundancies should
account for most of the job cuts.
The last redundancies at the Bantry Bay Company took place five years ago.
4. Now put together a soft news feature from the following facts. Remember, the style ought to be less terse and more entertaining. You will need to think of livelier ways to report the facts than they are given here and should try to avoid repeating the word ‘alligator’ too often.
The trapper’s name was John Tanner.
The alligator weighed 150 pounds.
Mr. Tanner took with him only a rope lasso and miner’s lamp.
The alligator tried to bite through the noose. With moments to spare, Mr. Tanner managed to bind it jaws with electrical tape.
The alligator was caught in the sewers beneath Orlando, in Florida.
Alligator meat is a local delicacy. He could have sold it for its meat and its hide.
He wrestled with the alligator and managed to slip the noose around its neck.
He did not get any money for his efforts. ‘It wasn’t hurting anybody,’ he said.
He got the alligator to come to him by imitating the mating call of the female alligator.
The authorities sent for Mr. Tanner after state trappers had failed to catch the reptile, which had tried to bite four drainage inspectors.
He took it to a remote part of the country and let it go.
5. Now turn that feature item into a hard news story of fewer than 100 words. Then go back over your stories and check they are well signposted, end strongly and are easy to read out loud. Finally, if you are in a class, swap your work with someone else, and subedit their versions, making any alterations you think are necessary