The no. 1 thing to avoid when teasing stories or grouping stories together -#News #writing

Bard of Breaking News (Breaking Bard)

This post was inspired by seeing stories grouped together.

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You’ll note the repeated ‘No. 1 thing’ technique that often hooks readers into wanting to read the story.

Now that IS an effective heading or headline technique that can draw in readers. However, in my professional opinion, grouping stories with the same type of headline too close together draws attention to the ‘device’ and lessens its effectiveness.

You’ll also note (above)  the repetition of the ‘cheap’ angle – which, once again, is effective in itself but too obvious when you see the two stories being places alongside each other.

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The same principle applies when using ‘hooking’ techniques when writing ‘breakers’ or ‘teasers’ in commercial TV news. Effective techniques keep viewers across commercial breaks.

An old trick is to show dramatic vision then write ‘what happens next?’ or ‘you won’t believe what happens next.” The viewer is often compelled to stay tuned…

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News Writing: To write questions or not to write questions – that is the question

Bard of Breaking News (Breaking Bard)

My old news bosses taught me to not write questions in news stories. “News is about answering questions – not asking them!”

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Yesterday in my job as a university tutor in Broadcast Journalism I had to address the question of whether you can use questions in news writing.

…and what was my answer to this question?

Questions can be engaging and can draw in a reader or viewer and  questions are commonly used in writing headlines and news ‘teasers’ and ‘breakers’ (to keep TV viewers tuned in across commercial breaks)

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Technically, questions often  ‘trigger’ a compulsion to answer a question and then to check how your view compares to the views expressed in a story.

Questions can be very effective in compelling a scroller to click on a story – or to wait through an ad break to see how they view matches the views in a news story.

I warn students…

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Breaking the ‘Breaking News’ habit part 2 of 2 – what IS breaking news?

Bard of Breaking News (Breaking Bard)

What is Breaking News to you? Some news event that is currently happening?

Some event that happened just recently – in the last 30 minutes? The last 60 minutes?  What is ‘recently’?

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These days, news bulletins seem to use the Breaking News description very freely.

Now sometimes news really IS breaking – and the coverage is exciting. Other times the ‘news event’ has already happened hours ago – and yet many TV news bulletins seem to want to create a ‘dramatic urgency ‘ with a live cross to a reporter in some location with a dramatic ‘whooosh’ and a Breaking News banner or graphic.

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The news is not fake – but it is NOT Breaking News.

The feedback I get from many news consumers is that they are turned off by ‘fake breaking news’ – where it’s obvious certain news is not breaking.

I’ll give an example – not naming the…

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Breaking the ‘Breaking News” habit part 1 of 2

Bard of Breaking News (Breaking Bard)

Not all news is ‘breaking news’ and many TV news services annoy viewers and lose viewers by claiming that news stories are breaking when they clearly are not.

TV news viewers often complain that some stories are clearly not breaking and should not have the ‘false urgency’ of the dramatic ‘swoosh’ sound effect and breaking news banner and dramatic wording“In breaking news…”

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The most obvious ‘false urgency’ or ‘fake breaking news’ stories involve court stories in an evening TV news bulletin where a reporter stands in front of a court sign and reports on events that happened earlier that day before the courts shut for the day.

Now there are exceptions – like when a jury comes back with a decision in the evening during or just before a news bulletin OR in a court decision that happens during a morning or afternoon bulletin.

One of my Broadcast…

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Be careful of clever puns in serious court stories

This post was inspired by a headline about a footballer (from an Australian rugby league team called the Cowboys) being charged with indecent assault.

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The headline to me sounded like an amusing reference to the old Glen Campbell song Rhinestone Cowboy (like a Loathsome Cowboy…) Other media colleagues suggested it was wordplay on Lonesome Cowboy – which is probably more likely than my association with Rhinestone Cowboy – but I still encourage caution in using words like ‘loathsome’ to create some pun or wordplay.

You especially need to be careful with puns and wordplay in more serious stories destined for the courts.

A news boss of mine in the US liked clever writing and wordplay however he urged caution in court stories – especially when the subject of a story has the financial means to sue.

And speaking of the US,  in the US there’s the famous Dallas Cowboys and yes, they too have inspired ‘loathsome’ puns too.  Actually, in the case, it’s the fan who is ‘loathsome’.

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O.K. back to the Australian headline and front-page splash about the ‘Loathsome Cowboy’.

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Here, the headline is accompanied by plenty of other copy that sets the context that the ‘loathsome’ behaviour is alleged (accused by police). The danger can occur when the clever words are used later in promoting the story and the context words are not included.

Maybe,  I am being too cautious. That’s the way I was trained by my news bosses about puns in ‘court stories’. With court stories I urge reporters and subs to play it straight – no matter how tempting it is to use words like ‘loathsome’ to create a clever pun or pop culture reference.

Is it Superceed or Supercede or Supersede? An easy way to get it right in writing your news supers

Bard of Breaking News (Breaking Bard)

Spelling mistakes in supers and graphics and ‘straps’ and ‘lower thirds’ (or ‘astons’ as they call them in the UK) can make news services look inaccurate and unreliable.

As far as I know, from 2016 experience in a commercial TV newsroom, you don’t have the benefit of spell check in the news computer programs you enter ‘supers’ into.

So, you have to know how to spell and to spot errors when subbing. You have to know how to spell ‘irregular’ words like superceed. Or is that supercede or supersede? Or indeed, superseed!

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When I train newsrooms and businesses in how to avoid embarrassing and credibility-eroding mistakes, I often create a list of common problem words for different industries and give easy-to-remember-and-apply ‘tricks’.

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The ‘trick’ I use to remember that supersede is spelled with an S:

Something that supersedes comes AFTER the original.

S comes after C in the alphabet – so…

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Zed or Zee when saying DMZ?

The Korean DMZ is all over the news at the moment – in print and being talked about in broadcast news.

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As you may know, the letter Z is pronounced differently in British English (Zed) and North American English (Zee). I’ve been asked how Australian news readers and reporters should pronounce DMZ.

In my professional opinion, as a former TV news Deputy News Director and now as a Broadcast Journalism tutor and guest lecturer:

  1. favour the US pronunciation or Z when saying DMZ
  2. make sure the newsreader pronunciation is consistent with the pronunciation in the recorded package.

Yes, technically, in British English, Z should be pronounced ZED – but I argue that DMZ is an ‘expression/term’ not just a letter.

 

When saying Z by itself, I’d say  ZED but when it’s said as part of the letter combination, I’d say ZEE.

My reasoning:

  1. DM ZED sounds wrong because we are so used to hearing DM ZEE.
  2.  There have been many DMZ’s throughout history. The Korean DMZ was set up by North Korea, South Korea, the US and the United Nations – and DMZee was the prevalent English pronunciation.

As a young TV news reporter, I once used DMZee and copped lots of complaints from angry viewers who argued Australians should say ZED not ZEE. I understand the Australian resistance to US pronunciation.

 

However, in the Korean case, I would argue for DMZee.

 

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On first reference, I’d call it by the full title Demilitarized Zone. If I needed to use the abbreviation DMZ, I’d add something like: ‘the DMZee as it’s called in Korea.’

 

 

 

It’s interesting that this is such a momentous and historic event at the DMZ and word nerds are ‘quibbling’ over whether it should be Zed or Zee.

I’m a British English speaker used to saying ZED – but in this case,  I personally say and advise media professionals to say DM ZEE.

 


For the purists, DMZ is also called the DZ – because technically Demilitarized Zone is two words, not three.  But in the Korean DMZ, we are used to the three letters – DMZ.

 

 

 

Is it fiance or fiancee? Does fiance look ‘wrong’ to you?

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Should you write fiance (with one e) or fiancee (with two e’s)? When I read a headline this morning, fiance looked ‘strange’ to me – and so I wanted to find out the current state of play regarding how to write the word.

Most people will know what you mean regardless of how you spell it. I just advise subs and reporters to be consistent. As you can see in the above image,  there’s one spelling in the headline and a different one in the story. When I train newsrooms I urge writers to be consistent – in broadcast news try to pronounce words in the ‘live’ intro in a similar way to the way a word is pronounced in an ‘already recorded’ package. In print, try to match the headline to the copy spelling in the story.

Anyway, if you are curious about whether it’s fiance or fiancee…

 

According to the sources I read, the word is borrowed from the French and, before that , Latin – and fiance is for a male and fiancee is for a female.

English is ‘gender-neutral’ – unlike other languages where letters on the end of words show masculine or feminine.

 

According to dictionary.com, the modern trend is to prefer – fiance.

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I was educated to write fiancee – which is technically the ‘correct’ way to refer to a female fiancee.

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Well, now you know the difference between fiance and fiancee!

 

I encourage writers in newsrooms to be aware of different spellings of potential problem ‘borrowed words’ and strive for consistency. When you use a foreign word, just check for consistency between headline and story or in broadcast, intro and package. I bet many readers who were educated to write fiancee (as I was) thought the headline looked incorrect.

 

 

 

 

 

Is it Superceed or Supercede or Supersede? An easy way to get it right in writing your news supers

Spelling mistakes in supers and graphics and ‘straps’ and ‘lower thirds’ (or ‘astons’ as they call them in the UK) can make news services look inaccurate and unreliable.

As far as I know, from 2016 experience in a commercial TV newsroom, you don’t have the benefit of spell check in the news computer programs you enter ‘supers’ into.

So, you have to know how to spell and to spot errors when subbing. You have to know how to spell ‘irregular’ words like superceed. Or is that supercede or supersede? Or indeed, superseed!

BBN IMG_2640 2

When I train newsrooms and businesses in how to avoid embarrassing and credibility-eroding mistakes, I often create a list of common problem words for different industries and give easy-to-remember-and-apply ‘tricks’.

BBN IMG_2638.JPG

The ‘trick’ I use to remember that supersede is spelled with an S:

Something that supersedes comes AFTER the original.

S comes after C in the alphabet – so supersede is spelled with an S not a C.

Easy!

I concede that spelling can be confusing – especially when words can be spelled in different ways with different letter combinations to produce similar sounds – succeed, supersede, concede.

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Anyway, now you know a simple way to remember how to spell supersede correctly.

Please let me know if you know of improved versions of news writing computer programs that have superseded the 2016 versions – programs where you can spell check SUPERS.  Then you can cede the task of having to know how to spell words like supersede correctly in your supers!

 

 

When question headings can be useful. Have I revealed too much?

This post was inspired by a story and a headline and an image that compelled me to read it.

 

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In an earlier post, I wrote about the use of questions in news writing and I’ve had lots of reaction from media people from many different generations sharing their views on WHEN questions can be valuable in news writing.

The above story reminded me of yet another situation when questions are useful: when you want to be careful in asserting something. You are not asserting the statement – you are merely ‘asking the question’?

It’s an effective technique. It’s useful when you don’t want to say ‘yes or no’ to an issue. You just ask the question.

Revealed/reveal – are proven words that encourage more clicks on stories.

The technique also arouses curiosity. What did she say that could be too revealing?

Plus, there’s the extra compelling ‘human psychology’ trigger – where the reader wants to see if the story matches their view.

Here’s a link to the earlier post where I reveal more on the use of questions in modern news writing:

News Writing: To write questions or not to write questions – that is the question