How to avoid being sued – by understanding your audience’s view

In TV news you need to be extra careful when identifying people – especially in crime and court stories. And you need to be aware of how the viewers perspective is often ‘reversed’ from a reader’s or presenter’s perspective.

This post is inspired by seeing a news report where a person accused of murder was identified as simply : “seen on the right”.

In my opinion, rather than saying ‘on the right’, it’s better to say something like seen on the right of screen’ or to use some other ‘description’ – like ‘seen in the black jacket’ or the ‘yellow jacket’.

stage right

People familiar with the theatre and stage know there is stage right and audience right – and they are opposite.

In speaking presentations, I often see speakers describe right or left and the speaker is talking from their perspective – rather than the audience perspective.

It’s better to give more details – e.g. on MY right or on YOUR right.

TB media cc Slide1

Maybe I am extra cautious, but I think it’s good to get into the habit of being cautious when identifying people – especially in crime or court stories.

From my experience in media in the US, I learned that pumping out news is often in a rush and mistakes happen. Lots of defamation cases actually happen in the updates as well as the main bulletins. So many expensive payouts were due to the wrong person being identified in a story – sometimes due to the vision not matching the VO – voice over from the reader/presenter.

When I advise newsrooms, I encourage presenters and reporters and producers to:
1. be aware of the difference between presenter right and audience right
2. take extra care when identifying people in court and crime stories

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Writing Tip: Who has the rocks? Who is wearing the negligee?

Bard of Breaking News (Breaking Bard)

negligee

Can you see/hear what’s wrong with this sentence – a sentence I heard in a TV news bulletin.

“Protesters took on police armed with rocks.”

Now, I reckon it was the protesters not the police who were armed with rocks – but the way the sentence is written, it sounds as if the police were armed with rocks.

Technically, this mistake is called a “misplaced modifier”. The modifier attaches to the closest noun.

It’s so easy to fix – you place the modifying words ‘armed with rocks’ closest to the people who ‘have the rocks’.

So the sentence should read:

Protesters armed with rocks took on police.

OR

Armed with rocks, protesters took on police.

Protestors throw rocks at police during a protest near the inauguration of President Donald Trump in Washington

I understand the problems reporters face writing under intense time pressure – however it’s so easy to get into good writing habits. It’s about 1. being aware of problems and 2. knowing how to fix…

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Summoned or summonsed?

Bard of Breaking News (Breaking Bard)

I recently heard an Australian reporter say on air in a story about an expected royal announcement that palace staff had been ‘summonsed’ to the Palace for the ‘big announcement’ about the royals.

To my knowledge, the correct word is summoned – not summonsed.

To summon means to order (someone) to be present OR to make some quality present in yourself – e.g. to summon up the courage.

summon BBN quote-then-imitate-the-action-of-the-tiger-stiffen-the-sinews-summon-up-the-blood-william-shakespeare-91-11-72

Who cares?

Now, I understand that TV ratings are NOT won by correct word choice – however, I  argue that certain mistakes like this one (summoned/summonsed) are  ‘jarring’ to members of the more mature demographic who still get their news from TV news.

It’s not that hard to alert newsroom staff about commonly confused and misused words.

With cutbacks to newsrooms – reporters now often need to ‘sub’ (edit and check ) copy and write their own headlines. I argue mistakes appear…

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Don’t confuse wrath with wraith – and how do you pronounce wrath?

Bard of Breaking News (Breaking Bard)

This post was inspired by a news story where the writer got wraith confused with wrath.

wrath-1104257734-william-shakespeare-quotes-king-lear

I think the writer meant to write wrath (meaning anger or fury) – not wraith.

wraith

A wraith is a spirit or ghost. (from old Scottish). It’s also a car and a movie.

Another danger with the word wrath (especially for broadcast news where the word is said not read) is pronouncing it correctly.

I’ve heard Australian reporters pronounce it was Wr-AH-th (like raft) – when in British English it’s pronounced Wr-oth. An Australian speech expert  friend who teaches TV reporters has the useful memory device – ‘Wrath rhymes with Goth’

In North America, it’s common to pronounce Wrath more like RAT or HAT. Different regions have different vowel sounds. An American TV friend gave me her memory device: “In the US, Wrath rhymes with math.”

(Different regions of the US  have different vowel sounds. The Bostonian AH…

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The TV ratings battle and the importance of #news #writing accuracy

This post was inspired by hearing older TV viewers say they no longer watched a particular TV news because this news service seemed to have no respect for history – especially Australian military history.

Last night, I heard a news writing example that illustrated the danger of offending the older audience that still gets its news from evening TV news bulletins.

LB IMG_4532

The story (and breaker tease) were about the 100th anniversary of the famous Australian Light Horse Charge and victory at Beersheeba in 1917.

It referred to the Charge of the Light Horse Brigade.

 

The problem is: it sounds as if the writer is confusing the Light Horse charge with the Charge of the Light Brigade.

 

 

The famous Charge of the Light Brigade was in a different war in a different century.

Now, maybe the writer was being clever in ‘referring’ to the famous Charge of the Light Brigade – but by mixing up the wording (intentionally or unintentionally), the writer sounds mixed up and confused. I always advise news writers to ‘play it straight’ when writing about famous battles.

The battle of Beersheba involved Light Horse Regiment/s.

 

To be fair, there were brigades within the Light Horse regiments.

I still argue that the writing Charge of the Light Horse Brigade sounds as though it is mixing up famous charges.

 

 

I understand the pressure on modern newsrooms – reduced staff, reduced time for checking, more bulletins and updates to pump out.

 

I advise newsrooms to pay special attention to accuracy in ‘war stories’ about famous battles. In a stint subbing in a TV newsroom, I was very relieved to stop a ‘war story error’ going to air – where the battle of Long Tan was referred to the battle of Lone Pine. Different war – different decade.

I argue that more mature TV audiences often know their military history and get insulted by mistakes in war stories.

 

If you want to keep your audience and win the TV ratings battle – pay attention to battle stories. Play it straight when writing battle stories.

 

2017 and 2018 are big years for battle stories with the 100th anniversaries of many famous WWI battles and anniversary of the end of WWI.

 

 

 

#Writing news – always check and double-check place names

Bard of Breaking News (Breaking Bard)

In the rush of daily news, mistakes are bound to slip through – however, you should always check and double-check that you spell and pronounce place names correctly.

news typo IMG_3536

The mistake in this commercial TV news bulletin last night was in the spelling of Beenleigh – not BeenEleigh. (I just glanced at the screen as I was walking out the door and noticed the mistake.) I reckon lots of other viewers​ would have noticed the mistake too.

In my experience, TV news audiences are more likely to excuse certain mistakes and typos – but are less forgiving when it comes to place names.

Mistakes in names may not even get noticed – but viewers will notice if you make a mistake in how you spell or pronounce a ‘local’ place name.

When I consult to newsrooms and in a 2016 stint working back in TV news as a deputy news director…

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When #writing overseas news stories – check measurement conversions – a 12- foot sword?

Bard of Breaking News (Breaking Bard)

This post was inspired by seeing an Australian TV news bulletin reporting about an attack in the UK with a 4-metre sword.

Of course, the UK attack in involved a 4-foot sword – not a 4-metre sword which would have been around 12-feet long and very hard to lift I imagine.

BBN sword IMG_3809.JPG

I’m guessing in the rush of breaking news, the writer of the story intro just made a mistake. Australia uses the metric system of metres and kilometres – though we did use the Imperial system of feet, yards, and miles up until 1970.

I argue that many people who still get their news from television are from ‘more mature’ generations, so they probably understand both feet and metres – and the 4-metre sword mistake probably stood out to them – as it did to me.

As a kid, I grew up understanding feet and miles – but by the…

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When #writing overseas news stories – check measurement conversions – a 12- foot sword?

This post was inspired by seeing an Australian TV news bulletin reporting about an attack in the UK with a 4-metre sword.

Of course, the UK attack in involved a 4-foot sword – not a 4-metre sword which would have been around 12-feet long and very hard to lift I imagine.

BBN sword IMG_3809.JPG

I’m guessing in the rush of breaking news, the writer of the story intro just made a mistake. Australia uses the metric system of metres and kilometres – though we did use the Imperial system of feet, yards, and miles up until 1970.

I argue that many people who still get their news from television are from ‘more mature’ generations, so they probably understand both feet and metres – and the 4-metre sword mistake probably stood out to them – as it did to me.

As a kid, I grew up understanding feet and miles – but by the time I was old enough to be a journalist, I had to write in metres.

My children – and many young journalists who populate newsrooms these days – only understand metres and metric.

So, I urge news writers to be aware of measurement differences – especially when quickly writing intros for international stories.

release-the-verb

I also encourage TV news bosses to teach young reporters to be aware of measurement differences in stories from countries using the Imperial measurement system – big sources of news the UK and the US.

Your more mature TV news audience WILL notice these sorts of errors and will judge you harshly.

Go the extra mile! – and be aware of those imperial measurements.

#Writing news – always check and double-check place names

In the rush of daily news, mistakes are bound to slip through – however, you should always check and double-check that you spell and pronounce place names correctly.

news typo IMG_3536

The mistake in this commercial TV news bulletin last night was in the spelling of Beenleigh – not BeenEleigh. (I just glanced at the screen as I was walking out the door and noticed the mistake.) I reckon lots of other viewers​ would have noticed the mistake too.

In my experience, TV news audiences are more likely to excuse certain mistakes and typos – but are less forgiving when it comes to place names.

Mistakes in names may not even get noticed – but viewers will notice if you make a mistake in how you spell or pronounce a ‘local’ place name.

When I consult to newsrooms and in a 2016 stint working back in TV news as a deputy news director, I was very, very careful about place names. In a news bulletin there are lots of things to check – but ALWAYS check and double-check place names.

In newsrooms, many reporters come from different markets and are less familiar with local place names.

When a new reporter moved to our Brisbane newsroom from a different market (e.g. from Melbourne to Brisbane) I tried to make sure they ‘teamed up with’ and learned from someone else who had moved from that area – so they could ‘fast-tracked’ about names that were the greatest challenges.

Also, names with the same spelling are pronounced differently in different markets – for example, Berwick​ in Victoria.

For my first TV job, I moved from Brisbane to Sydney and I was lucky to have bosses who helped warn new reporters from different markets about how to spell and pronounce different names.

We all make mistakes.

My main advice is:
1. some mistakes are more obvious than others – place names
2. it IS possible to reduce mistakes by preparing reporters from different markets.
3. create a ‘problem place names’ resource that people add to and make sure ‘new’ people study it
4 create a newsroom culture where people are not afraid to ask and check how to pronounce/spell a name – usually you can easily find out how to spell a name.

I remember, being very impressed by a new reporter who moved to Brisbane and who would always​ check how to pronounce different place names. I was also impressed by one of his helpful fellow reporters who had great memory devices like – “Always pronounce the ALL in Algester”

A simple #writing trick so you don’t confuse flaunt with flout

Bard of Breaking News (Breaking Bard)

Lots of people get FLOUT and FLAUNT confused. Here’s an easy way to remember which one to use – and when.

outlaw_

This post was inspired by reading advice from a very smart and experienced international expert who used flaunt when he should have written flout.

“If there is a dress code, you flaunt it”

I think he meant to write FLOUT – as in to not obey – to disobey or ignore.

If you FLAUNT it – you show it off.

outlaw-logo

To remember just think:

Flout = FlOUTLAW – someone who doesn’t obey a law or rule.

I know it’s simple – but simple works in remembering what word to use.

montage-words-nerd

I often help people who are much smart than I am. My “skill” is helping people use simple memory devices to remember to use the correct word.

So, just remember if you disobey a law or corporate command…

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