One of the challenges of writing updates (compared to breaking news) is that fear: what if it’s not true at the time an update (recorded ahead of broadcast time) goes to air.

One of the biggest challenges is: fires.


Fires can be ‘great content’ (for breaking news) when you cross to a fire that’s burning and you write in the urgent present tense – what IS happening now.

Firefighters ARE at the scene of a large blaze…


Several factories ARE on fire….

However, when you are writing for an update to go to air an hour or so later – you can have to careful. Even in half an hour, a fire can be out or under control and your writing is no longer ‘current’ or accurate.

That’s when you shift from the urgent present tense to facts that will still be true when the update goes to air.

For example:

A major emergency WAS DECLARED (or HAS BEEN DECLARED) as fire engulfed…

I encourage you, when writing updates to:

  1. think of the time the update will go to air
  2. think of what is certain to be true at the time the update
  3. be careful of certain dramatic events that CAN quickly change: e.g. fires, sieges, police chases


Hi, if you are interesting in writing – you’ll probably enjoy this blog. I’m a self-confessed and proud word nerd and big fan of Shakespeare – and other writers such as Hemingway.




One of the most satisfying parts of my job as a Deputy News Director at a major commercial TV network in Australia is helping younger writers.

I understand that the name Bard of Breaking News can seem outrageously arrogant – yet I strategically use it for ‘memorable branding’ and for the comic effect of the outrageous link and contrast between the lasting and deep grandeur or Shakespeare’s writing and the disposable speed of modern breaking news.

I do firmly believe that we can all learn from Shakespeare’s techniques to improve our writing – whether it’s for business or political speeches or even writing breaking news.


One thought on “The challenge of #Writing News Updates: what if the fire goes out?

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