Sunday 22 February 2009

Please, No More Clichés!

I've been taught that the key to good news writing for broadcast is: 'If you don't say it at home, don't use it in your scripts'. And yet you'll hear clichés not used by the masses in many news bulletins. Here's a couple of scripts I've invented:

- Jack is being hailed a hero after his friend Tom was scorched in a blazing inferno. It's left Tom fighting for his life in hospital.

- Hundreds of jobs in the motor industry are being axed in a matter of days but in a bold bid to boost productivity the Prime Minister has made a plea to safeguard thousands of jobs across the country. Opposition leaders have struck out at the plan and say a probe should be launched and are calling on MPs to oust the Prime Minister.

Newspapers are full of clichés but what broadcast journalists need to remember is that newspaper English is not the language of all journalism. Scripts for TV and radio should be written for the ear - simple, clear and natural writing.

Journalists who over use clichés think they make stories sound more urgent and have more of an impact with the viewer/listener, but I'd argue that the facts of the story itself should be interesting enough to engage them in the story. If the facts aren't interesting, the story shouldn't go in the bulletin.

I feel an obligation to rid any script I come across of these hackneyed phrases. If and when I'm ever in charge of a newsroom, I'll insist they don't feature: It's lazy journalism and detracts from the meaning of a story.

The best document I've found on this subject is the BBC's Style Guide, which you can download here. Anyone with ambitions to work in broadcast journalism should read it.

Sunday 1 February 2009

An Insight Into The News Desk

I've written a blog for the ITV Meridian website about life on the news desk...

The News Desk: every newsroom has one and almost all stories that we cover arrive there. It is made up of a News Editor, the Programme Producer and a number of others including the News Desk Assistant, which is the job I’ve been doing.

It’s a hub of activity with stories come in via email, phone and internet. Every day we receive hundreds of emails with press releases from political parties, NHS trusts, companies and local government; but most importantly it’s you who get in touch with us.

As News Desk Assistant for the past fortnight, I’ve been helping set up stories for Meridian Tonight and the next day’s programme. The News Editor and I process the stories and decide which of them we want to cover on the programme. We have a prospects meet every morning to run through all of the stories that we are covering that day.

A few weeks ago, while our 6pm programme was going out, I got a call from a viewer whose daughter had been without heating and hot water for weeks. The daughter was pregnant, had two young children and lived in a council house in Leigh Park, near Havant.

I got all the details about her story and organised our reporter Richard Jones and a camera operator to cover it the next day. This is one example of a viewer’s story making it into the programme but we always want to hear from you. Get in touch by email or call us on 0844 881 2000.