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A few months previously, I had bumped into a guy I had newspapered with on a daily in West Texas. I called him. Did he know of anyone looking for a writer? He mentioned two places, a jewellery company and the news department at one of the network-affiliated television stations in Dallas.
The conversation regarding the television news writing job went something like this:
Me: I don't know anything about writing television news.
A few days later, I interviewed at the television station. First, I was surveyed by the television news director, then by the news manager who oversaw both the television news operation and a radio news operation.
I left the station with a job – a job that would forever change my career. I had made the switch from print to broadcasting. And what I learned there provided a solid basis for most of the jobs I've done in the years since.
The point I wish to make with this little personal story is that if you are a writer – a good writer – you can make the switch from print to broadcast writing. It won't be easy. Nothing worthwhile is.
If you decide to make the leap from print to broadcast writing, be prepared to enter a whole new world of journalism. It's a world filled with more than words. It's a world filled with pictures and sounds. It's a world filled not with paragraphs, but with minutes and seconds. It's a world filled with its own lingo – a lingo that you'll need to learn quickly in order to operate effectively in broadcast journalism.
What kind of lingo am I talking about? Here's a sample of how a television reporter's story might be laid out in television news shorthand:
Nat Sound/VO/SOVT – Standup bridge – VO/SOVT – SB -VO/SOVT – Standup Close
Nat Sound – Natural Sound
VO/SOVT – Voice over sound on video tape
Standup Bridge – A reporter on camera bridging two voice over segments
SB – Sound Bite (from interview)
VO/SOVT – Again voice over sound on video tape
Standup Close – A reporter's wrap up to the story.
Here's how that translates: The reporter opens the story with some natural sound made on the scene of the story (a storm damage story might open with a close up of a chain saw being used to cut apart a downed tree). The piece then moves into the reporter's voice over of more storm damage footage. Next, the reporter on camera at the scene is followed by a sound bite from someone whose home was damaged by the storm. Finally, the reporter on camera again, wrapping up the story and adding a sign off – "Joe Jones for Channel 3 News, Dallas."
In radio news, the same story might be laid out this way:
Nat Sound of chain saw, fade Nat Sound under, reporter voice over, sound bite from an interview and a reporter's close.
As a writer at an all news radio station, you might be given an Associated Press wire story and told to call the police station in a town ravaged by a storm and get a sound bite on the destruction. Your story would be written for an in-studio newscaster to read and would include the sound bite that you got from the police department.
Once you've made the choice to go from print to broadcast journalism. Your next choice will have to be radio or television. Whichever broadcast path you choose there will be more choices down the road.
Is your goal to work at a radio or television station in a small city? Do you want to live and work in a major metropolitan area? Is your dream job at a 24/7 cable news operation?
Whatever dream you chose to chase, be aware that in making the switch from print to broadcasting you're opening the door to a new world of journalism. A world that can move at warp speed. In this world, it's not yesterday's news that old; it's the last hour's news that's outdated.
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