Peter Hüllen / Thorsten Karg Manual for Radio Journalists

Peter Hüllen / Thorsten KargManual for Radio Journalists

CONTACTDW Akademie BerlinVoltastraße 613355 BerlinGermanyDW Akademie BonnKurt-Schuhmacher-Straße 353113 BonnGermanyT 49.30.4646-8501F ie.deT 49.228.429-2031F ie.deIMPRINTPUBLISHERDeutsche WelleDW Akademie53110 BonnGermanyRESPONSIBLEGerda MeuerEDITORSAnja von Cysewski, Ellen SchusterDESIGNPromotion & Design/SendeleitungPRINTEDMay 20132DW Akademie  Manual for Radio Journalists

CONTENT05 The Vox Pop01 The NewsIntroductionDefinitionStrengths and weaknessesof the formatHow is it done?Stumbling blocks55671402 Writing for radioIntroductionHow is it done?The structure of a radio scriptThe outward appearanceof the radio scriptThe use of sound hs and weaknessesof the formatHow is it done?Stumbling blocks636363656907 The s and weaknessesof the formatHow is it done?7373737508 The Round-table discussion04 The InterviewIntroductionDefinitionDifferent forms of interviewsHow is it done?Different forms of questionsStumbling blocksWhat to do if535306 The Mini-Feature03 The Report with ClipsIntroductionDefinitionStrengths and weaknessesof the formatHow is it done?Stumbling blocksIntroductionDefinitionStrengths and weaknessesof the formatHow is it done?Stumbling s and weaknessesof the formatHow is it done?What to do if81818283863

01The News

01 THE NEWSIntroductionIt’s a daily routine for all of us: whenever we want to know what is going on inour region, in our country or in the world, we simply tune into the news on theradio. The radio newscast will bring us up to date on the most important eventsand issues within a few minutes. The news is precise, brief, neutral and never theless interesting and intriguing. At least that’s how it should be. A radio programme without news is like flowers without a scent or a birthday without acake – possible, but not the real thing. Hardly any listener wants to do withoutregular newscasts. The news is the calling card of each and every broadcaster.If the news is credible and understandable, listeners will also rate highly the radiostation as a whole. This is why it is essential for journalists to prepare and phrasetheir news with the utmost care and to adhere to certain rules. Above all, journalists must ask themselves: is this information really new? What is important aboutthe information? Is it interesting or useful to the listener? Only once these questions have been answered affirmatively, can the journalist start to write a newsitem and compile a news broadcast.DefinitionRadio news is current, topical information on events, facts and opinions. It isobjective and must not contain the journalist’s opinion. The language of the newsis simple and precise. In most cases, news reports are spoken texts only. Sometimes, news items also include short sound bites from a reporter, a correspondentor a statement from a person mentioned in the news item. A news broadcast ismade up of news items about a variety of topics (politics, economics/finance,culture, sports, etc.). These news items can again be subdivided into categorieslike world news, regional news and local news.5

What is News?– Political activities(government, opposition,parliament, political parties)– Political developments/decisions– Wars– Natural catastrophes and disasters– Accidents/misfortunes– Crime– Conferences– usiness activitiesSocial issues and problemsCultural activitiesOutstanding scientific/cultural achievementsAwards/award ceremoniesUnusual/exceptional eventsand issuesSports resultsHuman-interest storiesThe weatherStrengths and weaknesses of the formatThe news informs listeners about current events and developments. The information has to be new, interesting and relevant to the lives of the listeners. The newscan also update listeners’ knowledge about ongoing developments and events.Furthermore, the news supplies listeners with the information they need to formtheir own opinions about things that are happening and make them more awareof certain issues and problems.ExampleThe international pharmaceutical company PILLCO plans to build a new factoryin the run-down neighbourhood of BIGTOWN. People living in this neighbourhood will have to be relocated so that the factory can be built. The company hasalready negotiated a contract with the state government, which will be signedby the responsible parties today. This will be followed by a reception and a pressconference. At the same time, opponents of the project are demonstrating onthe streets of the city.The listeners already know that the factory will be built, that the contract has beennegotiated and that many people from BIGTOWN will have to be rehoused. So allthis is no longer news. However, the fact that the contract will be signed today isin fact news. The news also includes who will be signing the contract and whatwill be said in the subsequent speeches and the final press conference. All of thisis topical and relevant to the listeners (possibly because it affects them personallyor somebody they know). Furthermore, what is said at the press conference mayhave an effect on listeners’ opinions or give them cause to rethink their positions.6DW Akademie  Manual for Radio Journalists

01 THE NEWSThe fact that opponents of the project are demonstrating today is also news.News is usually broadcast at certain times: on the hour, on the half-hour or atother regular intervals. It is important to stick to a certain time schedule so thatlisteners know when they can tune in for the news.Strengths and weaknesses of the newsStrengthsWeaknessesInforms listeners about relevantevents, facts and opinionsIs objective, unbiasedGives listeners the informationthey need to form their ownopinionIs broadcast at regular intervals,usually on the hour; listenerscan form a habit of tuning inat these times to find outwhat’s newOnly supplies the essentialinformation – not all detailsof the storyIs restricted by a tight timeframework (much informationin a very short time)The journalist is often confrontedwith too much material (agencies,internet, press releases, etc.);the journalist therefore needsto make quick and precisedecisions as to what is relevantto the listenersHow is it done?Writing the news is not only a highly responsible activity, it is also very workinten sive. A news editor is frequently inundated with material from the mostvaried sources.Where can a news journalist find information?–––––––News agenciesCorrespondentsThe internetGovernment officesPoliticiansPress releasesPublic announcements––––––The policeHospitalsPersonal contactsInsider sourcesNewspapers/other mediaInterviews run by the own stationor other media– Through personal observation7

Information from all these sources can pile up on the news editor’s desk. It’s nowhis or her task to separate the relevant from the irrelevant information. The editormight also have to do additional research: to verify whether information is true orto get an opposing view from other key players. Then, the news editor has to writeall the individual news items for the broadcast. They have to be brief, precise, easyto understand and objective. All this happens under extreme time pressure. Andthat’s why the news editor has to go about his or her tasks in a systematic manner.What is new?This is the first question that news editors have to ask themselves. One of thegreatest assets of the radio is that it’s a very fast medium – only surpassed by theinternet at times. Radio journalists can supply their audience with informationmuch quicker than television or newspaper journalists. In the example mentioned above, news is the fact that the contract for the construction of the pharmaceutical factory will be signed today, that there will be a subsequent receptionand press conference and that the opponents of the project are demonstrating.What is important about this new information?This should be the second question that the news editors ask themselves. Whatis important is that the contract is being signed today because this represents adecisive step on the way to implementing the project. It is also important forthe listeners to know who will be signing the contract, so that they know who isresponsible. And finally, it’s important for the listeners to find out what is said atthe subsequent press conference: Is there news relating to possible compensationfor those people being rehoused? Will there be an announcement with information regarding the number of new jobs the project will create? What environmen tal protection measures are planned? All this is important because it affects agreat number of people and because it interests an even larger number of thelisteners. It’s important because it takes place right on the listeners’ doorstep.It’s important because it helps them understand what is happening in their community. And it’s important because it points out potential hazards of the project(for instance if no environmental protection measures were planned).Of course, news editors will also find a great deal of irrelevant information amongthe material they get every day. Particularly, press releases and political statements are often nothing but hot air. Sometimes – especially on slow news days –news editors are tempted to use such material for the news. But the result is thatin the end the whole news broadcast sounds boring. The listeners will switch off –first mentally and then the radio itself.8DW Akademie  Manual for Radio Journalists

01 THE NEWSThis is why it is important for the editors to apply strict rules on what’s newsworthyand what’s not. The words of presidents or ministers do not automatically haveweight just because these people hold a high office. These dignitaries should onlybe quoted in the news if they are actually saying something substantially new orif their statement adds a new twist or angle to an ongoing issue.Verifying informationIf you have two or more independent sources of information for a news item,you can usually assume that the information is correct. You can begin to writeyour news item. However, if you only have a single source of information,you should be very careful. Always try to double-check the information throughpersonal research.News agency N is the only source to report: The chairman C of PILLCO’s Board ofDirectors has guaranteed all those being rehoused substantial financial support.Before you include this information in your news item, you should doublecheck by calling the pharmaceutical company. Ask them whether this statementis really correct. Once you’ve established that it is true, you can include thestatement in your news item. If you cannot get confirmation, leave the chairman’s statement out of your news broadcast. Just imagine what would happenif you broadcast this news, only to discover that the information is not correct:the affected listeners would be expecting financial support, only then to findout that they will not receive any money. You personally, but particularly thestation, would suffer a huge loss of trust and credibility, which would be verydifficult to reverse. It’s better to be correct and reliable, than to try to be thefastest and broadcast unchecked information. If you don’t know it, don’t say it.Of course, the following could also happen: you’ve received information that youthink is so important it should be broadcast immediately – even though you onlyhave a single source. In this case, you have to make it absolutely clear in your newsitems that this is non-confirmed information.News agency N reports: A court order is due to put an end to the demolition ofbuildings in BIGTOWN before the end of the day. This means that the project tobuild a pharmaceutical factory in BIGTOWN is dead.As you had only one single source for this information, you tried to doublecheck by doing additional research on the subject – but to no avail. The courtdid not provide any information. Neither PILLCO nor the Ministry of Industry9

knew anything about it. You have to make all this crystal clear in your newsitem: The demolition of the buildings in BIGTOWN will allegedly be blocked by acourt order later today, news agency N claims to have heard from court sources.There is no confirmation for this yet. When asked, the pharmaceutical company,PILLCO, and the Ministry of Industry said that they knew nothing of the supposedly pending court order. They both assumed that the construction of the factorywould go ahead as planned.With your choice of words, you have made it clear that this development isstill unconfirmed, based on considerable uncertainties. Furthermore, you haveinformed listeners about the viewpoints of those involved. You should pick upon the further development of the story in a later broadcast.Either: The courts have stopped the demolition of the buildings in BIGTOWN(which would be news anyway).Or: The demolition of the buildings in BIGTOWN has not been stopped, accordingto the responsible courts in BIGTOWN. A spokesperson for the court said thereport issued by a news agency relating to a pending demolition injunctionwas nonsense.Sequence of news itemsWhen you determine the sequence of the topics within a news bulletin,a seemingly simple principle applies: the most important issues come first.Listeners must be able to rely on this. However, this is not always as simple as itsounds, because this selection process seems to contradict the principle ofobjectivity and neutrality in the news. After all, determining the most relevantissue is a value judgement by the news editors. Everybody – even a news editor –has their own opinion on how to rank a topic. Editors select what they believe tobe the most important topics for the listeners, the second most important, thethird most important, etc. But this subjective selection is the only solution.However, often the sequence of the first news items is automatically determinedby the nature of the events in question. If, for example, you work as a news editorof a local or regional broadcaster, the report relating to the construction of thenew pharmaceutical factory will definitely be at the beginning of a news broadcast. The project directly affects many of your listeners; it is controversial andhotly debated in your community. Which event takes second, third or fourthplace in the rundown often depends on the tastes of the editors in charge.10DW Akademie  Manual for Radio Journalists

01 THE NEWSWriting news itemsThe principle of writing news is very simple: be precise, brief, neutral andobjective, but nonetheless interesting. This is what news language is all about.Make short sentences to ensure that listeners can understand everything quickly.Do not overload the sentences with information to make sure that the listenersare able to take in what is being said. Be neutral and objective to make sure thatlisteners can make up their own minds about the news.In news, the most important information comes first – though not necessarilyat the beginning of the sentence. The first sentence or the first two sentencescontain the core of the information (‘lead sentence’). Everything that follows justadds further detail or background, which will help listeners understand the issueand put it into perspective.Imagine you are on a railway platform, saying goodbye to a friend. Your friendhas already boarded the train and the doors will close at any moment. At thismoment, you remember that there’s some information you still want to pass onto your friend. Obviously, you don’t bother with complex sentence structures orelaborate language. You express yourself clearly and precisely, since your friendwill not have a chance to ask what you’ve meant: “There was trouble during thedemonstration against the construction of the new pharmaceutical factory.Five demonstrators and three police officers were injured.” With just a little polishing up, these sentences could almost be the lead of a news item: Several hundredpeople demonstrated against the construction of the new pharmaceutical factorythis morning. The demonstration culminated in clashes with the police outsideCity Hall. Five demonstrators and three police officers were injured.Always remember that a news item has to have a logical structure, so that listenerscan understand it immediately. Each new sentence must follow logically fromwhat has already been said; don’t jump from one aspect of the information to another and back. In a news item, the journalist should answer the six key questions:who, what, where, when, why and how.‘Who?’ and ‘what?’ – the answers to these two questions generally form the coreof the news item, i.e. this information will definitely be included in the firstsentence. The answers to ‘when?’ and ‘where?’ are sometimes also included in thefirst sentence, but can often wait until the second or third sentence. News needsattribution. The source should be mentioned in the second or, at the very latest,third sentence. Listeners need to know where the information originated – especially if the information is controversial.11

If different sources provide you with conflicting information always mentionboth sources.The police and the organizers of the protest have given you different figures forthe number of participants in the demonstration. If you mention both figuresin the news item and where you got them from, your listeners will know thatthe police and the organizers differ on this issue, yet you are not taking sideswith either party. This way, your news stays credible and neutral.Police say 400 demonstrators took part in the protest. Organisers of the demonstration put the number of participants at 2,000.If you are quoting a particularly controversial statement in your news item, thesource must be mentioned in the first sentence.not good: PILLCO has bribed the Minister M of Industry to secure planningpermission for the construction of a new factory. This is the view of the head Hof the Environmental Protection Party.The first sentence in this version of the news item will sound like a fact to yourlisteners. They might even be so shocked by it that they fail to listen to thesecond sentence. Only later will they discover that they took a statement ofopinion for a fact – because the news item was badly written. Listeners will losetrust and may never tune into your station again.better: The head H of the Environmental Protection Party claims that PILLCO hasbribed the Minister M of Industry. H made this statement in an interview with ourstation. H says that PILLCO only got the building permit for the new pharmaceutical factory because it bribed the minister.The answers to the questions ‘why’ and ‘how’ will further explain the issue. Theywill follow once the most important facts have been presented. This informationcould possibly even be left out if the news item has to be very short.Several hundred people (who) protested against the construction of the newpharmaceutical factory (what) this morning (when). During the demonstration,demonstrators clashed with the police outside City Hall (where). Doctors at cityhospital say (source), they had to treat five demonstrators and three policeofficers for injuries incurred during the demonstration. According to eyewitnesses(further source), the police used tear gas and rubber bullets against the protestersafter stones were thrown at the police (how/why).12DW Akademie  Manual for Radio Journalists

01 THE NEWSNews languageRadio news gives the listeners a lot of information in a very short time. Therefore,the news has to be worded in a way that it is easy to understand and to follow.News language has to be absolutely concise and neutral. And since the aim is toconvey a maximum of information in a minimum amount of time, there is noroom for literary style in the news ( page 18 ff.). Here is a short overview over themost important rules:– Repeat key words rather than using synonyms. Synonyms are often difficult forlisteners to understand and sometimes lead to misunderstandings.– Beware of foreign words. Do not base your manuscript on what you understand.Consider whether your listeners will understand it. If there is no alternative fora foreign word, you should use it and then explain it.– Abbreviations and acronyms need to be explained the first time they appear ina news item. Do not assume that all listeners know what UNICEF (United NationsChildren’s Fund) or UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and CulturalOrganization) means.– Keep numbers and figures to a minimum. They are hard to understand on theradio. If you have to use numbers, try to round them off. However, there arecases when it is absolutely necessary to give the exact figures and numbersdown to the decimal points – particularly when reporting election results,inflation rates or exchange rates.– Percentage rates often sound very abstract. Wherever possible, try to finddifferent expressions for them: ‘50 percent’ can also be described as ‘half’,‘200 percent’ are ‘twice’ or ‘double’.– Draw comparisons to visualise information about size and/or distance.If, for example, you mention that a building site is ‘about the size of two football fields’, listeners will visualise this better than if you say the sizein square metres.– If possible, write your news in the active voice. This will make the news itemsound livelier and more natural. The passive voice often sounds like an officialannouncement: dry and boring.– There are no quotation marks on the radio – unlike in print. So if you quotesomeone, use a phrase like ‘end of quote’ to tell the listeners where thequote ends and where your journalistic text continues. Or better yet: useindirect speech.13

The form of the individual news itemsYour station or news department should decide on a common policy regardinghow all news items should begin. There are various options. Each item:– simply starts with its lead sentence– is preceded by a date-line (e.g. New York: , Berlin: , Moscow: )– is preceded by a buzzword (e.g. Demonstrations: )– is preceded by a full headline (e.g. Demonstrations over plant turn violent )The form of the news bulletin as a wholeIt’s just as important for your station or news desk to agree on a uniform designfor all news bulletins as it is to define a certain format for each individual newsitem. Once again, you have numerous options:– Musical introduction of the news broadcast (news jingle/intro)– Music underlying the whole news bulletin– Short jingles between the individual news items– A short overview of the most important news headlines at the beginningand/or at the end of the bulletin– The weather report at the beginning or at the end of the bulletin– Giving the name of the editor at the beginning and/or end– Giving the exact time before and/or after the news bulletinStumbling blocksLack of distanceCarelessness in writing the news can easily lead to using tainted words andphrases. This means that you lose your professional distance and neutrality.not good: Today, the contract for the construction of the new pharmaceuticalfactory was finally signed.The word ‘finally’ creates the impression that the journalist was hoping thecontract would be signed. However, this sentiment may not be shared by manyof the residents of BIGTOWN. It is not neutral.better: The contract for the construction of the new pharmaceutical factory wassigned today after weeks of negotiations.14DW Akademie  Manual for Radio Journalists

01 THE NEWSnot good: The demonstrators are protesting against pollution that will be causedby the new factory.Will the factory really pollute the environment or is this primarily the opinionof the environmentalists?better: The demonstrators are protesting because they believe the new factorywill be harmful to the environment.Biased instead of neutral wordsWhen we try to add colour to our news language, we can easily make the mistakeof introducing tainted words. For instance, we may sometimes grow tired of usingthe word ‘say’ (says, said, etc.) in our news over and over. So we start replacing ‘say’with words like ‘emphasise’, ‘explain’, ‘claim’, ‘highlight’ or ‘underline’. But unfortunately, none of these words is as neutral as the word ‘say’. Each of them will taintyour news item in a certain way.Sticking to press releases, agencies and other textsNews items often sound artificial and stilted because the news editors copied a lotof text from the original source material – for instance from an agency report orpress release. But such texts are hardly ever written in good radio news language.And very often, they’re not objective – especially in the case of press releases.So it’s your job as a news editor to translate this material into neutral and easilyunderstandable news language.It’s best to read the original agency report or press release, write down some keypoints and then put the source material aside. Without constantly glancing atthe original text, it will be easier for you to rephrase the information in propernews language.15

02Writing for radio16DW Akademie  Manual for Radio Journalists

02 Writing for radioIntroductionWhen writing a script for the radio, you should always bear one thing in mind:you are writing for listeners – not for readers. The listeners will only hear your textonce and they will have to understand it immediately. Readers of a newspaperor an online article can read sentences that they do not understand two or threetimes. They can even look up unfamiliar words in the dictionary. In addition, readers can process the information at their own pace. Some people are slow readers,others will just scan an article. In radio, however, the speed at which the listenershave to digest the information is determined by the speaker. And everyone has tolisten to everything.Differences between reading and listeningReadingListeningReading is a primary activity;when we read, we only concentrateon the textListening is frequently a secondaryactivity; listeners often do not fullyconcentrate on what is being saidReaders can read an article at anytime they likeListening to the radio depends onthe broadcast timesReaders can re-read informationthey do not understandListeners only hearinformation onceReaders can determine how fastthey read and when to take a breakListeners have to follow the speedof the speaker or radio journalist;if they stop listening for a moment,they miss pieces of informationReaders see how long an article isand can decide whether they wantto read the whole textListeners never know what comesnext in the reportRadio texts have to be well presented, logically structured and easy to understand.If listeners stumble over unfamiliar words or cannot follow your train ofthought, you lose their attention. And even if the listeners are only disoriented17

for a moment, the speaker on the radio meanwhile continues reading. So it willbe difficult for the listeners to catch up with the context, once they are ready toconcentrate again. Ultimately, much of your message will be lost on the listeners.How is it done?Radio scripts are not literature. In radio, simplicity wins. Simple words, clearshort sentences and a logical structure are necessary to get information across.Radio scripts should be informal, direct and polite. When you write your scriptand when you present it on the air, imagine that you are talking to one individuallistener: your neighbour, your friend or your aunt. Think of how you would tellthem the information which you are about to give. What words would you use?What is the first thing you would tell them, and what would you mention later?When you present your script on the air, don’t think of the hundreds orthousands of listeners who might have tuned in – think of that one concreteperson: imagine him or her sitting across from you in the studio. Talk as if youwere addressing just that one person. You will discover that your presentationwill be much more direct and animate.Radio language should be very close to spoken language. Write as you wouldspeak. However, this does not mean that you can slip into colloquial slang.Aim for straightforward simplicity and avoid long, complicated sentences andspecialist jargon. When writing your script, you should always know what language is appropriate for your target group. If you use words that your listenersdo not understand or language that they find offensive, you alienate them andwill not get your message across. You need to keep in mind what your listeners’religious, moral and ethnic sensibilities are. What words are taboos? Carelessnesscan cause great harm and damage your radio station’s image and credibility.Make short sentencesResearch shows that listeners find it difficult to understand sentences with morethan 15 words. Your listeners should not feel like the Spartans once felt in AncientGreece. After they sat through a long speech delivered by a messenger from theIsland of Samos, they said: “We forgot what he said in the beginning and did notunderstand the end because we couldn’t remember the beginning.”not good (sentence too long): The globally active pharmaceutical group PILLCO,which – at its Supervisory Board meeting on Friday of last week – finally decided18DW Akademie  Manual for Radio Journalists

02 Writing for radioto go ahead with the construction of a new factory in BIGTOWN, reassured localenvironmentalists who had originally voiced concerns that pollution filters wouldbe integrated in the smokestacks of the factory so that emissions would notendanger the residents.better (several short sentences): PILLCO announced last night that it wouldintegrate pollution filters into the smokestacks of the new factory

2 DW Akademie Manual for Radio Journalists CONTACT IMPRINT DW Akademie Berlin Voltastraße 6 13355 Berlin Germany T 49.30.4646-8501 F 49.30.4646-8505 [email protected] .