Top Tips for Business Radio Journalists
Now for something completely different. (Please be sure to read the
addendum at the end of this blog.)
Business news reminds me a little of sports: Get it right, always
give attribution, and sentiment (based on your knowledge) may naturally be
implied through your delivery. That’s why you — and not a General Assignment
reporter — write and share financial/economic news with us. Without
knowledge, sensitivity and the context of past history, delivering the
often complex material you encounter each day is near to impossible.
As a result of this, the majority of the financial reporter clients I
work with have moved from Wall Street jobs into journalism. It’s a thrill
and pleasure to help them 'convert' to a new career.
For those of you doing or considering doing business radio news,
podcasts, squawks or even video, here are seven tips that address foibles I
- Your voice: Remember to ‘send it out’ in from your
stomach.’ Picture an arc of projection. Your information is ultimately
emanating from a speaker or someone’s headphones. You are tapping them
on the shoulder with your voice and implying, "Hey! Here’s something
newsworthy or interesting!"
- Lead lines: These are the first sentences for each
news item, and serve to reset our attention. They have us responding
‘Huh!’ and wanting to hear more. Your lead line might be ear-catching
news, such as, "Amazon dipped 15 points this past hour on news that…".
Or it could be a warning, like, "Big news here…" or "A surprising result
- Beware of 'smushing': This is the tendency to 'get
through' what I call multi-syllabic words, indexes, terms or phrases
such as "participation," "expectation," "Federal Reserve Board," or
"Commodity Futures Trading Commission," too quickly. The same goes for
names and job titles that seem to go on forever, "Interim Deputy CMO
[long name] said today that…". Remember that your spoken words are
invisible and ephemeral. We are rarely reading a printed accompaniment
at the same time. If you're only speaking about cats and dogs, it's easy
with one-syllable subjects. But for a lot of spoken news, we may have
the subliminal urge to get those long names and words out of the way. Be
alert to your tendencies. If you’ve chosen to include it, it’s news and
- Numbers numbers numbers! They rule much of business
news. I’d keep it to two numbers per sentence, regardless of what they
reflect. For example, "The IMF increased its outlook for 2017 U.S. GDP
to 2.3 percent, a tenth higher than the October report." Is a third
number significant to this information? Rather than a comma and a new
clause, start a new sentence. You don’t want our eyes to roll up.
Particularly for business news you want to assure that your sentences
are always short and simple.
- Embedded clauses and phrases: Poison! Here we are
listening, and the forward momentum is interrupted by a title or
clarification, and then the sentence continues. Whoops! Who or what were
we speaking about? It’s like riding along in a car that suddenly shifts
into reverse... and then lurches forward. Instead of saying, "The
Pacific Rim Petroleum Corporation, which was legally dissolved in 1989,
was the first company to…." make it, "The Pacific Rim Petroleum
Corporation was the first oil company to... . It was dissolved in 1989."
- Each sentence is unique: They should start fresh
and end clearly. Be mindful not to slide sideways into the beginnings of
your sentences like a whooshing ice-skater. Send them out on that arc in
front of you. At the end of sentences, avoid the tendency to speed up
and try not to let your voice volume dip too low. Keep it full and
'out' through the last sound of the very last word. It should land about
nine inches in front of you!
- There’s no need to impose false hoopla: Don’t get
crazy over what to emphasize. Your job is to report news about
companies, countries, decisions and deals. You’re providing headlines
or major facts, some secondary information and maybe some added helpful
explanation. And sometimes, it’s just you talking to us directly. These
four semantic levels of communication often contain underlying innuendo
and implication based on what you know. Your voice will naturally create
its own versions of emphasis via changing up in pacing, loudness,
inflection and embracing onomatopoeia. Being in touch with what you're
thinking serves as the best tool for an interesting, compelling
Enjoy the ride! And thanks for keeping us in the know.
With a nod to brilliant
comedy, "Now for Something Completely Different" is a reference to the Monty
Python boys. In the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, they even came up
with the idea of using a spoken
sound, “Ni,” to replace a weapon that could be used to squeeze
compliance or the truth from someone! In many of their television skits and
movies, their comedic dialogue often incorporated exaggerated cadence of
spoken language; something that many of you erroneously think is necessary
in your tracking!
News consultant Joanne Stevens has written extensively about broadcast
writing, reporting and anchoring, including columns in the former print version
of RTDNA's Communicator Magazine, and earlier versions of the RTDNA website. She
has taught at Columbia and New York University and serves as a news award judge
for the New York Press Club. She has returned to RTDNA.org to offer a new series
of News Coach columns with tips, best practices and more. - Click on
the RTDNA logo below to learn more.
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