A radio news script should have two primary characteristics: clarity and pace. The anchor's delivery may be hampered by the flow of writing. As a result, conversational flow will be the goal. To guarantee this, the writer should read the narrative aloud several times after completing the script. Any awkward pauses or strange sounds would likely ruin the impression of clear communication needed for successful reporting.
Radio news is concise. A listener can hold one idea in their mind at a time while listening to an interview or story. Therefore, scripts should not exceed three pages long (including footnotes). Extra space is needed for explanation and background information that would otherwise make the narration difficult to follow.
Radio news is interactive. Interviews often include questions from listeners which require the reporter to explain their work or community in a brief but compelling way. These questions are called "call-ins." They allow the listener to participate in the show by giving their opinion on events or by voicing their concern about certain issues.
Radio news is topical. Listeners want to know what's going on in the world around them. People want to hear about current events so they can weigh in on them with their friends and family. Journalists must keep up-to-date on political and social trends in order to provide relevant information about what's happening now. This means that radio news scripts should always include current events relating to their subject.
Radio news is objective.
Radio writing must be crisp, straightforward, and, most importantly, engaging. Because talented writers can conjure vivid pictures for listeners, over-the-air radio has been dubbed the "theater of the imagination." However, because most radio news is extensively organized into little story slots, you must be as precise, detailed, and direct as possible. Writing for radio requires clarity in language and structure, as well as a sense of what will attract and hold an audience.
Writing for radio begins with understanding how sound moves air in your ear canals. This is called acoustics. Acoustics is the study of the properties of sound. It involves such topics as frequency response, amplitude modulation (AM), waveforms, harmonics, noise, distortion, and more. Knowing how sounds are recorded on tape or disk, edited together, and transmitted through the air allows you to write intelligible stories that catch listeners' interests and hold their attention.
The first thing to understand about radio writing is that it is not journalism. Journalism is written for print or online publication that carries its own editorial standards. On radio, anything goes - except for issues of libel and slander. All subjects are fair game for discussion, but only some ideas are right for broadcast speech. Radio editors select material based on whether it will entertain or inform their audiences. They may edit your script if necessary to meet time constraints or other programming needs.
First and foremost, radio news must be succinct, clear, and accurate. The information should be rigorously vetted and only delivered when the radio journalist has unequivocal proof. For example, reporting that "President Bush said today" without further explanation is meaningless gossip. Reporting that "Mr. Bush said today in an interview with NBC News" is much more useful because it gives listeners insight into what kind of interview it was and how Mr. Bush feels about the election.
Radio news must also be timely. Radio news reports cannot be held for later publication because there may not be time to publish them in their original form. For example, a radio report on a court case that breaks late at night or early in the morning can include details such as jury selection, testimony, and rulings from earlier in the day's session. But it would be inappropriate to report on these events specifically for that evening's broadcast because they would no longer be considered newsworthy by most newspapers.
Finally, radio news must be factual. It is unacceptable for a radio journalist to simply make assertions without any evidence to back them up. For example, a reporter cannot say, "We know President Bush visited Texas this week because his photo appeared in the newspaper," without providing evidence that this visit actually took place.
A typical radio news report consists of five phrases and lasts between 20 and 25 seconds. A radio news report, like all other kinds of news media, begins with the most significant facts. These may include who, what, when, where, and why questions about the incident or topic being reported on. The reporter should also ask listeners if they have any additional information about the incident.
After providing these basic details, the reporter will usually move on to describing the incident itself, without editorializing or opinionating. This allows listeners to form their own opinions about what has happened while still hearing both sides of the story.
Finally, reporters often include a call-to-action for listeners. These may include requests for more information, petitions to sign, or calls for donations. However, these elements are not required and many stories end without including a call-to-action.
The length of time that stories on radio news programs can last varies depending on the type of story being told. News reports about current events often include the names of people not involved in the incident discussed in the story, which means they can be longer than ordinary news stories. Sports stories typically cover one event and focus on the players and coaches involved, so they too can be longer than ordinary news stories.