Rewriting NETWORK NEWS 29/11/2011


Word Watching Tips



TV and Radio


Mervin Block


2300 N Street, NW,Suite800


The first thing that struck me in the book under review  is  Mervin Block, unlike in his earlier book coauthored by joe Durso, jr titled, ‘Writing News for TV and Radio’ which opens with  the contents listing out the  chapters  makes a departure by   plunging   straight into the subject  explaining the motivation behind  writing  a book  on Rewriting TV and Radio Scripts . He begins:  ‘Anyone can make a  mistake, and everyone does. But smart writers make the most of their mistakes —by learning all they can from them.

News writers are especially vulnerable .We often work amid

frenzy:producers screaming, reporters scrambling, audio blaring. And through this bedlam ,we must fight deadlines ,balance the diktats of our bosses with the dictates of journalism –and write.’ I suppose all these  constraints  apply to script  writers of  news for newspapers as well notwithstanding the   relative  advantage writers for print  enjoy.

The author collected  examples of several hundred flawed scripts which were mostly broadcast on a network according to him ,  includes  corrections, comments  and suggestions for improvement. He  covers  all aspects featuring problems in grammar,  news judgment,  broadcast style and story telling   for the benefit of his target readers –script writers constituting   the senior and the seasoned.

A book of this kind  which is very practical and down to earth with  live examples warrants a reproduction of some of these examples for the reader to get a feel of them. The  headings conform to  an alphabetical  order and the wrong usage of the word is underlined, facts are checked by the author for accuracy which is followed by a memo (this appears in small typeface in the book ) to the writer and finally appear  comments and suggestions .

Under the heading ‘Absolutes’  we find  the following paragraph which highlights the importance of accuracy in reporting.

‘‘The schools are expected to remain closed at least through tomorrow, but the critical shortage of natural gas here is a problem that won’t go away until the unprecedented cold spell ends’’(unprecedented is underlined)

Whenever an editor sees a superlative, a red flag should go up in his or her mind. So after I read the script ,I phoned the meteorologist  inKansas Cityand asked him about the weather the previous day, when the script was telecast. That’s how I found out the correspondent was wrong.


‘‘Boats literally cannot move; fromCairotoSaint Louis, 38 barges and 300 tows literally locked in the ice.’’

If the boats can’t move, they can’t move . ‘Literally’ adds nothing but length.

Characterizing News

‘TheSoviet Unionseldom reports crime or disaster ,but there was an interesting exception today.’

Let the listener decide whether it’s interesting.

The way to make a story interesting is by writing it in a way that engages listeners’ interest—not by describing a story as interesting.

Example of Good Writing

‘‘The situation in the far south of Lebanon ,where rightists and Palestinians have been clashing off and on for months, now stands somewhere between heavy rhetoric and light combat’’(words  from between to combat are underlined)

Well said

Writer :Mike Lee.

Why did I choose that script? Its originality. The writer came up with a metaphor that I had never heard before. Writing under the gun ,he could have fallen back on a cliché .Instead , he told a much reported story in a creative way. Sometimes our efforts at originality fall flat, but if we don’t try —and fail once in a while –we bore ourselves and our listeners.

Yes, situation in the script is hollow .Stronger: conflict.

What  constitutes good   news writing? Writing that’s clear ,concise, understandable and graceful. Writing that flows so smoothly and naturally we’re not conscious it’s  writing, writing that says something .Our job is not to write writing, even if we could. In journalism ,our job is to write , if we don’t have facts, we have nothing to write , nothing to report.

Golden words indeed which should be practiced by every journalist irrespective of the medium he/she  works for .TV and Radio script writers of news should necessarily not only own this valuable book written by a senior  broadcast journalist and coach  but refer to it from time to time to  help them use the right word to convey the news in its right sense.

n.meera raghavendra rao


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