Writing in Stereo

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WiS Lesson 7C: The broadcast soft lede

April 20th, 2010

The original Writing in Stereo was published online back in the late 1980's.  Its purpose was to apply creative radio dramatics to all aspects of the teaching of high school English.  Each lesson included a lesson plan and notes.  I'm sharing these with you here.

UNIT OBJECTIVE: (VII) The student will improve primary research and writing skills using the discipline of broadcast journalism.

LESSON OBJECTIVE: (C) The student will record broadcast style "soft" ledes and stories transcribed from newspapers, demonstrating mastery of these fundamental concepts in broadcast style writing:

1. Conversational style - fragments, contractions and "that"

2. Active voice

3. Present tense - wherever appropriate

4. Names - subject of the story (delayed) source of information (title, name, "says")

5. Numbers (round off, spell out, delay)

6. A four-paragraph formula

a. Soft lede introduction

b. Titled source "says"

c. Background or other details

d. Clincher detail

MATERIALS REQUIRED: Paper and pencil, newspaper stories, audio tape recorder/player, recordings of radio news, some recording space

INTRODUCTION: Some of you noticed how difficult it can be to understand the news when someone reads it aloud to you. When radio was a new invention, an announcer simply picked up the morning paper and read it over the microphone. That didn't work. There are a number of reasons why. We're going to master those reasons as we learn how to write the news for people to hear rather than read.


1. Listen to recordings of radio newscasts and discuss the concepts listed above.

2. Distribute selected and duplicated newspaper clippings for translation.

3. Identify the emphasized concept with each translation. Some of these are incidental to the style and do not require an exercise emphasizing that skill alone. Others are characteristic of the broadcast style and will require more than one exercise for mastery.

4. As each student completes a translation, he or she should record the story in your recording space.

EVALUATION FOCUS: Concentrate on the emphasized writing concept for grading. The student need not sound like Tom Brokaw or Jane Pauley.