Writing in Stereo

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Rewriting is not plagiarism!

October 10th, 2010

Here's a rewrite on ... rewriting!

U-of-A students can now take a course on copying.  The University of Arizona says plagiarism has increased seven hundred percent since 1999.  The University says cut-and-paste has made it easy to copy other writer's words, but a new software program that detects that has worked as a deterrent.  Now student offenders can take a workshop to learn how to summarize, paraphrase and cite someone else's work.  The University expects enrollment to reach 100 students this fall.

Video photojournalists must be reporters, too!

September 8th, 2010

mediareporterwithgear.jpgIn some of the largest media markets in the country, television news crews are made up of reporter, videographer and sound recorder.  Until a year or so ago stations in markets like Tucson's sent crews out in pairs of reporter and photojournalist.  But that's been changing, and here and elsewhere you're more likely to see reporters like this veteran carrying her own HD camera slung under one arm and a tripod balanced on the opposite shoulder.  She'll work like a '60's documentary cameraman, tossing questions from behind the camera and juggling her shots and newscopy in her head as she pieces the package together.mediareporterinterviews.jpg

Today's student broadcast journalists must be more than camera-savvy; they have to write, as well.  Video production teachers need to add a strong broadcast news writing component to their tech-heavy production curriculum to assure their students' employability as double threats.  Unless you assume stations may be more willing to train camera operators to write than reporters to get the necessary shot coverage, you need to start teaching Writing in Stereo's MicWriter for Video.

No one's going to charge you for using it.  And we'll answer any questions you might have.  Write us at writinginstereo@gmail.com.

Writing in Stereo is the best added ingredient

September 6th, 2010

As summer comes to a close, consider adding the components of Writing in Stereo to your journalism program, your English class or even your high school video production classes.  Writing in Stereo's broadcast journalism component, MicWriter, assures students writing test scores will improve.  Our creative radio dramatics model, Spark'Niter, sets kids' imaginations on fire.  And our plan for bringing all of this to the Internet on a shoestring budget, TechLigher, assures you can do this without dropping any capital cash.

And this program is free.  Click on any of the page headings at the top of the page.  Writing in Stereo I and II above offer complete tables of contents to the original and solely broadcast journalism Writing in Stereo programs.  MicWriter defines our broadcast journalism model in its latest version.  And we've even got an adaptation for video production!  Check 'em out.  If you have questions, we're just an email away at writinginstereo@gmail.com.

Thanks for joining us!

CNN Student News: a good resource for the school angle

September 4th, 2010

It's moving day for a member of the family, and Writing in Stereo creator Doug Potter has rent-a-truck responsibilities.  So here's a short entry.  You'll find a wealth of objective student broadcast journalism resources at http://www.cnn.com/studentnews/.

Have a great day!

Wrap-up, roundup, link up

September 3rd, 2010

So we've just spent the last eight or nine days with our lessons in broadcast journalism for high school students.  We should note here that Writing in Stereo creator Doug Potter has a very narrow definition of broadcast journalism.

Writing in Stereo's use of the term broadcast journalism follows the curricular model set forth in traditional high school journalism instruction.  Here we emphasize the reporter's writng style and insist students master the basics of the rhetoric before they publish by whatever media is at hand.  High school journalism instructors teach the inverted pyramid, the hard lede* and the five W's.  We adapt that to broadcast journalism, teaching the broadcast news style's soft lede and other adaptations necessary to news reporting for the listeners' ears.  announcerewrites.jpgThe high school journalism student's medium is the school newspaper.  The high school broadcast journalist reaches listeners on the radio, television monitor and Internet.

At the top of this page you have page headings among others for Writing in Stereo I and Writing in Stereo II.  Both pages feature linked tables of contents to the lessons and practices each describes.  We sincerely hope you can put them to good use.

*Journalists spell the word lead when applied to the opening of a news story as lede to differentiate it from the metal used for typeface.

WiS II Lesson Eight - the Interview

September 2nd, 2010

Before the Interview

Know all sides of the issue.  Don't assume listeners know the history of the subject. Be sure the guest is the right person for the interview on this topic.  (The only way to know might be to ask him/her.)  Know your technical requirements for the interview.  (Are the mikes in the right places?  Do you need help running the board?)  Help the guest to feel comfortable.


The Shape of a Studio Interview

Beginning - Always wear your headphone.  Set up the interview by introducing the guest.  Share that history of the subject or guest's background.  Be factual, objective, and polite-even if you disagree with the guest.  Have a very good first question.  Keep your questions open-that means no "yes" or "no" questions.  Ask "Why" and "How" questions.  Think of your listeners.  What do they  want to know?

Middle - Develop a rapport ("ruh-pore") with the guest.  Keep the interview focused.  Keep the listener a "willing eavesdropper."  Get information here on the meaning of the subject of discussion.  Let the guest talk.  Let him/her say what he/she has to say.  Then ask them what you want to know.  Your most important quality as an interviewer is your ability to listen.  Although it's not a bad idea to write difficult questions out, try to sound conversational.  Be yourself.  Be excited.  Don't be afraid to jump to an appropriate question.  Repeat guest's name and topic:  "We're here talking with ... about ...".  Minimize prep for the next technical cue:  it distracts the guest.  Use gesture signals to communicate.

End - Wrap up the main point.  Promote whatever the guest wants promoted-an appearance, a program or campaign or a service, whatever.  Thank them for joining you on the air.  Play some music.

The above material was created by Michael Landwehr, Program Director KXCI Community Radio, 2000

Now it's your turn.  Work with a partner.  First, spend a few minutes discussing some important aspects of your partner's life, hobbies, family, pets, etc.  See if you two can find something truly unusual experience he or she may have had.  Then decide how best to narrow a practice interview to focus on just one interesting aspect of their life, past and current day-to-day.  Maybe the one unusual experience is all you'll need.writingpractice.jpg

Let's suppose your partner will speak to a small assembly of several classes about his or her experience(s).  That will be the event your partner is here to promote.

When you're ready, use a tape recorder to tape an interview with your partner.  The class will listen and discuss it.

WiS II Lesson Seven - the Wraparound or Package

September 2nd, 2010

In Lesson Three we learned that when a reporter gets information on an event or news assignment and shares that information with the audience, either live or recorded, that's called a voicer.  The "voice" in a voicer is not the voice of the news source; it's the voice of the reporter.  A voicer does not include an actuality.   But suppose you have an actuality to make the story more authentic, more informative?  If the studio newsreader introduces the reporter, and the reporter delivers a full write-up, an actuality (or two) and closes with a write-out and lockout, you have a wraparound, or video's package.workbook.gif

As was the case with the voicer,  the newsreader will add your soft lede to the main news copy (script).  After the soft lede, you'll write for the news reader:  "Reporter (your name) has details."  What follows will be your recorded voice picking up with the titled-source-says sentences. In a video package, appropriate video accompanies (and is edited to match) this voice-over.

Your write-up copy is no different from any phoner, but you get to record it yourself.  You record your write-out, too.  Then you place the actuality (or video's bite) between the two on the computer.

After the last sentence of the story, you tack on a lockout.  That's all there is to the wraparound.  It's wrapped up like a package.  In fact, in TV broadcast journalism they call the video counterpart a package.writingpractice.jpg

Now take the story you just wrote for the Lesson 6 Off-Campus Phoner.  Recopy it and indicate that the newsreader will take care of your lede.  Add the toss to you.  Indicate that you are first heard reading the titled-source-says line.  At the end add your lockout, "For Warrior Radio News, I'm ...".

Your paper should follow this format:

Newsreader: (soft lede and toss)

Reporter: (titled source says)

                                    (actuality in-cue)

                                    (actuality out-cue)



Teaching suggestion: We've improved the model above.  You can find the revised MicWriter model by clicking on the "MicWriter" page link at the top of the page.

WiS II Lesson Six - Practice

September 1st, 2010


Here's another obvious school angle story. First, brainstorm together or cluster alone all the possible off-campus sources you might call to find the impact this story might have on your school's students and their community. Then write a simulated off-campus phoner. Your teacher will provide the actuality raw recording.


Teaching suggestion: Your source is Jeannie Favela, assistant superintendent of student services. Make a recording in which you parrot what the reporter already has in the clipping, but add the true actuality by characterizing the desperation Sunnyside District officials felt as they saw their students' families fleeing the state of Arizona.

WiS II Lesson Six - the Off-Campus Phoner

August 31st, 2010

The school-local angle brings the relevance of a national, state or city-wide news story home to campus listeners.  When we ask our own school authorities just what those news items mean to us, we make our listeners realize the significance of decisions others make far away.  But we are a real radio station with real radio news gathering capabilities.  We can ask anyone almost anywhere what these stories mean to us.  Sometimes we talk to the story's original source or some other source off campus.workbook.gif

An off-campus source might actually be an easier assignment than one on-campus.  Here's why.  We call teachers, counselors and administrators all the time.  They're very busy people.  Teachers are usually teaching.  Counselors often have students in their offices.  Administrators are ... well, doing whatever it is administrators do.  Here a call from a high school radio station news reporter is not much of a novelty.  So most of our reporters can tell you getting hold of a credible source here on campus can be difficult.

Off-campus sources, particularly those whose job it is to deal with district, city, state or even national aspects of the issue at hand, may put media calls on a very high priority.  And, believe me, they don't get calls from high school TV or radio news reporters every day!  Some are just delighted to give our listeners an earful.  As detailed in an earlier chapter, we had a student reporter email the original source on a national story, a man in South Carolina.  The student emailed our phone number and the correct time our Advanced class meets.  The next day that student got a call from South Carolina!

The point is this: don't be afraid to call or contact a long shot.  You might get a pleasant surprise.  Of course, you don't have to call the original source on a national or state story.  You might just call someone in the school district's central offices.  The district's communications (public relations/media) offices handle media inquiries for most departments.  You might call them, or you could take advantage of your insider status and call the department directly.  I sure would.

Any local business or government agency is  fair game for a phoner.  If the story is state or local, you can very easily call the local office of the state agency or the local source of the story.  Get the school angle straight from the horse's mouth.  Impress your friends.

Teaching suggestion: Telephone interviews broadcast on television are not as common today as they once were. You're more likely to see fuzzy Skype images. But even national broadcast news organizations still have the occasional phone/slide voicer. It's an established tool, so you can teach it to your video production students and use it on the air-frequently, if you like. Remember: get the information to the viewer by whatever convenient method is at hand.

WiS Lesson Five — On-campus Source Practice

August 30th, 2010

Here are a couple of pretty good (short) school angle news stories. Your teacher will provide you with the imaginary interview. You'll write the copy and select the actuality.writingpractice.jpg

Remember: you still have to follow the same steps you used for your simple announcement reader. Your first sentence gives the source credit and adds the soft lede information. Then you're giving us the titled-source-says. In a school angle on-campus source piece, this is where we introduce the campus credible source. In an off-campus school angle piece, the source is someone closer to the original story, if not the newspaper reporter's original source. After the Titled Source says you'll either generally describe what we're about to hear or you'll lead us into the actuality with the first remarks the source makes.

At this point, you'll insert the word, "actuality" into your copy. That tells the board operator or sound editor that this is where the actuality will be played or inserted. Then you'll identify the beginning of the actuality with "In Cue" and the first few words. On the next line write "Out Cue" and the last few words heard from the source.

Sometimes we may have reason to include two or more actualities, perhaps comments on more than one topic or disagreement from a different source. We lead into any other actualities just the same way we did the first.

Then close with a "Where-do-we-go-from-here?" kind of wrap-up. You'll want to take a look at the information revealed toward the end of the news story. Decide if the news story offers a contradictory, maybe more credible view than does your school source. Don't feel the school source must have the last word. Give the news item the last word if it offers balance to the story.

Here are our practice examples:

2 Shoe Shopping Days to help TUSD students

The Educational Enrichment Foundation will host its Shoe Shopping Days for needy students in the Tucson Unified School District.

The program has been offered for the last 16 years.

During the 2009-10 school year, the foundation provided 930 pairs of new shoes and 2,790 pairs of new socks to students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.

The effort is made possible through a partnership with local Payless ShoeSource stores.

The next Shoe Shopping Days are Sept. 22 (sponsored by the Rincon Optimists) and Sept. 24 (sponsored by Citigroup Tucson), according to the foundation's website. Students must be referred by school representatives.

University High sets 3 admission forums

University High School will soon be holding three informational meetings on how students can qualify for admission.

The college-preparatory high school offers an Advanced Placement curriculum, as well as fine and performing arts, and athletic opportunities.

The meetings will be held:

  • Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Magee Middle School, 8300 E. Speedway.
  • Thursday at 7 p.m. at Pistor Middle School, 5455 S. Cardinal Ave.
  • Sept. 8 at 7 p.m. at University High School, 421 N. Arcadia Ave.

For more information, call Assistant Principal Tammy Janik at 232-5905.

Teaching suggestion: Record a somewhat rambling commentary by "School Counselor Loving Fist," in which you give specific information best added by the reporter and the more general opinion of the importance of the issue best used as an actuality. Students should identify the first few words as In Cue and the last as Out Cue.