Writing news for broadcast is different than writing for newspapers or online. And writing for radio is different than TV.
Radio news is meant to be heard. It needs to be simple, direct, and clear.
It’s not about “dumbing it down.” It’s about being simple enough that someone focused on other things can understand. News listeners are often driving. A story written in a complicated style won’t get through.
Write it like you would tell it to your friend on the street. Language should be simple and conversational—no big words, nothing too technical.
Avoid wordiness. Treat words like a precious resource. Only use the ones you need.
Don’t circle it. Get right to the point.
Never use cliches.
Don’t write cute. The poor news anchor cold-reading your copy can’t read your mind.
Always ask yourself why the listener needs to hear it. Grab them in the first sentence.
Some specific tips:
The story should never be about the police investigating. The crime is the story. We can assume the police are investigating. It would be news if they weren’t.
I’d cut off my left ear if radio writers banned the words “horrific” and “tragic” from their lexicons. They’re so overused. Actually, news writers should avoid all adjectives unless they’re necessary.
Speaking of “actually,” that’s another word never needed in news copy. Same for “in fact.” They’re useless, wasted words. Kill them.
Happy news writing in 2023! Here’s hoping it’s actually not horrific. In fact, I hope it’s not tragic at all. And may the police be ever investigating.