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Writing Centre Resource Guide


Introduction to Writing for Journalism

At its core, journalism is the “art of telling a story” and telling it well. However, not all stories are told the same way. Radio and television stories are usually made up of short, informative reports: they cover the major details of an event or issue in one or two minutes.  Newspaper or online stories can be short or extended, depending on the issue and details available. Magazine and feature articles, or documentaries, tend to give a more detailed, investigative portrait of the subject of the story.

Despite these differences there are a few guidelines that a journalist must keep in mind, no matter their medium:

  • Be engaging and interesting to the reader, viewer or listener.
  • Tell a popular story in a way that differs from the story other news outlets have been presenting. If the perspective is new, the reader, listener or viewer doesn’t feel that information is being repeated.
  • Explore all sides of an issue.
  • Consider audience: ensure that the story is understood by its intended audience, but is also appealing to those outside of this audience.
  • Stay focused: don’t bury the lede (the introduction) by going off topic. Ensure that a story flows clearly.
  • Use quotations well: ensure what precedes a quotation isn’t made redundant by the quotation itself. For example: Joe Smith said that he didn’t like the ongoing constriction: “I don’t like the ongoing construction,” Smith said.)
  • Lede: Pronounced “LEED,” a lede is a brief introduction (under 30 words) to an online or print news story.
  • Voice Report or Voicer: A voice report, or voicer, is a short (one minute, 10 second long) radio report about a current news issue.
  • Feature: A feature is a longer, detailed, more investigative report.
  • PAC: A PAC is a packaged (pre-recorded) radio report that is longer than one minute and 10 seconds. Like a feature, it is more detailed and utilizes more narration and audio clips.
  • VO/SOT (Voice Over/Sound on Tape) or Field Report: Field reports or VO/SOTS are similar to PACs. They use a mix of pictures, sounds, voiceovers, interview clips, and a “reporter on-camera” or stand-up clip to tell a story.
  • Slug: In broadcast journalism a slug is used as both an identifier and title for a story. It appears on the header of a script and helps the producer, technical team and host organize scripts.
  • Stand-up: This is a term used to describe the scene in a VO/SOT or Field report in which the journalist appears on camera.
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Genres of Journalism

Radio and television stories are often accompanied by a collection of images and/or sounds, but this isn’t always the case. In broadcast journalism, copy stories are short reports that tell the main or only details available for a story. See our attached pdf for an annotated example of a copy story that could be used for radio or television.

In addition to copy stories, there are three types of longer stories that are used in broadcast writing and reporting: the Voicer or Voice Report, the PAC and theVO/SOT or Field Report. See our attached pdf for an example of a voice report introduction, as well as an example of a VO/SOT template.

We've used a single sample story, about a bridge replacement in rural Nova Scotia, so that you can see how the same story is presented differently as you move from one form to another -- copy story, voicer, or feature.

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Resources for Writing for Journalism

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