5 C S Of Broadcast Writing Assignment
This page has now been updated - you can find the new version here
WRITING AND ASSEMBLING NEWS
This page contains a collection of videos, guides and quizzes about writing scripts and stories and how to assemble your material into great content.
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And if you have any suggestions about how to improve the classroom activities or ideas for new exercises, we'd love to hear from you!
You can choose which resources are the most appropriate for your pupils and classroom. We've called it a pick and mix - so you can read through and select the materials that best fit in with your plans.
Please note that all times for activities are approximate and will depend on class size, age, etc.
We also have a special Teacher Essentials section which includes lots of extra information and advanced resources.
You can also use our updated six lesson plans if you prefer a more structured approach.
Being able to write clearly is an important skill for every journalist - whether they work in TV, radio, print or online.
The three C's - making sure your writing is Clear, Concise and Correct - are a good starting point for every journalist.
Headlines are also a crucial way of drawing people's attention to your story. An enticing headline can be the difference between someone reading, watching or listening to all your great journalism or not.
Equally, strong stories can lose their impact if people cannot follow them because the language is confusing or the story drags on for too long.
And it goes without saying that your story needs to be factually correct.
Learn some of the skills of writing scripts and online stories, then test your knowledge with our School Report writing quiz.
Journalists and editors have to take editorial decisions about how to assemble the material into a report.
There are some tricks of the trade to make the best of your material for broadcast, while remembering your report should aim to be fair and balanced.
And if you are producing a bulletin made up of several stories, then you need to think about the "running order" - the order you want the stories to appear in.
A good bulletin should have the best story as the lead item to grab people's attention - in just the same way that a newspaper puts its top story on the front page - while a light-hearted "and finally" story will often be the final item.
These resources will help you to assemble individual reports and to compile an overall running order.
Video: Writing news (2 mins 30 secs video + 2-3 mins to recap/discuss)
Writing news (duration: 2 mins 30 secs
BBC newsreader Huw Edwards explains the 3 C's of news writing: being Clear, Concise and Correct.
Writing scripts and news stories also means understanding that you need to get straight to the point!
There's no point in having an amazing news story but leaving the most important fact to the last sentence!
You can recap the key points from the video with this accompanying worksheet, or read a transcript of the video:
Key points: Writing news
Transcript: Writing news
A Welsh language version of the video is also available, together with a transcript.
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Video: Scriptwriting masterclass (3 mins 30 secs video + 4-5 mins to recap/discuss)
School Report's scriptwriting masterclass (duration: 3 mins 30 secs)
For BBC Breakfast reporter Tim Muffett, writing engaging and informative scripts is part of his job.
Watch his video in which he gives his hints and tips on scriptwriting for video or audio reports.
There is a real art to writing a good script and a lot of the time less is more: if you have great pictures, let them speak for themselves rather telling viewers what they can already see.
But things are obviously a bit different for radio - then you need to be a bit more descriptive.
You can recap the key points from the video using the accompanying worksheet or read a transcript of the video:
Key points: Scriptwriting masterclass
Transcript: Scriptwriting masterclass
Watch Tim Muffett's final report (duration: 3 mins)
Tim's report went out on BBC Breakfast, and you can see how he put all his tips into practice to produce the finished article.
And the worksheet below contains the script that he used for his report.
Why not watch the report along with the script to see how it was all put together.
Worksheet: Tim Muffett's script
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Activity: Scripting a story (30 mins)
Work in pairs.
For this activity, you will need to print out two copies of this worksheet, one is for a first draft and the other is for a final draft.
Worksheet: Writing and Assembling News
Tell each other about the last thing that interested you so much that you couldn't wait to tell someone else. That's what news is essentially about - communicating something of interest.
Between you, decide on a news story you are going to report. It could be either of your stories or it could be something else.
If something else, do some research on the topic to gather the key facts - the 5 W's.
Now, one of you tell your partner about it, just like you did when you were telling your own piece of news.
The reason for doing this is that news is best communicated as though you were telling a friend. That way, the most interesting information, is naturally what you communicate first.
Having spoken your story out loud, write it down on the worksheet.
This will turn your story into a script, and also enable you to calculate how long it will take a presenter to speak it. Newsreaders usually read at three words per second, so a short 10 second story should be about 30 words.
Remember to keep your words clear, concise and correct:
Clear: Write it how you would say it. Get straight to the point at the beginning.
Concise: Don't waffle. Keep your sentences - and the length of your report - short.
Correct: Get your facts, spelling and grammar right.
You will probably need to rewrite your script, using the second worksheet, which is all good news making practice. Most journalists will write and rewrite several times before they are happy with their work.
Once you have completed your script, you can add in notes about any quotes, sound effects, stills, graphics etc on the left-hand side of the worksheet.
If you've finished your script, write a cue - that's the introduction that another presenter gives before they hand to the journalist presenting the report. Remember, the aim is to promote the story that's about to come, not to tell it twice.
So, in your cue, don't repeat the words that are in the opening sentences of the report.
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Activity: Writing news - beginning, middle and end (15 mins)
Work in pairs.
A, print off a news story from the BBC News,BBC Local News or CBBC Newsround websites, other news websites, newspapers and school newsletters.
Cut up the story into sections, with two or three sentences in each section - or individual sentences if you wish to make the task more difficult.
A and B, underline the facts and circle the opinions. A fact is something that it true (often who, what, where, when). An opinion is what someone thinks.
B, try to put the sections in order.
A and B, compare B's order with the original story.
A and B, answer these questions:
1. What did you notice about the beginning, middle and end of the report?
2. Where are most of the 5 'W' facts?
3. Where are most of the opinions?
In many genres of writing, the main event occurs in the middle, or at the end, such as a murder-mystery novel.
But in news, the first sentence should reveal the key occurrence and often includes the key 'W' facts.
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Activity: Writing captions (15 mins)
The captions on the BBC's picture galleries are a good example of how to write a story in a very concise way - usually just one sentence.
NOTE FOR TEACHERS
A few photos cut out from a newspaper or newsletter is a low-tech alternative if you don't have internet access
Find a picture gallery on the BBC News' In Pictures section that interests you.
Take off the captions by clicking on the 'hide captions' button at the bottom right of the first picture.
Now write your own captions for the photos.
Then unhide the captions, if you're working online, or look at the captions/story information in the newspapers or newsletter.
Compare your captions with the ones written by the BBC/newspaper journalist and answer these questions:
1. What do you notice about the language they use?
2. Which of the 5W's - and How - are used the in captions?
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Activity: Writing concisely (15 mins)
This activity will help you develop your own concise news writing style by replicating what BBC online journalists have to do every day.
Journalists writing for the BBC News or BBC Sport websites have to be able to write very concisely because their stories also appear on the Ceefax and Red Button text services, which are usually just four paragraphs long.
This is the same story on the BBC Sport website and the Red Button - but the Red Button text service has only four paragraphs to tell the story, while the website goes on to expand on its report
So the stories have to sum up all the important facts - the 5 W's - in four paragraphs (before expanding on them for the websites). That means every word counts.
Find a story that interests you in a newspaper, magazine or other reliable source and try to tell the whole story in four paragraphs, which equates to about 80 words.
What kind of information do you have to cut out? What do you notice about the language you use?
This is a useful discipline to have in journalism. Try sticking to it if you are going to write text-based online reports - it really helps keep your stories engaging for the reader. And you can always go into more detail after telling the key points.
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Guide: How to write for the web
If you're creating a story for the web, read this guide. It explains how to make sure your writing is clear and offers some advice on how how to arrange your story on the page.
And if you are thinking about using live event pages, where a series of short updates enable your audience to keep up with a fast-moving event like a breaking news story or a sporting event, try our experts' tips on writing live text pages.
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Activity: Answering the 5 W's (10 mins)
Work in pairs.
Print out a story that interests you from the BBC News,BBC Sport,BBC Local News,Newsbeat or CBBC Newsround websites, or from other reliable news websites, newspapers or school newsletters.
Go through the story and underline or highlight the parts which answer the 5 W's - the Who, What, Where, When and Why. And there is usually a How in there as well.
Virtually every story should be able to answer these questions - is your story missing any of the 5 W's? What questions would you need to ask to find out the answers?
Now discuss your answers with the class.
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Activity: Writing headlines (20 mins)
Headlines "sell" stories to readers, viewers and listeners by telling them what the story is about and grabbing your attention.
Ideally it should leave you wanting to know more so you read or listen on to find out more information.
Writing good headlines is a skill and this activity will help get you thinking about how to promote your stories with great headlines.
Worksheet: Writing headlines
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Activity: Compiling a running order (20 mins)
You are producing a TV news bulletin for teenagers. The bulletin has to have six stories.
Look at today's news stories on the BBC News,BBC Local News,Newsbeat, or CBBC Newsround websites. You might also like to look at other news websites/newspapers.
Choose six stories to put in this running order worksheet.
Worksheet: Running order
You must include a lead story and an "and finally" story.
You may also want to use a news round-up, in which case, place grouped stories in a single story slot on the worksheet.
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Activity: Running order in pictures (20 mins)
The BBC News website's Day in Pictures is a good example of a picture gallery that tells some of the day's stories in photos and text.
If you have access to slideshow software, create a six-slide gallery and try to tell the story with your captions.
NOTE FOR TEACHERS
You can only use these images for your School Report work. You must not use them in any other way
Alternatively, cut out photographs from newspapers and/or the school newsletter.
Slide 1 should be the lead story and slide 6 the "and finally". Add captions to each picture to explain the story.
Only use photographs from the BBC website which have AP, PA, AFP or GETTY IMAGES in the right-hand corner; the BBC has gained copyright permission for you to these ones.
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Quiz: Writing news (10 mins)
NOTE FOR TEACHERS
The online quiz gives you the answers at the end of every question. If you are using the quiz worksheet, the answers can be found here:
This multiple-choice quiz is designed to test your knowledge of how to write scripts and stories.
It also provides real-life scenarios to prompt discussions about the issues that can arise during writing news.
Pupils can take the above quiz online, either on this page or on a separate page which is easier to email and distribute at school; a low-tech alternative would be to print out this worksheet:
Quiz: Writing news
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Quiz: Writing news
This is your chance to see just how much you know about writing a good news story.
1.) Writing news
Journalists use language that is clear, * and correct.
2.) Writing news
Journalists' language is simple and to the point. Which of the following phrases is the best example?
- Police hit out as demonstrators make point
- Riot police used shields to push demonstrators back
- Demonstrators show their emotions as police get involved in clash
3.) Writing news
Which of the following will help make your report more interesting?
- Made-up facts
- Quotes from key interviewees
- Exclamation marks!!!
4.) Writing news
Which of these is most likely to annoy readers?
- Big chunks of text
- Inaccurate spelling and grammar
5.) Writing scripts
After you've written your script, what's the first thing you should do?
- Give it straight to the editor
- Read it aloud to make sure it sounds okay
- Move on to the next story
6.) Writing headlines
What is the golden rule for writing headlines?
- Be as clever as possible
- Keep it short and bright
- Never let the facts get in the way of a good story
- The answer is concise, which means short. When you're writing the news, it's important to keep your sentences short, so that people can understand what you are trying to tell them. It's also important that your report is not too long, otherwise people will switch off.
- Riot police used shields to push demonstrators back is the most clear because it simple and straightforward. No word is wasted. The other examples are vague and unclear.
- Quotations will add interest to your report. A quote is a great way to add some colour. Listen out for interesting or amusing quotes when you are interviewing people.
- Inaccurate spelling and grammar is most likely to annoy people, so double check before you publish. But long chunks of text and jargon are also irritating!
- The first thing you should do is to read it aloud to make sure it sounds OK. It may feel a little weird to read something you've written out loud, especially when the people around you are quiet. But journalists who write for radio and TV are always told to read their scripts aloud to make sure there are no tongue twisters in it!
- A headline should be short and simple. It should grab people's attention but mustn't mislead them. Be clear and tell readers what the story is about.
0 - 1 : Keep working at it
2 - 4 : Good but could be better
5 - 6 : Well done!
Editor's note: This story was first published in January 2017. We're reposting today to mark the exact date that the Public Broadcasting Act was signed into law.
This November, the Public Broadcasting Act will turn 50. The law created the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and later led to the creation of both PBS and NPR. Here are 50 interesting pieces to read or listen to about public media to celebrate the anniversary. (If you have more ideas, please list them in the comments.)
Understand the history behind the Act
—Read the original act, which stipulates that “it is in the public interest to encourage the development of programming that involves creative risks and that addresses the needs of unserved and underserved audiences, particularly children and minorities.”
—Read President Johnson’s remarks upon signing the act into law.
—As Robert Avery notes in his excellent essay about the history of the act, Johnson “placed it in the context of Congressional support for the construction of the first telegraph line in 1844 and the 1862 Morrill Act that set aside lands in every state to create a national system of land-grant colleges. He invoked recollections of the old Greek marketplace where public affairs took place in full view of the entire citizenry, and he promised that this new system of public broadcasting would belong to all the people.”
—Be thankful radio was included at all. The words “and radio” were scotch-taped into the bill, which was called the Public Television Bill before President Johnson’s assistant in charge of public television legislation re-added it at the last minute.
Learn about the early days
—Watch Mr. Rogers defend funding for PBS and the CPB, after President Nixon threatened to halve public television’s operating budget.
—Four years later, public television was the only place where people could go to watch all 250 hours of Watergate testimony.
—Somewhat related: This 1980 Terry Gross interview excerpt with G. Gordon Liddy on conquering his fear of rats.
—In 1970, Bill Siemering wrote a mission statement for NPR. It starts like this: “National Public Radio will serve the individual: it will promote personal growth; it will regard the individual differences among men with respect and joy rather than derision and hate; it will celebrate the human experience as infinitely varied rather than vacuous and banal; it will encourage a sense of active constructive participation, rather than apathetic helplessness.”
—NPR started its broadcasts on April 19, 1971 with live coverage of Senate deliberations on the Vietnam War. The earliest digitized broadcast I can find is from three days later, when Lt. John Kerry testified before the panel.
—Spend some time learning about your local station history. Though NPR and PBS started in the 1970s, it’s likely your local station’s history stretch even further back. Oregon Public Broadcasting’s roots go back to 1922. Wyoming Public Media started broadcasting in 1966. WETA hit the D.C. airwaves in 1961, and Wisconsin Public Radio loosely stretches back to 1914.
—You may even want to go further back. The Public Broadcasting Act originated five decades after the creation of public broadcasting, which started when opera singer Enrico Caruso was broadcast from the Metropolitan Opera House to homes throughout New York City.
Head into the archives
—It’s hard to listen to many early public radio broadcasts, because many hours of tapes were recorded over, not stored, lost or not preserved. You can read about efforts from the American Archive of Public Broadcasting and the Radio Preservation Task Force to identify and preserve radio broadcasts that remain.
—Andy Lanset, the archivist at New York Public Radio, frequently digs up treasures from the station’s archives. He also sends out a weekly newsletter highlighting what was broadcast on WNYC in various years.
More archives: Civil Rights interviews from WYSO; NOVA broadcasts stretching back to 1996; Minnesota Public Radio’s collection from the 1970s through the present, the Susan Stamberg collection (located at the University of Maryland Libraries), archival stories from New Hampshire Public Radio, the NPRchives and a collection of Iowa voices stretching back more than a century.
—Interviews with more than a dozen creators of Sesame Street from the Archive of American Television.
—“In this 1977 documentary, a panel of women discusses eliminating sexual stereotypes.”
—This 1998 profile of Mr. Rogers in Esquire is a must-read.
Find stuff to watch, listen to, or build.
—Andrew Filer built a map showing the listening radiuses for all of the public radio stations you can hear in the United States and Canada.
—If you’re really into one station, you can build a single station FM tuner in a mason jar.
—Over 250 podcasts cataloged by topic by NPR.
—Seemingly every podcast that airs on public radio, sortable by topic, name and station and cataloged by Public Radio Fan.
—18 podcasts for kids from public radio stations.
—You can find station GitHub repositories using this app from a developer at Code for America.
Local programming that transcends location
—"Mister Knight’s Neighborhood," a documentary (Michigan Radio)
—HumaNature: a podcast that explores people’s experiences in nature (Wyoming Public Media)
—30 Days of West Virginia Music
—Alaska Public Media’s annual statewide holiday greetings show
—Daily short perspectives from people living all over the Bay Area
Explore public broadcasting outside of the U.S.
—Use Radio Garden to find live broadcasts around the world. (Note: not all public radio)
—In Japan, this public broadcasting station airs daily calisthenics for viewers. (Related: where podcast discovery could go next.)
—“In this report, we survey the concrete ways that a cross-section of democratic nation-states around the world fund and protect the autonomy of public media.” (2011)
—More recent: How public service broadcasting shapes up worldwide. (2015)
—Radio Atlas provides English-language subtitles for radio documentaries produced around the world.
For the obsessives
—Confessions of a "Carmen Sandiego" Contestant
—You can have the "Kojo Show" theme music as your ringtone.
—Reddit Ask Me Anything’s with "This Old House", a former cast member of ZOOM, Tom Ashbrook of "On Point." (And as a bonus, a PBS Digital Studios video about Reddit.)
—The Mugs of NPR Tumblr investigates the mugs found in corners of NPR.
—There are two people on Twitter who turn public broadcasting celebrities into post-apocalyptic Photoshopped battle-ready creatures.
—Everything you’ve always wanted to know about "Ghostwriter."
New ways to invite communities into public broadcasting
—For over two decades, students at a high school in Central Illinois have created documentaries that have aired on the local PBS station.
—WLRN in Miami received over 3,500 submissions when they asked people to write an ode to their zip codes.
—Michigan Radio’s Infowire told their stories over text messages.
—Oregon Public Broadcasting created personalized earthquake risk report based on a person’s address.
—WAMU partnered with Code for D.C. to create their 2014 election night map.
—“Today, WNYC is open-sourcing its Audiogram Generator, a social tool meant to provide podcasters, radio professionals, producers and audio makers a super easy way to share their work across social platforms including Facebook and Twitter.”
—The classical station WUOL in Louisville, Kentucky runs a “Summer Listening” program for kids.
—WGBH has a new studio inside the Boston Public Library.
—Last year Cards Against Humanity made 150,000 people members of WBEZ
—Vermont PBS is partnering with community members to create original local programming.
—KJZZ in Phoenix is launching a mobile production unit inside of a food truck.