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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

It's What You Say & How You Say It

As producers, we work really hard to make sure each of our stories has compelling video with informative sound. But sometimes, it is easy to overlook one of the most vital parts of these stories: the copy. 

On Thursday, our news team had a very important news story to report on: the on-campus Halloween party shooting. From the get-go, we had to ensure that we were getting student reaction and statements from officials. But more importantly, we also had to make sure all the facts about the incident were correct. We verified that we were telling our audience the most up to date and accurate information by contacting the LAPD, DPS and the hospital the victims were sent to for the latest updates. 

As a producer, I also had to focus on the copy within the other stories in the newscast. The copy in each story should be conversational and easy to read. So, I try and take the time to read each piece of copy out loud to myself to see if it makes sense. I make changes when I find that the copy just doesn't flow when read slowly and out loud like the anchor would. 

I also need to make sure that the copy makes sense in context to the rest of the video and sound. If the soundbite says that LADWP workers are heading to Long Island to help with Superstorm Sandy relief, the tag at the end of the soundbite should not repeat any of the same information. It is all about taking those small extra steps to ensure that the copy is aiding the video and sound rather than repeating it. 

Lastly, as lead producer, it was my job to write the newscast's teases and the welcome. For the teases, I need to make sure that the copy explains the sound and video that are showing. And for the welcome, I need to make sure that I am starting with the most relevant information. On Thursday at 6p.m., our audience already knew that there was a shooting on campus the night before. About 18 hours later, at the top of the show, it was important that we provided the newest information to our audience right from the beginning.

Copy is a lot more complex than I ever thought it would be. It can make or break a story...and even a newscast. 

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