There was considerable debate after Tiger Woods’ statement last week. Many viewers said they didn’t feel he was sincere, and I think one of the reasons they thought that was because of how his message was delivered. He read the statement word for word. I understand why he did that. It was probably the most important statement he’s made in his life, certainly the most embarrassing. He didn’t want to get it wrong. But by reading it, it didn’t feel natural. It didn’t feel like it came from his heart. Some debated whether he had even written it himself or whether some attorneys had written it.
Years ago when Kobe Bryant was accused of rape, he held a news conference and he just got up there and talked as compared to reading a written statement.
What can we learn from this in television news? How natural and believable can we be when our anchors read each story, word for word, stories usually written by someone else?
Think about how many things we script when we produce our newscasts. We script the “Hello” at the top of the show, we script most of the tosses to reporters, and we even sometimes script tosses to the weather and sports people. Do those things really need to be scripted? A better way of doing it might be to simply write them as bullet points. The talent has the key facts, and they can deliver it conversationally.
In fact, a lot of stories can be done in this style, without a formal script.
Most of your watercooler type stories can be told with less script or no script. It takes a little getting use to from the writer, talent and director standpoint, but it takes no getting use to for the viewer! The viewer often seeks a more relaxed, casual newscast. Writing less and talking conversationally is one way to achieve a more informal and comfortable newscast.
CNN’s midday newscasts are doing a really good job of this. In fact, Rick Sanchez has few, if any scripts in his program. He simply talks to viewers. And isn’t that one of our goals? To simply talk to our viewers?
Give this a try in your newscasts. Start small. Try one story without a script. Have the anchor look at the video and look at the facts before the newscast and see if he or she feels comfortable delivering the story as an ad-lib.
Doug Drew is a morning news specialist with 602 Communications. He can be reached at email@example.com