Lesson Plan: TV Newscast Producing (Week 5)

Story Slugs & Newsroom Diversity

When building a news show rundown, every story, whether it’s a 20 second voice over (VO), a 40 second vosotvo (video under script, sound on tape, followed by more video under script) needs to be labled in a succinct way.  That’s called a story slug.  It’s best to keep story slugs about two words long, three at the most.  For example, a man in Brooklyn who was shot and killed while walking to the grocery store could be slugged:  Brooklyn Deadly Shooting.  A three alarm fire in Queens where children were rescued by firefighters as flames jumped from the roof could be slugged:  Queens Fire Rescue.  The purpose of the slug is to identify the story, so the anchors, the writers and the show director will have a general idea of what the story is.   This also applies to reporter story slugs.  It is best practice to use a reporter’s last name somewhere in the slug of the actual story.  It’s best to start with the reporter’s last name.  Let’s say a reporter, Jane Smith, is covering the preparations that are underway for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  That slug should be Smith Parade Preps.  There’s no need to call it Thanksgiving Day parade preps.  We would be in November, and there is no bigger parade being prepared at the time.  It’s not like NYPD would be setting up street barriers for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, or the Easter Parade.

Newsroom Diversity & Inclusivity

Diversity in newsrooms is important for many reasons, including a way to incorporate different views into news coverage.  

The journalistic necessity:

In its purest form, journalism should be produced for the benefit of all, not just those with power or class.  Everyone has a voice.  Every community and every view’s story is important.  But it is not simply enough to hire a diverse team in a newsroom.  It is the station’s responsibility to lift, empower and encourage personal growth of their diverse staff.  Effective, talented and diverse members of the newsroom should become leaders in their news organizations.  

A business necessity:

Newsrooms that thrive and want to continue thriving in the future are those that understand the importance of serving all members of their communities.  Diversifying the staff in a newsroom can speak to new and larger audiences.  It is one way news shows can stay relevant to younger audiences.  Viewers pay attention to the reporters on the air and the anchors who present the news.  While they don’t know who is producing a newscast, it’s safe to say that producers of different backgrounds can provide unique perspectives and opinions on the types of stories that are chosen for a newscast.  A producer’s decision making when choosing stories for a show, can make or break newscast ratings.  As one of the few minority women in a major market newsroom, I was once placed on the staff of an afternoon newscast.  The senior level manager who changed my shift told me that the shows needed a bigger female perspective.  The audience was demanding more female oriented story selection.  The rest of the staff was male.

Student Exercise

Build a first block of a newscast, choosing two reporter live shot stories.  The reporter liveshot stories should not exceed 2:30 for each reporter.  Balance the news block with other local and national stories, about 20-40 seconds each in length.  Finish the block with a two story tease, that is accompanied by video.