A Tale of Two Storytellers

Recently I had the experience of hearing a news story on one radio station, and then immediately hearing it on another.  This isn’t such a rare thing except the story was told so differently by the two anchors that it was like a slap in the ears with a velvet glove. 

The first one was very stiff and formal and left me with questions.  The second answered those questions and was more conversational and relatable.

This is something I try to hammer home to my on air coaching clients: talk the way people talk.  Think carefully about what’s truly important in the story and concentrate on that.  There are many more aspects to this philosophy but that’s a broad stroke look at it.

The item in question was the shooting of an RCMP officer while he sat in his vehicle.  The first newscaster said nothing about the motive for the murder, for which the shooter was being sentenced.  Not being intimately familiar with the small details I wondered, was this an orchestrated “hit”?  Did the shooter have a grudge against this particular officer?  What was his reason, however lame? 

The second newscaster explained it.  The shooter said he meant to fire in the officer’s direction to scare him off but his bullet killed the man.  Even if that’s a manufactured defense it still goes a long way toward explaining the situation. 

Often times newscasters get caught up in the accuracy of numbers pertaining to tax rates and blah blah blah when the point of the story is that, hey, your taxes are going up.  Don’t make me do math in my head! Radio is – generally – not the best format for doling out a lot of detail. Newspapers can do that.  But radio will get you the story first.  What newscasters need to ask themselves as they craft and edit their stories is, am I telling this story as simply as I can and answering the most likely questions – who, what, when, where and why?