Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Who wrote this?

Those three words form the most common complaint I've heard from anchors over the years, and they usually follow something that makes said anchor look bad. Maybe the script is written awkwardly or not in the style the anchor prefers, maybe the facts are a little off. If you're an anchor who's said this, there is a simple solution.

Write the damn script yourself.

But before we get to the advantages of "writing the damn script yourself" we're going to explore the root of the problem.

"Stumbling anchor syndrome" is becoming a more common problem these days, and there are several reasons. (This also results in "rolling eyes anchor syndrome" which occurs during commercial breaks after an anchor has yelled, "Who wrote this?")

-Too many kids right out of college writings scripts. Yes, for some bizarre reason News Directors continue to put 22-year-olds in charge, and many of them are writing the scripts for anchors. Few young people can write well. (A lot of older people can't write either, for that matter, but for the most part experience does improve your skills.)

-Too many anchors still take two hour dinner breaks, then read their copy cold on the air, or after glancing at it once.

-Not very many people in this business can write well. Sadly, most of them are not writing anchor scripts.

-Anchors are not taking the lead in the production of the newscast.

Back to our original question. Everyone has a writing style, and it is a given that it is easier to read your own copy than that written by someone else. When you write your own copy, you're already reading it aloud in your head. You know what's coming, you know when you're turning a phrase, you know what tone to take, what inflection certain phrases need. When you write your own copy, you're less likely to make a mistake because you're more familiar with it; after all, it originated in your own head.

When you have someone else write your copy, you have no idea how they were reading it aloud in their own mind. They may have turned a phrase that you don't get, they may write a sentence that you interpret the wrong way.

If you're an anchor who either doesn't write copy or doesn't edit it before going on the air, you're asking for trouble. Trust me, writing your own stuff will improve your style and delivery, your stumbling will be minimized, and you'll get your information to the viewer in the way they can understand it.

And if you do it yourself, you won't be able to ask, "Who wrote this?"


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