By Alem Hailu
One could draw the attention of readers and listeners if one's writings prove both informative and entertaining. Specially feature writing, a joint territory of journalists and writers, obligates foregrounding language. But such a virtue is not a windfall. It is gained the hardest way. One has to hone one's skill of writing cognizant that the secrete of writing is writing. But writing presupposes reading. There is a saying the quality of one's reading is reflected in one's writing.
Reading has a double fold advantage .It is useful for developing one's command of language and widening one's horizon of thinking that could be well tapped while giving analysis.
As a writer or a journalist, one has to be a critical reader, which means one must have a sixth sense organ for words, expressions and connectors as well as new ideas.
Understanding words and expressions in the media circle is not only decisive to convey one's message displaying one's language agility but also to understand what others have to convey in workshops or press conferences. For this reason one has to read or tune to works by renowned writers, well noted newspapers, quality magazines and documentaries.
Relatively speaking, though the task of producing quality TV reportage and documentaries is more demanding, the impact TV programmes create on the audience is immense as they galvanize the audience's all senses. TV journalists take extra physical pain to make their programmes a hit. By the same token, the satisfaction they enjoy defy description.
On top of the mental exertion it demands like print media and radio, TV journalism entails additional exertions. It is more of a group work having a wider circle. Drivers, camera men and their assistants, librarians, sound recorders, script editors, video footage editors, studio managers or directors as well as people that control the traffic flow must be on board. Sometimes it happens that the journalist is highly motivated while one or more of the crew members are reluctant. In such cases the journalist must not give in.
A TV journalist has to be courteous and patient, for if one of the people in the work flow happens to be reluctant or delay work under different pretexts, s/he will land in a soup. S/he will face a problem especially if s/he is supposed to meet a deadline--if the programme is to be on air soon. Being courteous has another advantage because, breaking rules, crew members may help the journalist out in finishing assignment in time.
TV and Radio journalists must double check how to pronounce strange words. The coming into play of smart phones that supply the pronunciation of words is solving the problem. Before going into a sound studio TV journalists have to rehearse and well hammer in the script.
If the journalist falters or miss pronounce a word while reading s/he has to read the whole paragraph again, most often queuing up at the rear side of a long line. Such setbacks must not daunt journalists and recklessly go on air with the flaw.
Accent is another challenge especially if the programme is to be on air on continental and international media. That is why we see the whole script, as a subtitle, written at the bottom of the TV programme though the reporter is narrating the story in the same medium of communication. Others prefer the script narrated by a native speaker. So they ask correspondent reporters to send to them the script, video footage, interviews and the like separately.
Rehearsing or well hammering the script to know where to break the rhythm or pause is decisive. Using the slash (/) mark helps a lot. It is trough practice a journalist well understands how to break in one's tongue. Though short sentences are recommended for the electronic media it is possible to use a bit long sentences using this technique. To maintain the tempo of continuity, long sentences at times are preferable
If a journalist has a cold s/he will face a problem while reading a script. On such occasions journalists are seen blowing their noses before getting into the sound studio.
Directors may not be assigned for every reportage or documentary. Hence unless the journalist takes as much video shoots as s/he likes or the script dictates s/he will be forced to repetitively use the same video shots just like a lady trying to cover her knees with a miniskirt. At times, it is possible to use additional shots from archive but the quality of the shots may be a degenerated one. The task is also time consuming. But here it is important to note success comes with a little pain.
Another problem manifest in most TV programmes is saying the same thing the interviewee has to say.
For instance before an up sound a journalist may narrate
- The residents say we are beset by water outages...
Then instead of beating round the bush s/he takes interviewees voice
Up sound "We are beset by water outages...
Using natural sound adds spice to the TV programme. Motivated TV and Radio journalists fail not to see to this.
Also, it sure is good TV and Radio Journalists excel in the gift of the gab(spoken language) decisive for conversational or live shows like stand ups.
Some who have a good command of the language and feel comfort in their domain are forthcoming in giving interviews to TV in more than one language, which increases interviewees' popularity. I know talented officials, giving interviews in more than one language, who climbed ladders riding popularity. On the other hand for fear of exposure there are some officials who evade TV interviewees.
Where to cut the voice of an interviewee, who happens to be verbose, is the challenge in electronics media. Giving the question to the interviewee before hand so that s/he could be terse while responding seems the technique broadcasting cooperates use in documentaries and reportage.
Returning the TV camera back for another work while workshops are going on is the problem TV journalists face. Not to miss a transportation service asking coordinators about the objective of the training they too could return back.
As a columnist, a press journalist is expected to write long articles avoiding redundancy. To rise up to such arduous task s/he has to dig deep. Involving interviewees other than participants of an event, experts or expertise s/he has to show the impact the case under discussion has on the society.
When it comes to news as the electronic media (nowadays the social media) takes precedence in conveying the information, journalists in the print media are expected to approach the news from a different angle or give additional analysis. Giving a fresh touch to something already there is the approach journalists in the print media are supposed to adopt in this era the electronic media seems all out to push the print one to the peripheries. Or sniffing for issues worth covering, it is possible for the print media to outsmart the electronic media. If print journalists manage to do so, they will be the one leading the electronic media than the one tagging it. As it is a cut-throat competition the era dictates, the print media could release flash news on its website before the paper goes in to press.
Some official are less forth coming in giving interview to journalists of the print media unless they are sure the TV crew is there. This could be daunting. In an exclusive interview the print media called, some officials, through PRs ,invite TV journalists. But surprisingly most often they fail to remember journalists of the print media .
Their is a complaint that in news coverage abroad journalists of the print media more often than not suffer a cold shoulder. Here it is good to note that print products are preferable for documentation and for posting on display corners.
Unless grammatical and punctuation flaws are weeded out by editors with the experienced eye, reread and proofread, products of the print media that remain in the hands of readers for good are subject to sever criticism. For instance mistakes on homonyms in the electronic media may evade the butt of nitpicker's criticism but not in the print media. In the electronic media, when read out, the sentence "To insure the country's development we need to work hard!" may have no problem but not in the print one, for insure is a far cry from ensure. Proofreading scripts enlarging fonts or using hard copy is strongly advisable to avoid such oversight mistakes. Quality must not be compromised for the sake of curtailing paper expense.
Print journalists should not be remiss in finding pictures that portray the story. The design also makes the appearance lively. As the saying goes variety is a spice of life, entertaining different articles on a give page of a news paper whets the appetite of readers.
While writing feature news or feature articles, journalists of the print media have to galvanize attention with writings, glistening with word pictures and figurative speeches to the extent their works vie with the video footage and natural sound backed TV reportage and documentaries .
Based on daily events in a given organization PR officers could produce News to be uploaded on websites.
Planning on issues that need coverage or following event calendar of the organization, PR officers could produce news to sell the organization and upload them on websites.
Doing monitoring works they could slam defamatory remarks being hurled against their organization.
Compiling works done or news uploaded on daily or weekly basis they could come up with monthly newsletters meant for inner circles or circulation meant in the compound of their organization. They may face shortage of paper and photo copying machines. They must not be daunted. They could put some copies in the library.
But most often it is the IT department, who has the password, which is given the responsibility of uploading news produced. As news are time sensitive by their nature, unless staffers in the IT department upload the work on time, they render the PR works futile. It will be good someone in the PR office take the responsiblity taking a training.
PR officers have to produce magazines 3 or 4 annually to convey activities in the organization to citizens and to other organizations.
Unless PRs update the web daily the hit could make a nose dive. Similarly in the print media unless one comes with original and well articulated articles the number of readers could fall. Yesterday's performance accounts to the number of today's reader.
Editors in the PR office may be frowned up on while editing the works of managers or the head of the PR office. Office heads at times could tamper with the edited or final version before a magazine goes into a printing house. Designers get irritated when told to do correction unfastening the PDF or redo the work. This could dampen the work relationship in the staff.
Mastering adobe and the like is much useful for would- be PRS.
Some PR offices have studios and a camera crew. They could avail themselves the advantage of both print and electronics media. Nowadays media convergence is manifest.
Screen displays PR offices are introducing like corner displays could help in conveying messages and flash news.
It must not only meant for coming up with a polished work but also honing the writing skills of reporters. Reporters must be active in mending wrong ways. A stone that stranded us on our way to work must not do the same when we return back.
Developmental editing or content editing is editing the script filling gaps, checking the flow and developing ideas.
Needs planning, controlling things and too much research. And it is time consuming. Most of the time such works create impact.
Tips from insiders is necessary.
Balancing is a mandatory.
Double checking things is also a must.
Readers or listeners like such works.
Journalist must not expect a bed of roses in carrying out investigative work.
As modern writing dictates and the new generation doesn't seem to go out of its comfort zone, short and simple sentences prove the order of the day in all written and verbal communications. PR and journalists from both media are awakened to this realization.
Going viral has become obligatory. Even the print media has started to upload a condensed form of the news on websites. Reaching out the audience as fast as possible is the objective of all.
PR offices and the media have begun to cross fertilize each other as the former supply publicity material or facilitate interviwees to the later while the later covers events of the former.
Writing news with an excellent lead seems a problem. PRs, like journalists, have begun writing good news with a lead. Yet the skill still begs for a bit refinement.
Though, to avoid possible disputes, using sound recorders is good, fully relaying on sound recorder and not being attentive in workshops hampers writers from getting the gist and writing news quickly.
Inspiring journalists (and PRs) to be efficient setting an example of professional and personal integrity, supporting them to refine their skills,capitalizing on what they did right, trusting them and if in case they go to the extreme prevailing on them is the style media managers are advised to adopt to get the best out of their staffers. Here it is important to know writing requires mental comfort and is not a physical task to handle.
As journalism helps develop perseverance and starting to finish most journalists could be writers with minor training and vice versa.
Source: All Africa