Broadcast News and Writing Stylebook  book cover
7th Edition

Broadcast News and Writing Stylebook

ISBN 9780367422677
Published July 2, 2020 by Routledge
368 Pages 3 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Broadcast News and Writing Stylebook is the go-to resource for writing broadcast news, offering readers the know-how to write excellent stories for television, radio, podcasts and online media.

Through clear and concise chapters, this text provides the fundamental rules of broadcast news writing, teaching readers how to craft stories on government, crime, weather, education, health, sports and more. It covers the necessary mechanics news writers need to know, including the nuances of reporting, grammar, style and usage. This new seventh edition is updated with the latest on how stations incorporate online and social media strategies, as well as insights into the directions local news is headed. Author Robert A. Papper has over a quarter century of broadcast news and industry research experience and once again updates this vital text with the information necessary for being a successful news writer today. Also available for this edition is an Instructor’s Guide, found on the book’s webpage.

Whether you’re a student seeking to learn the mechanics of successful broadcast news writing or a working professional looking for a definitive reference for your desk, Broadcast News and Writing Stylebook offers a comprehensive guide to writing for television, audio and beyond.

Table of Contents

1 Ethics, Legality and the RTDNA and SPJ Codes of Ethics


Fake News and the Question of Whether Facts Are Facts

Trust in the Media

Ethical Decision-Making Starts at the Top

Issues in Media Law

The Radio-Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct

The Sosiety of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics



2 The Business of News

The Big Picture

Newspapers * Radio * Online * TV

The Scope of Media Use

Media Use Is More Complex Than It Used to Be

It’s Hard to Measure Media Use


Where the Programs Come From

Where the Money Comes From

The Predicted Demise of TV

A New Model for News?

The New TV Newsroom

So Where Are We Going?


Key Words and Phrases


3 News

What Is News?

Balancing News Values

Types of Stories

Breaking News * Planned Event Reporting * Enterprise Reporting * Investigative Reporting * Special Segment Reporting * Features

Where Story Ideas Come From

The Assignment Desk

Morning and Afternoon Meetings

Innovation in TV News

Following the News


Key Words and Phrases


4 Digital First

Why Social Media?

Measuring Engagement and Driving Traffic

What It Means on the Ground

Think Mobile


OTT (Over the Top)

A Final Note


Key Words and Phrases


5 Research, Collecting Information and Bites

Some Basic Terms and Concerns

Research and the Web


Conducting Successful Interviews

Understanding what makes good bites Plan * Listen * Technical Concerns * Make the Interviewee Comfortable * Ask Questions That Deliver What You’re After * Use Silence * Maintain Strong Eye Contact * Learn to Respond Inaudibly * Follow up and Clarify * Maintain Control * Ask for More ... Twice * Make Notes Afterward * Examples of Questions that Work … to Produce Bites

Beyond the Interview

Being Human * A Closing Thought


Key Words and Phrases


6 Readability

Broadcast News Writing

Writing for the Ear vs. Writing for the Eye

Rules of Readability

Newsroom Computer System * The Slug * The Printed Word * Hyphenation Abbreviation * Symbols * Initials and Acronyms * Names * Numbers * Ages * Emphasis n Pronouncers * Spelling


Key Words and Phrases


7 Words

Keep It Simple

Keep It Conversational

Informal Words * Contractions * Formal Terminology People ... Not Persons

Keep It Clear

Common Usage * Technical Terms * Definite and Indefinite Articles

Keep It Tight

Make It Powerful

Use Strong Nouns and Verbs * Avoid Weak Qualifiers

Get It Right

Grammar Says * Saying Too Much * Think

Common Problems


Key Words and Phrases


8 Phrases and Phrasing

How to Say It

Voice * Tense * Clarity * Conciseness * Clauses and Phrases * Positive Phrasing * Pronouns * That * Time and Space Problems

What to Say

Title and Identifiers * Attribution * Quotations * Numbers * Race

What You Didn’t Mean to Say

Dates * Unintended Meanings * Editorials n Clichés * Sexism * Personalization

Last Note


Key Words and Phrases


9 Sentences

Keep It Short

One Important Idea * Put People First * Keep It Simple: Subject-Verb-Object * Use Some Variety for Interest * Split Up Complex Sentences

Make It Clean, Clear and Concise

Make Every Sentence Count * Avoid Repetition n Stay Positive * Make Sense * End Strong

Last Note


Key Words and Phrases


10 Leads and Endings

Types of Leads

Hard Main Point Lead * Soft Main Point Lead * Throwaway Lead * Umbrella Lead * Delayed or Suspense Lead * Question Lead

Figuring Out the Lead

What’s the Story About? * Say Something Meaningful  n Keep It Simple * Start with New News * Focus on People * Focus on Local * Put Location in the Lead  n Be Direct and to the Point * Save the Name for Later  n Save the Day and Date for Later * Update Leads  n Responsibility  n Above All … Get It Right

Types of Endings

Future Ramification Close * Summary Point Close  n Information Close * Opposition Point of View Close  n Punch Line


Key Words and Phrases


11 Stories

Stories Are Like Music

Plan and Focus

Why Run the Story? * Do You Understand? * What’s the Story About?2 * What’s the Lead? * In What Order Do You Tell the Story?

Story Logic

Handling the Basics * Will It Stand on Its Own?  n Answer the Logical Questions

Story Structure

Make the Writing Structure Interesting


Within Stories * Between Stories

Before You’re Done

Does the Story Support the Lead? * Will the Audience Understand? * Use Humor Sparingly * Read the Story Aloud


Key Words and Phrases


12 Working With Bites, Actualities and Natural Sound

The Feel of Natural Sound

Natural Sound as Pacing and Punctuation

Key Rules

Don’t Stop the Story * Don’t Repeat * Watch out for Partial Lead-Ins * Making the Story Flow * Finding the Lead-In * Television Lead-Ins * Writing out of Bites An Alternative to Traditional Bites


Writing into Packages * Introducing a Package That Starts with a Bite * Understand Where the Story Begins * Package Tags


Key Words and Phrases


13 TV: Story Forms

Story Forms

Readers * Voiceovers * VO/SOT * Packages * Live

Putting Packages Together

Pacing * Don’t Outdate Packages

MMJ … VJ … One-Man-Band

Live Reporting

Planning * Crosstalk * Live Look

Golden Rules


Key Words and Phrases


14 TV: Working With Pictures

The Power of the Visual Image

Working with Strong Pictures * Working without Strong Pictures

The TV Balancing Act

Use Pictures and Words for What They Do Best * Use Natural Sound and SOT * Write TV Loosely * Coordinate Words and Pictures * Visualizing the Story

Picture Cautions

Use Meaningful Pictures * Today’s Pictures * Watch Your Supers


Strong Stories Have Central Characters and a Plot

Prove Your Story

The Element of Surprise

Connecting With Truths

Care About the Story


Key Words and Phrases


15 Producing News on TV



Audience Flow

Newscast Structure

News, Weather and Sports * Special Segments, Franchises and Features Story Repetition

Building a Local Newscast

Teases and Promos


Tease … Don’t Tell

Make Them Care

Going Too Far


Key Words and Phrases


16 Radio … Audio … Podcasts

Radio Story Forms

Drawing Radio Pictures

The Words * Using Nat Sound * Listen to the Sound Quality * Putting It All Together



Key Words and Phrases


17 Social Media and News

Social Media, Branding and the Reporter Workday

Do Everything

Be Everywhere … But Not Indiscriminately

Amy Wood

Use Each Social Medium for What It Does Best


Facebook Live



Beyond Facebook, Twitter and Instagram



MMJ, Backpack Journalists and One-Man-Bands

Twenty Survival and Growth Tips

Taking Better Pictures

The Bottom Line


Key Words and Phrases


The Radio-Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) Social Media and Blogging Guidelines

18 Online News

The Information Website

Content Management System

Colleen Seitz

Constructing Web News

News on the Web * Web Design * Online Headlines * Online Stories * Online Writing Style  

Beyond Text and Pictures

Data Visualization * Charts & Graphs * Maps * Pictures * Audio * Other * Tips  





Hyperlocal News

SEO & Keywords

Other Issues


Key Words and Phrases


19 News, Weather and Sports

Why News, Weather and Sports?

Reporting Weather

Severe Weather * Careers in Weather

Defining Weather Terms

Reporting Sports

Reporting Sports Stories * Reporting Scores * Play by Play   n Local Sports n Common Mistakes

Sports and Teams

Auto Racing * Baseball--Major Leagues * Basketball--National Basketball Association * Basketball--Women’s National Basketball Association * Boxing * Football--National Football League * Football--Canadian Football League * Golf * Hockey--National Hockey League * Soccer-- Major League Soccer Ultimate Fighting Championship--UFC

20 Reporting: Seasonal Coverage and the Calendar

Seasonal Reporting

Solar and Lunar and the World’s Major Religions

Calendar Holidays

Buddhist Holidays * Hindu Holidays * Muslim Holidays

State Holidays

21 Reporting: The GA and Specialized Coverage

The General Assignment Reporter

Business, Economy and Taxes

Top Money Terms

Crime and Legal

Attribution * Alleged * Misplaced Attribution * Cautions * Get the Terms Right * Top Crime and Legal Terms


Top Education Terms

The Environment

Top Environment Terms


Major U.S. Geographic Terms * Voice of America Pronunciation Guide * Major World Geographic Terms


Top Government Terms

Heath and Medicine

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care act and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 * HIPAA * Hospital Conditions * Top Health and Medical Terms

22 TV Script Form, Supers and Glossary


Script Form

Standard Anchor Read * Standard 2-Shot * Standard Anchor Read with Gfx * Anchor with Voiceover * Anchor with VO/SOT * Anchor VO/SOT with Package Intro


Names * Location, Date and Miscellaneous

Glossary of Broadcast and Online Terms

View More



Robert A. Papper is Adjunct Professor at the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. A graduate of Columbia College and the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, he has worked as a producer, writer and manager at television stations in Minneapolis, Washington, DC, San Francisco, Columbus, Ohio and radio stations in Maine and Indiana. He has won both the top award in broadcast journalism (duPont-Columbia) and the top award in broadcast journalism education (Ed Bliss Award).



"This book will teach you how to tell a visual story well, using all the tools. The new edition of Bob Papper's classic shines a light for the digital age and will show you the way."  

Bob Dotson, former NBC News National Correspondent and New York Times best selling author 

"Papper’s text has long earned accolades as a comprehensive and engaging guide to broadcast reporting, covering everything from interviewing to ethics, from writing for the ear to writing for the eye, from effective narrative techniques to the basics of proper usage and grammar. For those of us teaching Broadcast Journalism during these rapidly changing times in news, this new edition is a terrific addition to our teaching toolkit."

Judy Muller, Professor, USC Annenberg School, USA

"This edition has excellent tips for writing sound broadcast news copy and has now been updated with information from Papper’s outstanding surveys of the news industry, advice from professional journalists, as well as ideas on the best practices for using new technology such as drones."

G. Stuart Smith, Professor, Hofstra University, USA

"This latest edition of Papper's well-respected style manual for broadcast news comes only two years after the previous release. Papper restructured the manual to forefront fundamentals of broadcast journalism, beginning with a chapter on ethics. Modest revisions follow....The manual is strongest when it remains focused on the details of style and usage elaborated by real-world examples....While the title suggests an audience limited to students of broadcast news, the style and usage sections of the manual have value for writers of any discipline composing podcasts or other new media work."

G. Wilsbacher, University of South Carolina