Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

“Lamentable and predictable”: BBC News writing?

Posted in Journalism by Adam Westbrook on July 6, 2009


BBC Look North (Leeds)

BBC Look North (Leeds)

Interesting letter made it into the Yorkshire Post today



MY 11 and 14-year-old sons Frankie and Tommy are very critical of TV presentational style, especially Look North [BBC’s regional news programme from Yorkshire].

From Alan Partridge they understand the ridiculous “epithet inversion” technique for an intro to a story.

At its worst, this involves simply repeating some dramatic accusation or cry of pain eg, “You’re killing me and you’re killing my family” (dramatic pause), followed by, “Those were the words of…” or, “That was a 59-year-old Leeds woman’s response to…”

But by far the most common device – in fact every story on Look North was introduced like this last night – is a simple inversion  of the second part of the sentence with the first.

Thus, “Passengers on trains into Sheffield yesterday were stuck for over two hours due to flooding of the track” becomes, “Stuck for two hours on a flood track. That was the fate of passengers on trains into Sheffield yesterday.”

I suppose the editors have come from newspapers and don’t realise that dramatic headlines sound stupid when they’re read out. I imagine it was the same with early films when actors used to projecting for the stage encountered the much more intimate medium of the film camera. But they’ve been making news programmes for 50 years now.

It makes for the most lamentable and predictable TV. Why not aim a little higher, BBC Leeds?

From: Mark Wilson, Headingley, Leeds.

A very good dissection from, what appears to be an ordinary viewer. He could have a background in journalism, but if he’s just an ordinary punter, the overuse of one style must be really noticable.

In TV news you should be writing in a conversational style, and always trying to surprise the listener – while always being accurate.  The “epithet inversion” as Mr Wilson calls it, is a good one…if used sparingly.

And in fact there’s an argument starting a news story with a dramatic statement – and then clarifying it afterwards, is inaccurate and bad writing. But watch the BBC Six O’Clock news tonight  and see how often it’s used.

Lamentable and predictable indeed.

(Hat tip: Larry the News Guy)


What’s your “news eco-system”?

Posted in Adam, Broadcasting and Media by Adam Westbrook on November 25, 2008

The BBC have carried out some research into how the modern homo-sapien consumes its news. They asked a load of people to keep a diary noting everytime they checked up on the news, and how they did it.

Steve Hermann writes about the results here.

Interestingly, their researchers described each person as having their own “news eco-system”: ‘where an individual might read several papers, hear news on the radio, look at various websites and/or TV channels for news’.

Well I hope that pattern isn’t news to the BBC.

But that’s an interesting term, and got me wondering what my news-ecosystem might look like….

0630: BBC 5 LIVE – DAB radio, in bed – to find out the headlines and who’s saying what

0800: Viking FM – DAB radio, in bed – to see what stories I’ll be sent out to cover that day

0830: Radio 1 – radio, in car – to get an idea of how Newsbeat are tailoring the news for their audience.

0900: Scan through the local papers, plus Mail, Mirror and Sun – to get an idea of what our listeners are reading.

Mid morning – a catch up with the big stories online. I also check Media Guardian, BBC News Online, NY Times. I also get email alerts from various sources.

All day – brief glances at Sky News in the office. I’m also drip fed news via IRN’s wire service.

1330 – BBC Look North – to see what the opposition are up to; inevitable plug of Peter Levy’s show.

Evening – check up on social news: Facebook, Google Reader/blogs and Twitter all tell me what people I’m interested in are up to.

1900 – Channel 4 News – but these days for just a few minutes. On Friday’s I love Unreported World.

Evening – alternative news sources if I have time: Current TV

There you go – I count 17 different sources (20 if you breakdown all the local papers, 50 if you add each blog). Each one consumed for no more than 5-10 minutes, and each one I select, chew and spit out as I please.

So what could be a useful conclusion for the future of news? It can be alternative. And it needs to be short.

What’s your eco system? Post below, and maybe we can give David Attenborough a ring!