I’ve hopped over to a radio station… to be a news writer and producer for over 5 months now!
Time flies. It was just around this time last year that I was wholeheartedly doing video interviews. But I’ll leave that to another post.
It’s been a nice experience at BFM so far. The culture, the people, the vibe, it emulates after the founder and some of the core team members – open, welcoming, relevant, innovative, rational, and witty. Definitely one of the nicest colleagues I’ve got to work with so far.
In my present role, I write the business news bulletins – that you hear every half hourly during peak hours, and every hourly during non-peak (and updating those market snapshot numbers). In time, I hope and should branch out to also being able to cover general news.
While some may think that news writing in a radio station is a pretty easy task, as we just summarize news articles published on papers and on the web. Yes, that’s true – we consolidate news into two crisp sentences each for the easy hearing of our listeners. But a good news writer, in my opinion, will read through the entire piece, and picks up the best and most relevant points to inform the public. Sometimes, the headline and lead of the story may not be what it is – reading through the piece and you could come across a different takeaway or meaning altogether.
So, while the task may appear easy, and to a certain extent I agree – as more emphasis is placed on the language ability of the writer to write in an ear-friendly way. But, a writer who has prior knowledge of the subject matter can bring context to the bulletins. That in itself is a skill. Also, with this role, it gives one the breadth of news (I mean, hello, clicking and scrolling through gazillions of news all day… both local and foreign…) – which then enables us to pursue follow-up stories, be in a response story or an analysis piece, getting industry experts to share their views.
Now, this is what I miss, to be honest. To be the first source to get the news, as what I did in my previous role as a business journalist. But, that does not mean we can’t do it for radio as well. I’m glad to hear that we are now encouraged to get as much as original content as we can – in the news team. Meaning, get sound bites and clips to even news headlines. I’ve also tried to make it a point to attend press conferences and media briefings as and when I can, which usually falls beyond my set working hours, but I’m more than okay with that. I do miss being on the ground getting news.
Anyway, that’s not all that I do at the station. I’m also hired as a producer – for the evening market segment (at 5 45 pm) and the current affairs segment that airs in the morning (8 35 am).
I’ve been producing scripts for the market wrap segment almost everyday – since the third week I’ve joined the company. By producing, I mean identifying the biggest or most pertinent business story of the day, crafting out a lead or angle, getting an industry expert to comment on it, cut and edit the clips, then coming out with a script between the evening edition hosts and a news team reader. (Yes, we cut and edit the clips ourselves here)
I enjoy doing this segment, as it gives me the capacity and responsibility to take control of a segment. Though with this segment, I gotta keep in mind to play down the hard business and technical stuff and make it more relevant to the bigger public, as it’s part of the evening edition segment (when people are driving home and want to wind back…) and not the morning run segment where they touch on more ‘hardcore’ topics to prep professionals ahead of the work day.
The third cap I have on is a producer of current affairs (CA) shows. I have to admit, I’m not the strongest when it comes to general news and politics, but I try. This segment is slightly different from the market wrap one, as this covers general issues that are most current (think: floods in India, elections, South China Sea etc), and the segment is mostly pre-recorded. So we do the interviews, we script it, and narrate/ voice-over it into a story.
I also enjoy doing this segment very much, as not only it enables me to value-add by providing original content, but it pushes me beyond my comfort zone of only just covering corporate stories previously, to touching on a wider spectrum of stories now. With this, I’ve also since spoken to various other industry players (not just analysts and bankers etc as who I’ll quote for my market wrap segment) and also people beyond Malaysia. Which is really nice!
You wouldn’t have heard me on air (YET) for both the evening market wrap and the CA segment. For CA, I’ve produced over 10 stories so far, but have only managed to get clearance to voice four of it. I’m looking forward to the day that I get complete clearance to go on air 🙂 Below are a few of the CA work I’ve done so far:
Now, that boils down to my AIM of joining this radio station. And that is – to be able to both produce and present. And so, I keep telling myself not to be disheartened.
I can still remember the first few times I secured great interviews, but only to be told that I can’t voice my scripts. Besides being pretty blur about the voice clearance protocol then (often leaving too tight a time frame to getting my CA script out, voicing it and getting clearance – ultimately I was too ambitious in booking a lot for my story), I did not put in enough effort to hone my voice, and, my focus then was on getting my core responsibilities (of news writing and producing good content) right first.
The feedback I got from the air checker was that I speak too fast (it’s in-built!!), my emphasis are on the wrong words, my pitches are uneven, and certain pronunciation of words are not refined enough. I have to admit, it has been frustrating to say the least, as to be interviewing and writing scripts everyday, while also doing news writing and producing current affairs stories, and not be able to be heard in any of these segments.
But! I’m now having a once to twice a week voice session with the air checker, who’s also a damn good radio presenter, to help speed up my process to go on air. Her voice is amazing, and I’m so grateful I get to go through these practice reads with her. She said to me before, that I should aim to make my reads as polished as possible, rather than just aiming to go on air. Little things, she says, goes a long way in making my reads refined. She may come across as being hard on me, but hey, nothing comes easy.
Journalism is so wide; and within broadcast journalism lies different techniques and skills as well. Radio is quite different from TV, emphasis is placed so much more on your voice – the tone, the pitch, the whole ‘feel’of it… How you say it, more often that not, is more important than what you say. Point taken. I’m working towards that!