The Producer Page: June 2000

IN THIS ISSUE...

  • Better Tease Writing
  • Happenings
  • Producers on the Move
  • Producer Pats
  • Job openings
  • About the newsletter

  • HOW TO INCREASE YOUR AUDIENCE & WOW YOUR BOSS (or, A QUICKIE GUIDE TO WRITING BETTER TEASES)
    Ted Wilson, WKRC, Cincinnati

    Remember when you were a kid on the playground and someone ran up to you and said, "I know something you don't know!" Remember how badly you wanted to know their secret? That childhood taunt may be the archetypal tease.

    There are many reasons why people become news producers. But, a burning desire to write teases is seldom among them, if ever. But it is something every successful producer has to do well and it is seldom formally taught.

    This list is a "greatest hits" collection of the best tease ideas I have gleaned from news directors, consultants and talented producers I have worked with during the past 18 years. It also includes some of the lessons I have learned from writing lousy teases. Most of all, it is meant to be a place where new producers can get some quick thoughts to improve their tease writing and experienced producers can go hunting for new ideas, or refresh some old ones.

    There are probably as many ways to write teases as there are producers. Your approach will depend on your style and strengths as well as your station's overall approach to news. Teases for a Fox station will sometimes be different than those for a CBS station, for example. Teases also reflect how a station is marketing and positioning itself in a market. It is vital that you know the audience you are trying to reach.

    Your news director will also probably have some strong feelings about what makes a good tease. It is wise to follow his or her advice.

    With that in mind, here we go.

    The sole purpose of a tease is to give viewers a reason or reasons to watch your program. It seems like an obvious thing to say. But producers sometimes forget that in the rush to get a show on the air. It also suggests a lot of things to avoid and ideas to use.

    Select promotable stories! This solves half the problems you will have writing teases. If you can, try to put at least one highly promotable story in each segment so you always have a teasable story coming up right away.

    Write the story with the tease in mind. Or even write the tease first as an exercise. That may also help you decide how to lead the story and will insure that your story delivers on the promise made in the tease. It is vital that stories deliver what is promised in a tease. Stories that do not deliver on what a tease promises can damage your station's credibility.

    As soon as you have a good idea for a tease, write it down so you do not forget it.

    Don't be afraid to ask for help. Everyone has writer's block sometimes. Ask other producers, your EP or anchors for ideas if you are having trouble with a tease. You can also test tease ideas on them to make sure they work. It's also a great idea to talk with reporters before they go out about how a story will be teased. That helps them to deliver on the promotion and if the story changes, it reinforces the need for them to call you right away so you can make the appropriate changes.

    Don't write teases with puns or alteration solely for the sake of it. Word play alone is not a reason to watch. That is not to say you should not coin a clever phrase for a tease. But it cannot be done at the expense of giving the viewer a reason to watch your show.

    Do not write tongue twister teases. Keep it conversational. If your anchors stumble over a tease they are tarnished and you risk losing the selling point for the story. It is part of a producer's job to help anchors look professional. If you have a difficult word or phrase that has to be included in the tease make sure your anchors know about it ahead of time.

    Do not use "scare" words solely for the sake of it. It you say a story is bizarre, it had better be very bizarre. If you say something is it the "biggest," you must have the facts to back it up. After years of hearing countless news teases over the years, your audience is probably pretty jaded about the use of hyperbole.

    You can make them laugh, you can make them cry, but whatever you do, do not confuse the audience. Sometimes teases are written so that they only make sense if you already know the story. And obviously, you have put a story in your newscast because you think it contains information your audience has not heard yet.

    If you are teasing a story that has an inherently narrow appeal, try to use to a broader issue the story raises that might have more widespread interest. For example, you might have a story about a person who cannot afford sell their timeshare vacation home because they cannot get a fair price for it. It has left them in a financial bind. The story shows how the salesperson has misled the customer, either intentionally or unintentionally. But, relatively few people own timeshares. So, your tease might appeal to the notion of vacation plans that went bad and left people with big money problems. People can empathize with those concerns.

    It's also good to find more than one way to tease a story. It increases your odds of attracting an audience. In the above example, after you have done the broad-sell tease, you might later tease the timeshare angle. Although small in number, those timeshare owners would probably be extraordinarily interested in the story.

    Do not give away the story in the tease. Producers often write a headline as a tease instead of a promo. If you have to mention specific facts about the story to show why it matters to the audience, then be sure to mention the extra information you will be providing later in the newscast.

    There is an exception to the guideline against giving away the story. That concerns exceptionally good video and sound. If video is really compelling and interesting to watch, people will want to see it again. Building implosions are a common example of this. But it is a good idea to mention something else beyond the video the audience will get in the story, such as another camera angle or more details about the event.

    If you have good sound, either a soundbite, natural sound or music, try to incorporate it in the tease when possible. In the case of music, be sure to use more of the performance in the story than was presented in the tease. Do not use three or four seconds of music in a tease and then use only the same three or four seconds in the story. Promise more of the performance and be sure to deliver on it.

    For those who fear using great video or sound in a tease, look at the example provided by music videos. People will watch a favorite video dozens of times after they first see it. But again, it has to be good video or sound for this to work.

    Brevity is the soul of wit. It was true when first Shakespeare wrote that. It's still true.

    Don't write teases last. Rushing to write a tease right before you go on the air usually makes it much harder to come up with your best ideas and does not give you time to think about new ways to tease the story. It could also interfere with other last minute details you need to attend to before the broadcast.

    Tease writing is an art. Most producers learn to write them well by trial and lots of errors. With any luck, this brief list will bring people to your newscast the same way kids rush to hear the news after a friend declares "I know something you don't know."

    (Editor's note: I called for sample teases in the last issue, but I didn't receive enough of them to be worthwhile. Thanks to the few of you who did send them in.)


    PRODUCER ON THE MOVE

    ANTHONY REED moves from weekday evening producer at KOMU in Columbia, Missouri, to weekday AP/weekend morning producer at KVBC in Las Vegas.

    KISHIA CAREY has moved from the 5pm producer at WWAY in Wilmington, NC to weekend producer at WLFL/WB22 in Raleigh, NC.

    DOLLY PETERS moves from producing news at KTVT in Dallas-Fort Worth, to producing news/entertainment at KUTV in Salt Lake City.


    HAPPENINGS

    GERMAN STUDY TRIP

    APPLY NOW for RTNDF's GERMAN STUDY TRIP! If you are a full-time American radio or TV news journalist, you could be eligible for the fall 2000 study program in Germany (September 30 - October 15). Selected applicants will travel to cities throughout Germany including Berlin, the new capital of unified Germany; west German centers of industry and commerce as well as eastern cities. The program is a two-week exchange, which can be extended for one to 14 additional days to pursue individual research projects, file stories for your station, or serve a fellowship at a German radio or television station.

    Applicants do not need to have German language skills. The RIAS Berlin Commission will pay for qualified expenses (travel, lodging and meals). The application deadline is June 15, 2000. For more information, please contact Michelle Loesch at 202.467.5206, michellet@rtndf.org. Please refer to RTNDF's web site for application instructions.

    CIVIC JOURNALISM WORKSHOP

    Looking for fresh ideas for covering local issues? Register for "Civic Journalism 2000: New Dimensions in Storytelling," June 9-11 at the DoubleTree Hotel in Philadelphia. This interactive workshop will focus on: innovative election coverage; covering this year's hot-button issues (crime, traffic, sprawl, and education); tapping into your community to find stories and build trust: and using your station's Web site to educate and engage your audience. Workshop sponsored by the Radio and Television News Directors Foundation and the Pew Center for Civic Journalism. Registration is $50 per attendee ($40 for RTNDA members) covers the cost of a hotel room for out of town attendees on the nights of June 9 and 10, most meals and all workshop supplies. Workshop is open to journalists working in radio, television and newspapers. For registration form and workshop agenda go to www.rtndf.org/prodev/rtndf/philly00/ or contact Avni Patel, RTNDF, 202-457-5215 or avnip@rtndf.org.

    RTNDF WORKSHOP

    Help your newsroom aggressively cover stories while making sound confident decisions. Discover sound ways to approach coverage of crime, live events and children. Hear first-hand from a local news audience. Do all this and more at RTNDF's Leadership and Decision-making workshop, June 23-24 in Kansas City. Deborah Potter, executive director, NewsLab and Jill Geisler from the Poynter Institute will lead this interactive workshop which only costs $50 per station ($40 RTNDA members). For more information, contact RTNDF, Mercedes Cooper, 202-467-5252 or e-mail mercedesc@rtndf.org. For registration and agenda go to www.rtnda.org/prodev/rtndf/workshops.htm

    CAROLE KNEELAND PROJECT FOR
    RESPONSIBLE TELEVISION JOURNALISM

    The Carole Kneeland Project for Responsible Television Journalism holds an annual workshop for future newsroom leaders. You can apply now for this fall's workshop in Austin, Texas. The CKP pays your travel, hotel and tuition expenses. The 2000 seminar is planned for October 4-7. You are eligible for the Kneeland Fellowship if you are a newsroom manager now OR have at least five years full-time experience in television news and wish to become a news director. We're looking for the country's best journalists to be the next generation of News Directors. The October program includes sessions on coaching as a leadership tool; ethical decision-making; managing up, down, and sideways; hiring and firing; and more. Besides new skills, you'll leave with a network of colleagues that will become the best professional support system you've ever had. The trainers are Valerie Hyman of BetterNews and founding director of the Poynter Institute's broadcast program; Joan Barrett of The Broadcast Image Group and former news director; and Cinny Kennard, former CBS News correspondent.

    The deadline is July 1st. To apply, see the information below. All applicants must mail at least one letter of recommendation to the address below (e-mail letters will not be accepted). You can then apply four ways:

    1. fill out our on-line form at: www.carolekneelandproject.com
    2. e-mail your resume, references, and a letter describing why you want to move in to newsroom management to: seminar@carolekneelandproject.com
    3. fax your resume, references, and a letter describing why you want to move in to newsroom management to: (512) 322-0522
    4. mailing your resume, references, and a letter describing why you want to move in to newsroom management to:

      Seminar Application
      The Carole Kneeland Project
      For Responsible Television Journalism
      502 E. 11th St., Suite 200
      Austin, TX 78701
    Please visit our website at: www.carolekneelandproject.com
    (512) 322-9944 work
    (512) 322-0522 fax
    michaels@tab.org


    PRODUCER PATS

    ANDERSON WILLIAMS, producer of "Fox6 On Your Side", is the recepient of the Alabama Associated Press award "Best Investigative Reporting" for the series "Shadow Lawn Uncovered". During 1999, Williams investigated complaints surrounding a Birmingham cemetery accused of losing loved ones and burying bodies on top of old graves. The report also won "Best Series" for 1999. Williams has been a producer at Fox O&O WBRC-TV since 1997.


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    If you'd like to write for the newsletter, send your ideas or finished product to me at ajmain@aol.com. As always, I'm open to all kinds of producing topics. And we could use some fun stuff, too: I CAN'T BELIEVE HE/SHE SAID THAT ON THE AIR, or MY WORST SHOW EVER, or MY BEST SHOW EVER, or TERRIBLE TEASES.. you get the picture. Send em all, but omit names if necessary to avoid embarassing anyone.