Inside WRAL


Posted June 16, 2009

You probably know that anchors read a TelePrompTer (words scrolling in front of the camera lens) when they are doing a newscast. It helps them stare directly into the camera without having to read from a piece of paper. But did you know that some of the words they see actually look quite odd?

Here are a few examples taken directly from our anchors’ scripts:

  • According to a warrant, Esoda had a blood alcohol content of point-oh-8.
  • "Joe" is Samuel Wurzelbacher {WUR'-zuhl-bah-kur}
  • Durham City leaders unanimously approved a 344-point-four million dollar budget.
  • We’ve collected almost $25-thousand dollars in donations.
  • The storm left about 65 hundred people without power.
  • It's traveling 2 THOUSAND miles

I asked WRAL’s Bill Leslie to help explain why anchors prefer to have some words capitalized and written in phonetics. Here’s what he said:

“News copy which is read on-air looks different than print copy people read. Why would someone write ‘point-oh-eight’ for broadcast versus .08? Well, because that little decimal is hard to see when you’re delivering copy using a TelePrompTer.

Everything should be written so the anchor can read things smoothly. Stopping and having to think about every little fact and figure slows down the flow and effectiveness of communication.

Here’s another example. When talking about the 911 system, I write for broadcast this way: 9 one one. 911 looks too much like 'nine eleven.' I don’t want to confuse people so I write it out 9 one one. I also write out the swine flu as the H one N one virus. The '1' looks too much for an 'l' to me.

I have found that the harder I have to think in interpreting copy on air the more mistakes I am going to make. Typically, I will get past the part that is difficult but then 'blow' a word in the latter part of the sentence. Other reporters and anchors have said the same thing.

Anything we can do to improve the flow of a broadcast sentence is important. That includes precise wording, tight writing and the proper cadence and rhythm.”

Thanks to Bill for sharing that info. So, the next time you see an anchor reading the news, just remember that the words they’re seeing might not look like you expect!


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Inside WRAL takes you behind the scenes of the news business and the stories we cover.