No matter what form of story you use, it has to be properly scripted.
That is, it must be written in a way that the director can understand. Any story, no matter how brilliantly written, is useless if the technical director can't figure out how to get it on the air.
Each station has its own specific way of scripting, but as a whole, the television industry follows a general standard. Take a blank piece of paper and draw an imaginary vertical line down the center. Everything on the right side of the sheet is the copy written for broadcast. It's what will appear in the teleprompter and what the anchors will say on the air. Everything on the left side is technical information for the director. Each story comes with its own directions, but they usually include most of the following information.
Talent/Camera: This is indicated in the upper left hand corner of the script and indicates what anchor is reading the story and on what camera. The name of the anchor is usually indicated by initials.
When to roll tape: If there is a tape in the story, the director must know when to roll it. This can be indicated by the abbreviation VO (for a voice over) or PKG (for a package).
How long the tape runs: This is indicated by a block of time, such as [1 :23J or [: 14J. For a VO/SOT, the time indication tells how long the sound bite runs.
In a package, it shows how long before the report ends and the anchor resumes talking.
How the tape ends: The outcue (or outq) tells the director the last few words of the report, so he or she knows when it ends. For a package, the outcue is often "standard" (or STD), which is the station's usual sign-off language ("for Channel l3 Sports, I'm Joe Jones"). For a VO/SOT, the outcue is simply the final few words of the sound bite.
Proper CGs: The director must also know what chyrons are needed in the story and where they must appear. Chyrons can be locators (where the story is taking place), proper names or full-screen graphics. Most newsrooms now have computer software that automatically formats the script in the proper format. But care must be taken to load the correct information into the computer, to avoid embarrassing technical errors. Nothing is more frustrating than working all day on an important story, only to see the report fouled up in the control room. And in probably 90% of such situations, the reporter is more at fault than the director.
Brad Schultz is an assistant professor and head of the broadcast sequence in the journalism department at the University of Mississippi. Prior to entering academia, he spent fourteen years in local television and has experience as a sports anchor, producer, reporter, photographer, editor and writer. He covered the NFL, NBA, major league baseball, PGA, NCAA, and Indy 500 among other events. Dr. Schultz is the editor of the Journal of Sports Media and has published several articles and conference papers on local sports broadcasting.