1. Replacing a regular word with a ridiculous word to avoid repetition

‘Blaze’ alternating with ‘fire’ on fire stories is the best example. It’s just a fire. Keri Jones of Radio Scilly adds ‘stories about dogs where they can’t think of a second way of talking about them so they say pooches – who says pooches in real life?!’.

2. Ambulances ‘rushing’ to hospital

As opposed to dawdling or stopping off to get a Ginsters on the way?

3. ‘Fighting for his life’, ‘Battling cancer’ etc

It’s a sad fact of death that when someone has an incurable disease or a terrible injury, they’re usually wired up to a machine. Or go between being very ill, and being slightly less ill.

4. Vox Pops

Usually lazy, never enlightening, says BBC World Service’s Steve Martin. And if you must use them, always more than three people and a range of views. And don’t get into it with the words ‘had mixed views’.

5. Mispronunciation of Place Names

Says Smooth’s Andy Peebles. Violators should be sent to Llanelli, Bicester or Alnwick.

6. “Our reporter has more.”

More what?

7. Pointless Localisation of National Stories

‘Bogshire has scored averagely in the new survey of how often people purchase a new toilet seat’, ‘Bogshire MP Joe Flush has said he’s shocked at latest bad news on the global economic crisis’, contributes the BBC’s Laura Ellis.

8. Voicers 

Voicers are vampires. They suck the life out of your bulletin. Write it tighter and say it yourself. Or find some actuality. And if you must use one, only ever use one, short one. Or turn it into a mini mid-bulletin two-way.

9. ‘He’s critical in hospital.’

This food’s disgusting. And my bed’s really uncomfortable. If you mean critically ill, say it.

10. Mother-of-three

Defining people by their levels of procreation, when it’s totally irrelevant to the story. See also, 58 year old Grandad who’s a drug dealer.

11. People are People (with apologies to Depeche Mode)

Saying ‘residents’ instead of ‘people who live in ..’ or ‘if you live in …’ says BBC Radio Stoke’s Justin Bones.

12. Understatement

Emma Gilliam at the Cardiff School of Journalism gives a timely example; “The RBS debacle chaos repeatedly described as a ‘glitch’. Like it’s some kind of minor hiccup akin to a drunk uncle on Boxing Day.” A triumph of PR. My personal favourite here is the way any hospital that routinely kills a group of patients over a period of time is often described as a ‘blunder’. No. A blunder is when you lose your car keys or stub your toe.

13. Creeping Americanisms

It is sh-edule not skedule. Lef-tenant not loo-tenant. Met the Queen, not met with the Queen. Get the picture, y’all?

14. Random and irrelevant titles

“Fred Schnurg is the Lead Member on Recycling and the Environment at Sprocketshire Council”? No. Fred Schnurg’s in charge of bin collections.

15. Have you ever started a cue with a question?

Have you ever wondered why the cathedral spire is a funny shape? Have you ever wondered what happens to the Olympic Torch overnight? No. Have you ever considered that I have a mortgage and a life and kids and a screwy relationship, and have much more to think about than whimsical mechanics to get me even faintly bothered by a down-bulletin bit of filler?

16. “In other news …”

Suggests Keri again. Isn’t it all just ‘the news?’!

17. Anything involving Town Criers

Oh yay.

18. Mixing Singulars and Plurals

The council is, Manchester United is. It, not they.

19. Regurgitating police speak

IRN sent some copy the other day suggesting police were using ‘ground-penetrating equipment’ at a potential murder scene. Was this a case of not calling a spade a spade? Or was it some kind of SONAR device? That line leaves us none the wiser.

20. Meaningless numbers

A ‘6% increase in gas bills’, ‘the new building will be 170 metres tall’, ‘.. will provide power for about 300,000 people’. Better to say ‘about ¬£30 extra a year for the average family’, ‘the same size as the Beetham Tower’ or ‘provide power for a city the size of Coventry’. Double decker buses are clearly the standard unit of height, but it’s easier for the audience to imagine buildings in their locale than unlikely vehicles stacked on top of one another.

21. Mindless speculation

Cash Peters writes, “Abusing our curiosity, by resorting to every version of ‘could be’, ‘maybe’ or ‘is likely to’, which only confirms to the audience that you’re not reporting the news, you’re either creating it, guessing it, or predicting what might happen.”

22. The Public

As in, ‘the event opens to the public at three o’clock’. See also General Public.

23. Surveys

Usually utter bollocks. PR masquerading as news. If it’s under 1,000 people, always ignore. Who’s paid for it and what does it tell us?

24. “A quick look at the weather ..”

It regularly surveys as the most important thing the audience wants to hear. So let’s look at it properly, shall we? And I’m an adult. I don’t need reminding to take an umbrella if it’s wet or wear a coat if it’s cold.

25. “And Finally …”

There is no finally. You are one part of an endless conveyor of sound, a seamless experience for the listener. Nasty TV-ism.

Thanks also to Sean Coleman, Nick Layton, Sarah Collins, Oonagh Jaquest, Meera Pattni, James Walshe and Simon Torkington for adding to the debate on Facebook.

I have not included much on presentation of bulletins. Maybe that’s one for the future. But it’s worth remembering this brilliant take on it from the clever guys at Gremlins Audio:

http://soundcloud.com/gremlinsaudio/how-to-create-a-radio-news

 

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